One would think that during a government shutdown that has nearly shuttered many government agencies and caused thousands of “ordinary” government workers to be furloughed, union officials on the government dole would be among those sharing the pain of their constituents. However, that is apparently not the case in this shutdown.
As unbelievable as it may seem, Barack Obama has exempted government workers who are union officials from being furloughed. In fact, many of them may be collecting their full taxpayer-funded salaries while their constituents are sitting at home.
According to a story in the Washington Examiner, “government workers who are also union representatives could continue working on official time during a shutdown.”
Official time, according to the Office of Personnel Management “means all time, regardless of agency nomenclature, granted to an employee by the agency to perform representational functions under 5 U.S.C. Chapter 71 and by collective bargaining agreement when the employee would otherwise be in a duty status.”`
When government workers are working on “official time,” tax dollars are used to pay government workers to do union business, not the work of the government.
This makes the issue of government workers performing “union work” when said unionized government workers are furloughed all the more curious.
Nevertheless, according to the OPM’s Guidance for Shutdown Furloughs states on pages 26-27 [in PDF], government union officials will continue to be paid during the shutdown–although they may not have access to agency buildings.
Can union officials perform representational work on “official time” during a shutdown?
A. Exempted employees (i.e. paid by non-appropriated funds) serving as union officials may continue to be granted official time to the same extent and in the same manner as they would under non-shutdown conditions. Other employees serving as union officials may work on official time during a shutdown if such activities fall within the Anti-Deficiency Act’s exceptions. The exercise of a union’s statutory and/or contractual rights triggered by an excepted management action taken during a shutdown would constitute an excepted activity. Therefore, if an agency has determined that a management action taken during a shutdown is permissible because it is an excepted activity, and such action triggers union representational rights under the collective bargaining agreement or 5 USC chapter 71 (i.e. a formal discussion, a Weingarten interview, or the representation of an employee in connection with an adverse personnel action), official time should be granted to employees to perform representational duties related to that action. With this in mind, agency officials should consult with their General Counsel to evaluate whether contemplated management actions will trigger statutorily or contractually guaranteed representation rights.
5. Will union officials have access to their union offices if they are in furlough status?
A. Generally, access to facilities during a furlough may be restricted based on funding, security or other issues. Depending on agency operations, a particular facility, or portions of a facility, may be fully or partially operational. Access to a union office during a period of furlough should not be prevented solely on the basis that a union official seeking access is not in a duty status. Access for representational purposes would be subject to each facility’s requirements at the time, including provisions in collective bargaining agreements [Emphasis added.]
As the National Right to Work Committee noted earlier this year, “In many cases, ‘official time’ is no more than taxpayer-funded no-show jobs.”
During a government shutdown, with union members being furloughed and union officials being paid–in many cases, without access to the very members they purportedly represent, government union officials may very well be sitting at home while collecting their taxpayer-funded paychecks. Or, in some cases, they may actually be being paid to protest the government shutdown.
“Truth isn’t mean. It’s truth.”
Andrew Breitbart (1969-2012)