Taxpayers Spend Billions Subsidizing Unions

‘Billing Taxpayers For Union Work Is Our Right’

Veterans Affairs human resources officer Jacquelyn Hayes-Byrd: Union “official time” harms sick veterans. Credit: VA.GOV

So-Called ‘Official Time’ Negatively Affects Patient Care

Less than a week after Donald Trump was elected as America’s 45th President, National Right to Work Committee leaders urged him to use his executive power to curtail union bosses’ ability to conduct union business while billing taxpayers for their time and expenses.

And last year, a presidential executive order (E.O.13837) and subsequent implementation of regulations addressed this abusive practice, commonly known as “official time,” in federal workplaces.

According to the White House’s Office of Personnel Management, in 2016 federal employees racked up a total of 3.6 million official time hours during which they were paid by taxpayers to represent a government union rather than carry out the missions of their agencies.

E.O.13837 aims to lessen the anti-taxpayer impact of official time by prohibiting government managers from allowing union bosses to use federal property for free, and prohibiting the use of official time to file union grievances against federal employers.

‘We Hire Medical Professionals to Take Care of Veterans’

Last summer, a district judge largely upheld a complaint filed by federal union bosses against E.O.13837, striking down most of its key provisions. The Trump Administration’s appeal of this decision is still pending.

Even as this legal battle unfolds, several U.S. government agencies are doing their part to ensure federal employees work for the taxpayer, not Big Labor.

For example, on November 8, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced it would move “nearly 430 medical professionals from taxpayer-funded union work back to health care jobs serving veterans.”

Jacquelyn Hayes-Byrd, the VA’s acting assistant secretary for human resources, cogently explained why agency executives were repudiating the sweet deal federal union bosses had foisted on them to allow union activist VA doctors and nurses to collect their full salaries even if they don’t care for a single patient:

“[W]hen we hire medical professionals to take care of veterans, that’s what they should do at all times. No excuses, no exceptions.”

As Ms. Hayes-Byrd also noted, it’s just “common sense” that allowing “health-care workers to do taxpayer-funded union work instead of serving veterans” has a negative impact on patient care.

Despite the statute’s generally strong bias in favor of Big Labor, the so-called “Civil Service Reform Act” (CSRA) of 1978 clearly gives agencies like the VA the authority to put “reasonable” limits on union official time. 

Given the well-publicized long waits thousands and thousands of sick and injured veterans have endured in recent years before they could get medical care at the VA, it is hard to see how anyone could claim the VA’s recent move to curtail official time is “unreasonable.”

Union Officials Advance ‘Absurd Legal Argument’

That’s why, it seems, on November 28 top federal union bosses filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia that dares to claim the curtailment of official time initiated by the VA a few weeks earlier violates the First Amendment!

National Right to Work Committee President Mark Mix commented:

“The absurd legal argument now being advanced by lawyers for the National Federation of Federal Employees and the American Federation of Government Employees unions boils down to this: ‘Billing taxpayers for union work is our First Amendment right.’

“Fortunately, this argument is highly unlikely to prevail. 

“A decade ago, in Ysursa v. Pocatello Education Association, the U.S. Supreme Court categorically stated that government entities are ‘not required to assist others in funding the expression of particular ideas.’

“The modest reform implemented by the VA late last year is, therefore, likely to stand for the time being.

“But a far more sweeping solution is needed to end official time and other abuses perpetrated against federal taxpayers by government union bosses. To achieve this goal, repeal of the CSRA itself is essential.

“Effectively, the Jimmy Carter-signed CSRA makes power-mad federal union bosses like AFGE President J. David Cox co-managers over hundreds of thousands of civil service employees.

“The sooner it’s gone, the better.”

(source: February 2019 National Right to Work Newsletter)