Lawmaker proposes ban on union activities during work hours

Bill is an early attack on government employees, labor group says.

Lawmakers soon could revoke federal workers' rights to conduct union business while on the job.

Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., on Wednesday unveiled the 2011 Federal Employee Accountability Act (H.R. 122). The legislation, first introduced in 2009, repeals two sections of the 1978 Civil Service Reform Act that allow federal employees to use official work hours to perform union functions or participate in union activities.

In an e-mail to colleagues, Gingrey wrote that Office of Personnel Management data show federal employees used 2.9 million official work hours to engage in collective bargaining or arbitration of grievances in fiscal 2008. Those activities cost $120.7 million, up from $113 million in fiscal 2007. The legislation will save $600 million over five years, he added.

"We have seen an increase in union activity on official time lead to a more inefficient workforce, and it is time to stop subsidizing this problem," Gingrey wrote. "While families all over the nation are tightening their belts and cutting their own spending, it should not be the practice of the federal government to increase the size and spending of its budget and federal agencies."

Matt Biggs, legislative and political director for the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, called the information "misleading and downright inaccurate."

Enactment of Gingrey's bill would represent a "significant step backward in the effective functioning of a taxpayer-centered labor-management relations system in the federal government," said Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, in a statement.

"Make no mistake about it though, these will be serious attacks on federal workers and it is critically important that we not only work against them here in Washington, but also that we significantly build our membership internally to levels that will make us even more successful," Biggs wrote in an e-mail.

NEXT STORY: Rolling Over