NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Government Unions And 'Official Time'

August 18, 1998

Under the strange doctrine of "official time," U.S. taxpayers are paying government bureaucrats to perform union duties, critics report. On the job, they collect pay for activities ranging from lobbying Congress to selling real estate and performing home maintenance chores.

  • In 1993, the Clinton administration ruled that members of the American Federation of Government Employees could lobby Congress for higher pay and other benefits while at work.
  • A Social Security official and 15-year union officer reported to Congress that union activists have been observed selling real estate, selling hot dogs at sports event and doing home maintenance while on "official time."
  • The AFGE filed a grievance when the Social Security Administration's Boston office sought to cut back on the longstanding practice of giving employees four paid hours to do their Christmas shopping -- claiming the tradition "accommodates those employees who, for philosophical or other reasons, avoid shopping on evenings or on Sundays."
  • Backed by their union, Customs Service officials can now receive overtime "night pay" bonuses for work done anytime during the day -- as well as similar bonuses while they are on vacation.

The Office of Personnel Management used to keep records on how many hours federal employees devoted to union "official time" activities, but it ceased keeping such records in 1993. The Defense Department had reportedly refused to cooperate because it didn't want to antagonize the unions by tracking their activities.

Source: James Bovard, "Why Government Isn't Working," Wall Street Journal, August 18, 1998.


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