Republicans in Congress issued a report on Thursday that accused federal employees who are members of unions of abusing a federal union law allowing them to get paid for time they take away from their jobs to attend labor-management meetings and deal with other workforce issues.
The report was sent to Rep. Mark Meadows, the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Several days earlier the Office of Personnel Management had raised the same issues about unionized civil servants who were taking advantage of their union status.
A House Oversight Committee panel took a survey of workers, discovering that over 12,000 federal employees had taken advantage of legally sanctioned time off, known as “official time.” The panel thought this was abusive since such time is supposed to be used only for labor-related activities such as worker disputes, whistleblowing and collective bargaining.
The most employees who took advantage of “official time” are employed by the Department of Veterans Affairs. In that department 472 employees spent 100 percent of their working hours on labor-management-related business in fiscal 2017, according to the GOP report.
According to the report, written by GOP staff on the committee:
“Some collective bargaining agreements allow certain labor union employees to spend 100 percent of their time on official time. These employees are subsidized by American taxpayer dollars, but do not have to do their regularly assigned work.”
Democrats and unions challenged those conclusions, and said they were evidence of an assault on the status of career civil servants by the Trump administration.
In a statement submitted to the House Oversight Government Operations Subcommittee, the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) said that official time was “union time.” Rather, AFGE said, “it is time spent representing workers who are the victims of illegal discrimination, illegal harassment, or other prohibited personnel practices.”
“Misleading reports on official time are just the latest barrage in a series of attacks aimed at reducing protections for federal employees in the workplace,” said AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. in an official statement. “Federal workers assure delivery of services over politics, and the unions that represent workers help preserve civilian protections over partisanship.”
“The Trump administration is launching a multi-front attack on our independent civil service,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.). “These actions will harm middle-class workers who dedicate their lives to public service, impair our ability to recruit and retain the best and brightest, and degrade the services that our government delivers to the American people.”
The Republican Party has been attacking unions for decades, and they have succeeded in lowering worker pay, benefits and job security. Anyone who cares about economic justice and fair pay for workers should support unions. The latest report from the House GOP is just one more attack by that party on America’s middle class in favor of large corporations.