Municipal Government, National

House Republicans Go After Federal Unions’ ‘Official Time’

March 1, 2017 
By Steven Wishnia and Neal Tepel

Washington, DC – More than 300 Veterans Administration employees spent all their work time doing union business, House Republicans charged at a joint-subcommittee hearing Feb. 16. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee said that Office of Personnel Management figures showed 345 VA employees “they were essentially full time on official time.”

But they weren’t using that “official time” for recruiting members or doing strictly union business, responded J. David Cox Sr., president of the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents VA staff. “The reasonable use of official time,” he said, provides the means “by which employees and their elected representatives participate in the improvement of services.” The union also uses official time to defend whistleblowers, said Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.). He read a letter from Michelle Washington, a psychologist at a VA hospital in Wilmington, Delaware, who suffered retaliation after she testified at a Senate hearing on poor conditions there. “‘If official time had not been available to the AFGE representatives, we may not have been able to defend my case,” Washington wrote. VA workers accounted for about one-third of the total hours federal employees spent on official time from 2008 to 2012, according to a Government Accountability Office report Meadows cited. Another GAO report, released Feb. 16, said the VA “cannot accurately track” the amount of official time. Read more

February 28, 2017

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