A Republican Bid to Fully Eliminate Union 'Official Time,' and More
A weekly roundup of pay and benefits news.
Although President Biden acted swiftly in the first days of his administration to rescind former President Trump’s anti-union workforce policies, including severe restrictions on union officials’ use of official time, a group of conservative Republicans in the House has introduced legislation that would override his actions.
Rep. Dan Bishop, R-N.C., and 12 other GOP lawmakers on Tuesday introduced the Do Your Job Act, a bill that would go further than the Trump administration by outlawing the practice of official time altogether.
“The abusive practice of allowing union work to occur on official time wastes millions of taxpayer dollars every year, as federal employees use paid time off to perform official union duties,” Bishop said in a statement. “By amending the Civil Service Reform Act, we can ensure that Americans’ hard-earned tax dollars go toward the public services they are intended for, not union interests.”
Contrary to Bishop’s assertions, official time is a practice under which union officials at federal agencies may be compensated for representational work, including contract negotiations and representing employees in grievance proceedings and internal investigations, not internal union business. It was established as part of the 1978 Civil Service Reform Act to compromise for the fact that federal employee unions are legally required to represent all workers in a bargaining unit, regardless of whether they are dues-paying members.
With Democrats in control of both chambers of Congress, it is unlikely that the bill will advance out of the House.
In benefits news, the Office of Personnel Management on Monday announced that it has established an emergency leave transfer program for federal employees impacted by the severe winter storm that struck Texas and the surrounding region last month.
An unusually severe February winter storm in Texas left millions without power and water for days. In addition to the storm’s initial damage, as the snow melted it caused water damage to many people’s homes and businesses.
In a memo to agency heads, acting OPM Director Kathleen McGettigan said her agency would establish a leave transfer program for federal workers in the region, after consulting with agencies with facilities in Texas as well as the Office of Management and Budget. Under such a program, federal employees can donate unused leave to their colleagues who have been affected by a severe weather event or other disaster.
“An [emergency leave transfer program] permits employees in the executive and judicial branches or agency leave banks . . . to donate unused annual leave for transfer to employees of the same or other agencies (or the judicial branch) who are adversely affected by a major disaster or emergency, either directly or through adversely affected family members, and who need additional time off from work without having to use their own paid leave,” McGettigan wrote. “Employees who are adversely affected and seek to become emergency leave recipients must apply in writing to their agencies.”
Although OPM authorizes the establishment of leave transfer programs, their execution is ultimately up to individual agencies.
“Agencies with employees adversely affected by the Texas severe winter storm [in] February 2021 are in the best position to determine whether, and how much, donated annual leave is needed by their employees and which of their employees have been adversely affected by the emergency within the meaning of OPM regulations,” McGettigan wrote. “Agencies are responsible for administering the [leave program] for their own affected employees. Therefore, employees who wish to donate annual leave must contact their own agencies, not OPM, to determine if there are any affected employees in their agency and how to donate leave to them.”