Federal agencies spend millions on union business


WORKING FOR YOU? In 2011, the American Federation of Government Employees sued to prevent essential employees from working during a threatened shutdown.

By Kenric Ward | Watchdog.org

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Internal Revenue Service isn’t the only federal agency where hundreds of employees do union business full-time on the public’s dime.

“Taxpayers spent around $156 million on federal employees who did no federal work at all,” said Nathan Mehrens, president of Americans for Limited Government.

Watchdog.org reported last week that union business — oxymoronically classified as “official time” — is subsidized by the IRS. Mehrens uncovered similar behavior at other agencies.

At the IRS, 286 full-time staffers worked exclusively for the National Treasury Employees Union while receiving government paychecks in 2012 (the latest year for which statistics were available).

Mehrens’ group exposed several other agencies that fully fund union business with public money. These include:

Veterans Affairs. The scandal-scarred VA has more than 250 employees working full-time for the American Federation of Government Employees, the National Association of Government Employees, the National Federation of Federal Employees and the Service Employees International Union.

“At least one of these 250 doesn’t even report to work at a department facility, but rather ‘teleworks’ from a private AFGE office in D.C.,” Mehrens noted.

Department of Transportation. Some 35 DOT employees exclusively on “official time” receive average annual salaries of $138,000. Some receive more than $170,000.

Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA pays more than $1.6 million per year to employees who work for their union full-time.

National Labor Relations Board. The NLRB has two employees working for their union full-time. Each makes more than $100,000 per year.

“Under collective bargaining agreements between the agencies and the unions, the work that these employees do on ‘official time’ is controlled by the union, not the agency,” Mehrens explained.

David Williams, president of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, calls the situation “hyper-political.”

“When people pay taxes, they expect their money goes to bureaucrats who are doing their job,” he said.

According to the U.S. Department of Personnel Management, “Labor and management are equally accountable to the taxpayer and have a shared responsibility to ensure that official time is authorized and used appropriately.”

But accountability and transparency have been lacking.

Though the OPM directs “agencies (to) report official time usage on an annual basis,” the office has not released data for the past two years.

Meantime, Democratic candidates receive 90-plus percent of the unions’ campaign contributions. Yet the Republican-controlled House of Representatives has failed to rein in the workplace subsidies.

“If government unions want to have their own paid employees, that’s their prerogative,” Mehrens told Watchdog. “As things stand now, it’s a vicious circle that increases cost of government.”

Kenric Ward is a national reporter for Watchdog.org and chief of the Virginia Bureau. Contact him at kenric@watchdogvirginia.org or at (571) 319-9824. @Kenricward