House Hearing Targets Federal Unions

A House hearing on the federal government’s tracking and use of union “official time” is the latest hit in a growing list of attacks on the federal workforce.

Federal employees are permitted by law dating back 40 years to address concerns of collective bargaining unit members. The law explicitly prohibits union activities while on official time, including any internal union business, solicitation of new members, election of union officers and any partisan political issues. 

Some members of Congress who sit on government operations and economic opportunity subcommittees doubted the need for employees to work on official time activities full time.

“There is a lot of misinformation about what ‘official time’ is and how it is used,” said National Federation of Federal Employees National President Randy Erwin. “Those trying to eliminate or reduce official time regularly claim it is used for internal union business and political purposes when that is simply not the case.  The truth is, those attacking official time are really just trying to get rid of the unions, and criticizing official time is just another way to do that.”

The recent federal hiring freeze, the revival of the obscure “Holman Rule” that could slash civil servant salaries, attacks on federal whistleblowers and this latest attack on official time have made it apparent that federal unions are in the government’s crosshairs.

READ: House Republicans launch latest hit on federal unions

IAM government employees and NFFE-IAM members currently use official time across the country, as prescribed by specific departments and agencies. Qualifying activity is restricted to government business and is regulated by management, which decides how much official time is reasonable, necessary and valuable to their operations.

“Official time is an important tool in the federal toolbox that is used exclusively by federal agencies to effectively address deficiencies and productivity issues, and provide assistance for the resolution of grievances and negotiations related to working conditions,” said Erwin.