NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Fleecing Texas

September 4, 2015

Public employee unions think the state of Texas is great. Texas public employee unions, although they are technically private organizations, receive direct subsidies from local governments. These subsidies are handed out in the form of release time, a practice that allows unionized employees to conduct union business during normal working hours and without having to first clock-out.

Public employees who do union work on the taxpayer's dime do not provide any direct public benefit. In fact, in many cases release time has been used to pay union workers' salaries while they lobby in Austin for higher wages, work for political campaigns or attend union meetings.

  • The San Antonio Fire Department (SAFD) granted 4,238 release time hours in fiscal year 2012, at a cost to taxpayers of $135,786.
  • In FY 2013, release time for the San Antonio Police Department (SAPD) hours amounted to 8,301, at a cost of $272,244.
  • The cost of union release time to Austin taxpayers was $227,530 and $593,783 in FY 2012 and FY 2013.
  • Records shed little light on the nature of the activities being performed by employees for the unions while receiving tax-payer funded salaries.
  • Fortunately, several provisions in the Texas constitution, known as "gift clauses," ban government subsidies that primarily benefit private entities.

The practice of release time is just another way for public sector unions to fleece taxpayers. Under Texas's gift clauses taxpayers are authorized to file suit challenging this unnecessary government expense. Another option is for the Texas legislature to prohibit the practice. In addition, Texas municipal governments could stop negotiating release time into collective bargaining agreements. Taxpayers have the tools to put an end to the government's practice of giving away the resources of the state to private entities for private benefit. It is now time to act.

Source: Trey Kovacs, "A Remedy for the Lone Star State's Taxpayer Giveaway to Unions", Competitive Enterprise Institute, July 23, 2015.

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