Chairman Meadows Releases Memo on Federal Employee Use of Official Time

Full House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
Full House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
Published: May 24, 2018

WASHINGTON – Today, House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee Chairman Mark Meadows released a memo detailing agency responses to the Committee’s request for information on the use of federal labor union “official time.” The memo compiles data received from 23 agencies and shows nearly one thousand federal employees are spending at least half of their official time working as union representatives.
Full text of the memo can be found here.
Background:
  • On January 9, 2018, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs sent letters to 24 agencies requesting information on the use of federal labor union official time in fiscal years 2016 and 2017.
  • Official time is defined as paid time off for federal employees to represent a union or its bargaining unit employees during work hours and in lieu of regular duties.
  • The federal government compensates employees on official time using their regular salary and benefits rate.
  • The amount of official time available at each agency and the number of employees on official time varies from agency to agency.
  • The President’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget states federal labor union activities consume considerable management time and taxpayer resources. In testimonybefore the Committee, Director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Dr. Jeff Pon argued official time is a problem and needs to be examined.
  • OPM estimates total payroll costs for employees on official time in fiscal year 2016 amounted to $177.2 million. This estimate excludes other costs associated with using official time such as travel and use of government property. Due to reporting issues and a lack of accurate data, the costs associated with official time are under-reported.
Government-Wide Findings:
  • Agencies lack a simple, consistent system for recording official time.
  • For fiscal year 2017, twenty three agencies reported 12,508 employees used official time in some capacity. Of those employees, 981 spent between half and all of their workday on official time.
  • Across the federal government, 221 employees spent at least half of their time on official time while getting paid over $100,000. The Department of Veterans Affairs employs the greatest number of such employees (61).
  • The total compensation for all federal employees using any official time in fiscal year 2017 was $1 billion.
  • Union officials on 100 percent official time may qualify for honorary, informal, and non-performance-based awards. There were 102 employees on 50 percent or more official time who received an award in fiscal year 2017.
Selected Agency-Specific Findings:
Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
  • The VA reported 472 employees on 100 percent official time. A social worker and a pharmacist made nearly $150,000 each and a nurse anesthetist and a dentist made over $190,000 each in fiscal year 2017.
Department of Transportation (DOT)
  • DOT reported 21 employees on 100 percent official time, making over $100,000 each in fiscal year 2017, topping out at $187,000.
Department of Treasury (Treasury)
  • Treasury reported 142 employees on 100 percent official time. In fiscal year 2017, 1,471 Internal Revenue Service employees were on official time. 185 conducted union work full time. The average, annualized salary cost of these employees totaled $61.1 million.