So-Called ‘Official Time’ Negatively Affects Patient
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
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
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
“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
“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
“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.