Government Spends Record-High on Union Activity


The federal government in 2011 spent more on “official time” -- when public sector union officials receive taxpayer-funded salaries and work in government offices -- than any year since at least 2002, when the Office of Personnel Management began collecting the data.

Union workers cost the federal government more than $155 million in 2011, according to OPM’s new report, marking an almost 12 percent increase from 2010.

Overall, federal employees spent about 3.4 million hours working for unions while receiving federally funded salaries -- the highest total since 2004. That marks nearly a 10 percent increase from 2010, the largest jump from one year to the next since the data became available.

The figure is still down since 2002, when employees spent more than 4.7 million hours on official time -- but did so for significantly less money.

Of large agencies with more than 25,000 employees, the Homeland Security Department saw the highest one-year increase of official time use, with a 31 percent jump. Overall, the Federal Elections Commission saw the largest surge, with a 441 percent increase from 2010 to 2011.

Official time was created by an executive order signed by the Kennedy administration and reaffirmed in the 1978 Civil Service Reform Act. Republican lawmakers have repeatedly attempted to increase oversight of official time, or to eliminate it entirely. Unions defend the practice as a “fair and effective” means to protect federal employees. 

(Image via sar_38/

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec