Union Official Time Comes Under Fire at Congressional HearingThursday, June 2, 2011
(National Federation of Federal Employees)
At a the House Subcommittee on the Federal Workforce, Postal Service, and Labor Policy hearing Wednesday, chairman Dennis Ross (R-FL) and fellow Republican Phil Gingrey (R-GA) advocated for H.R. 122, a bill that would severely diminish Union official time.
The inappropriately titled “Federal Employee Accountability Act” is a misguided bill that would eliminate federal employees’ statutory rights to official time for collective bargaining and to Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) determination of the official time to be allowed for work in FLRA proceedings. This would unnecessarily lead to enormous waste of time and resources. NFFE strongly opposes H.R. 122.
Despite the huge costs that would be associated with a breakdown in federal labor management relations, Rep. Gingrey and his colleagues seem determined to strike a blow at federal Unions nonetheless.
“What began as a noble goal to ensure healthy labor-management relations has been twisted into a one-sided scheme to perform Union representational functions in lieu of performing one’s official duties as a federal employee,” said Gingrey in his testimony. “Official time is not fair to the government or the taxpayer and works solely to the benefit of labor Unions and employees who serve as its representative or steward.”
Though Rep. Gingrey and his anti-Union colleagues would like to believe official time is time and money poorly spent, the fact is that he could not be more wrong. Official time for representational duties allows employee representatives to handle sensitive workplace issues faster than the normal bureaucratic process would allow, resolving issues more efficiently. Official time is used to represent employees in discrimination and merit principle proceedings, conflict resolution, and implementation of workplace policies. Unions also use official time to participate in national and agency-level partnership councils which work to improve the delivery of government services to the American people.
All of these benefits promote efficiency, responsiveness, and strong morale at federal agencies, allowing them to provide better service to the American people. Strong employee-employer communication is a necessary precondition for good government. Official time is what allows us to do just that.
“Here is the bottom line: lawmakers that support this bill want to eliminate federal employees’ voice in the workplace,” said Randy Erwin, NFFE Legislative Director. “This is a thinly veiled attempt to bust federal employee unions who fight for federal employees every day. Because the union fights for hard-working federal workers, they want to destroy us. We are not going to let that happen.”