NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

"Official Time" Is Government Speak For Union Organizing

June 4, 2001

When federal employees use their government-paid hours to pursue union activities, it is called "official time." And there is a lot of official time going on in the corridors of government these days.

  • While federal unions have thwarted the regular tracking and publication of data on official time, a 1998 U.S. Office of Personnel Management survey covering most agencies documented 4.3 million hours -- or almost 2,400 work-years -- devoted to union business.
  • At the Department of Transportation, 3.4 percent of union-represented employees spend at least half their workdays on union matters.
  • Last year, Internal Revenue Service employees spent the equivalent of 370 work-years on union work -- up 62 percent from 1990.
  • That includes 135 examiners, revenue officers and other IRS employees who did nothing buy union work -- as well as more than 2,000 who spent part of their time on union matters.

Union activities include negotiating with management, filing worker grievances, giving union "orientations" to new employees and even lobbying Congress for higher pay.

Fifty-eight percent of federal employees are now covered by union contracts -- up from 6 percent in 1964.

Source: Ira Carnahan, "Your Tax Money at Work," Forbes, June 11, 2001.


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