The United States Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has finally released its FY2009 report laying out the tremendous cost incurred by federal employees dealing with union issues on the clock– nearly 3 million hours and over $120 million. For some background, federal employees are designated, under their current collective bargaining agreement with the government, “official time” during which they are allowed to participate in union activities.

After looking into the numbers, it is clear why the Obama Administration might have wanted to hide the data:

  • Hours of paid union activity in FY2009 totaled 2,991,378- a 3.37% increase from FY2008.
  • Total costs to the Federal government for on-the-job union work grew by $9 million to $129,100,798.
  • Over 75% of time reported was spent on “General Labor-Management” issues, as opposed to bargaining or dispute resolution.
  • The total “Hours Per Employee” (HPE) rate, which “indicates the average number of official time hours expended per bargaining unit employee” was 2.58 hours.
  • Just for fun, the agency with the highest HPE rate- 11.57- was our old friend the National Labor Relations Board, which has apparently found a new way to waste taxpayer money. This may explain their unnecessary desire for more funding.

This time and money serves as a direct handout to public sector labor unions, allowing them to piggyback free labor off the United States taxpayers. This fact is even readily admitted by OPM in their report!  

“There are fewer incentives for Federal employees to join and pay union dues than there are for private sector and many state and local government employees…This voluntary membership in Federal sector unions results in considerable reliance by unions on the volunteer work of bargaining unit employees, rather than paid union business agents, to represent the union in representational matters such as collective bargaining and grievances”

Note that OPM is using this statement as justification for the “official time” rules. Because there are fewer federal sector union members than at other levels, the government ought to make life a little easier by providing free work, according to the report. Free to the union, that is; expensive to the taxpayer.

Although the numbers show the financial cost of taxpayer funded union organizing, what raw data cannot show is the accountability shattered by the way in which it seems to have been deliberately delayed and buried by the Administration.  Because this report covers data from FY 2009, it would typically have been released in March, 2010. OPM repeatedly skirted both Congressional and public inquiries for over a year before quietly releasing the data without as much as a mention on their website. This sort of action dramatically undercuts any claims about running a “transparent” and “open” government.  

Although the report has made its way out of OPM, it still remains mysteriously missing from the agency’s website. Rep. Phil Gingrey [R-LA] was one Member of Congress who repeatedly had his requests for the report’s release stonewalled by OPM. To tackle this issue, Rep. Gingrey earlier this year re-introduced the Federal Employee Accountability Act of 2011, H.R. 122. Back when the legislation was first introduced in 2009, the Alliance for Worker Freedom released this letter in support of its passage. This vital legislation would forbid federal employees from performing any and all union activity while on official time, ending the practice of wasting taxpayer money on what should be union funded work. Hopefully, the release of this startling new report will renew focus on Rep. Gingrey’s legislation, ensuring its swift passage and a greater commitment to transparency on the part of OPM in the future.