tv Federal Labor Union Employees CSPAN June 1, 2018 6:54pm-8:01pm EDT
committees during normal working hours while being paid their regular salary. a number of employees use official time and hours spent are governed by collective bargaining agreement. some agreement even allow for certain employees to spend 100% of their time on official time that they never do the job they were hired to do on january 9 i along with my colleague and this can the senate homeland security sent a letter to 24 agencies requesting information on official time usage in the federal government. the results are quite interesting and surprising to the average taxpayer 12508 employees through 23 agencies use official fine in some capacity nearly 1000 spent
half or all of the workday on official time. another 221 employees were paid over $100,000 by the federal government so it says 1 billion on salaries of employees who took at least some of their work on his official time. every hour spent on official time is an hour away from the critical task the government has before it like the veterans affairs department 472 employees spent 50% employees spent 50% or more of their time on official time meeting they were not caring for the veteran with the irs 185 employees spent 100% of their time performing representational work on behalf of the union which means they are not serving the american taxpayer. i asked the committee staff
report be inserted into the record while not performing work and employee was hired to do was bad enough there are other acts of official fine that can impact allows you to file grievances or file appeals to bring the work of the government to a halt. by way of example hearing from the federal employee who said the employee comes to work on time he complained the official was harassing and file the grievance represented got involved after weeks of back-and-forth they allow him to push back her start time by 15 minutes as a private business guide this sounds absurd the grievances filed while on official time can also implicate national
security the air force base in arizona with off-base access was only password with multiple security breaches this was a change in working condition that they first needed to negotiate this committee is not alone in examining official time personnel management reports that official time usage is on the rise the federal government saw a 4.7% increase in our spent from fiscal year 2014 fiscal year 2015 also estimated the total cost of official time in $2,161,772,000,000 they said they do not reflect the true total cost because opm does not take into account
government cost related to the free use of government property supplies by officials so the official time usage report fiscal year 2016 to be submitted in the record without objection so order that the ministration take steps to reverse his recently department of education narrowed the official time but did not eliminate it like to enter into the record a letter explaining the recent changes with collective bargaining agreement and inherent last week the director of opm testified that the administration is committed to examining issues like to think the witnesses today for the testimony i look forward to hearing their insightful comments and i recognize the member from virginia for his opening remarks that i ask at
protect whistle-blowers represent colleagues and grievances against abuse and negotiate collective bargaining agreements. sometimes they're troubleshooters who can diffuse a situation before it gets to the litigation stage. the truth is that official time is authorized by law. negotiated by agency management with the union and is intended to promote the peaceable resolution of disputes and the efficient operation of government. unions and agencies must agree on the amount of time for representational activities which must be and i quote reasonable necessary and in the public interest. congress carefully crafted a collective bargaining system for the federal government that balanced the interest of the agencies involved, federal employees, and the american public we all serve. the cost of all of these benefits just 40 seconds per
day. that's the amount of time for federal employee official time costs the federal government according to the office of personal management. that is less than the time it takes to get a cup of coffee, like this one i got right here. do my republican friends want to prohibit federal employees from getting their morning coffee because it's a drain on the federal government? this hearing isn't about protecting the taxpayer dollar, as the republican staff memo makes all too clear, it's about attacking federal employees, a central theme of this congress unfortunately and the trump administration. last week the oversight committee held a hearing to discuss the recently issued management agenda, and the president's plan to take 143 billion dollars from middle class federal workers in wage and retirement cuts and to use their money to partially offset the cost of a 1.5 trillion dollars tax give away to the
wealthy. during this administration, federal employees have had to deal with efforts to gut the missions of federal agencies attacks from the federal workforce and their retirement benefits as well as the oppression of and retaliation against federal whistle-blowers, we might even add censorship to those trying to do their work. federal employees need more support and avenues for redress, not fewer. whether it's through congressional oversight, inspected general investigations or through union representatives, we should be giving federal employees the tools they need to sound the alarm against the activities that make it harder for the federal government to work for the american people. if our committee wants to quibble over the 40 seconds spent on official time, it should also look into how some of the trump administration political appointees spend their time. according to numerous press reports, the director of scheduling and advance for the
epa administrator scott pruitt spearheaded pruett's search for new housing after he moved out of a sweetheart deal at a condo, he rented for $50 a night from the wife of a lobbyist who had business before the agency. part of the search including contacting real estate companies and viewing apartment options for administrator pruitt clearly took place on official hours. or this committee could look into the white house presidential personnel office. in march, the washington post reported that that office which has struggled to fill vacancies throughout the federal government has become, quote, a social hub where young staffers throughout the administration stop by and hang out on couches and smoke electronic cigarettes. ppo leaders regularly host happy hours in their offices that includes beer, wine and snacks for not only ppo employees but also white house liaison who
work for other federal agencies. and in january, they played a drinking game, in the office, called icing for one employee's birthday. i've been informed that icing involves hiding a bottle of smirnoff ice and demanding the person discovers it drink it as quickly as possible. now, these individuals may be able to guzzle a 12 ounce bottle of flavored malt liquor in 40 seconds but still infinitely less productive use of employee time than official time. i look forward to hearing from our witnesses today on their perspectives regarding the impact of official time on the efficiency and effectiveness of the federal government and for that matter the use of any time by any federal employee on government time. thank you, mr. chairman. >> i thank the gentleman for his statements and i agree that some of the other behavior that was talked about is certainly something that we do need to look at and be glad to do that in a bipartisan way. i would like to thank the witnesses for coming today.
i will introduce the policy analyst at the competitive enterprise institute, senior labor and employee relations consultant and author, welcome. and vice president and director of government studies at brookings institute. welcome. welcome to you all. and pursuant to committee rules, all witnesses will be sworn in before they testify. if you would please rise and raise your right hand. >> do you solemnly swear or affirm that the testimony you're about to give is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you god? all right, thank you. you may be seated. please the record should reflect that all witnesses answered in the affirmative in order to allow time for enough questions and answers, i would ask that you limit your oral testimony to 5 minutes, that your entire
written testimony will be made part of the record. there is a clock there in front of you. and so if you will just please press the red button when you go to speak and speak into the microphone. we recognize you for five minutes. >> chairman, ranking member connelly and members of the subcommittee, thank you for holding this hearing and providing me the opportunity to discuss official time in the federal workforce. i'm a labor policy analyst at the competitive enterprise institute, ci is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy organization that focuses on regulatory issues from a free market and limited government perspective. official time grants federal employees paid time off from their government duties to perform union business. this taxpayer-funded subsidy to federal employee unions enables them to file grievances, bargain, and even lobby congress among other activities. unfortunately, the reality is that no one really knows how
much time and money is spent by the federal government on official time. in addition, the lack of transparency surrounding the practice makes it impossible to know what specific activities are performed by federal employees on official time. however, the office of personnel management does occasionally produce a report that estimates the cost of official time. according to the latest data available from the opm, in fiscal year 2016, official time costs approximately 175 million dollars and employees spent 3.6 million hours conducting union activities instead of their assigned public duties. problems with official time other than poor recordkeeping have been recognized by administrations from both political parties. during the clinton administration, the opm explained when federal employees are on official time, they're not available to perform the duties associated with their regular position. this can hamper the agency in
accomplishing its mission as certain assignments must either be delayed, covered by other employees, or accomplished through the use of overtime. the use of significant amounts of official time may adversely affect an employee's ability to keep his or her technical skills current. given these problems associated with official time, it is past time to consider legislative reforms. congress should enact legislation to eliminate the practice of official time. one potential reform could eliminate official time and nullify a frequent union argument in favor of the union subsidy. unions contend that official time is necessary because federal employee unions are required by law to represent nonmembers who do not pay dues. this problem can easily be solved by lifting the legal requirement for federal employee unions to represent nonmembers. congress should consider implementing what is known as
workers choice, a members only union policy that relieves unions of the obligation to represent nonmembers. and as a result, eliminates the need for official time. membership and representation by a union should be voluntary. nonmembers should not be forced to work under a union negotiated agreement they do not want and unions should not be forced to represent employees who do not pay dues. a policy of workers choice addresses union concerns, eliminates the need for official tile and protects workers -- official time and protects workers of freedom association. sort of eliminating official time, federal agencies must track and record official time in greater detail and with more precision. under the current accounting regime, the cost of official time is severely underestimated. further, the true cost of the union subsidy is difficult to determine because of poor tracking and recording of when
employees use official time. across the federal government, what activities federal employees engage in while on official time is relatively unknown. the enactment of hr-1293 sponsored by representative dennis ross would increase transparency regarding official time. specifically it requires opm to furnish a report on the cost of the official time throughout the federal government on an annual basis, which includes information presented in the current opm report, details specific activities for which official time was granted, details official time's impact on agency operations and determines the amount of office space granted to unions to conduct official time activities. taxpayers have a right to know how much tax dollars are used to finance official time. and what activities federal employees undertake instead of the job they are hired to do. i applaud the subcommittee's inquiry into the use of official time and i would welcome any questions. thank you. >> thank you so much. you're recognized for five
minutes, mr. gilson. you will hit the red button there. >> thank you for the opportunity to address the subcommittee. i'm a retired federal employee. i've worked in this area for over 40 years. as an agency representative advisor, advocate or negotiator, i regularly write for a website devoted to federal issues and have done so for over ten years. i currently train, advise, and bargain on behalf of federal agencies as a contract. a civil service reform act was passed in 1978, and i was at the civil service commission at that time as a labor relations person. it's labor relations provisions were touted as sponsors as an encoding of president nixon and president ford's executive orders. it was to establish basic employee rights under a law continuing as it did before.
the law has turned into a pandora's box of unintended consequences. one result and why we're here today is the evolution of a concept of official time no one 40 years ago either intended or would believe. the law's creation of the federal labor relations authority and general counsel to administer government labor relations has had far-reaching consequences on federal government. the case law expanding the statutes official time and the creation of other broad and costly union subsidies is only one such consequence. recently opm issued a report on official time for fiscal year 2016. opm admits the report relies on agencies' submissions and some agencies didn't even submit reports this report frankly should not be relied upon. no one knows what official time costs. no one. as an example, the report says the justice department unions use the same official time as
the department of defense. justice has about 120,000 employees. defense has 750,000. i believe dod is more organized than justice is in terms of labor relations. it also reports that va, the department of veterans' affairs is almost three times as much as as dod or doj, but yet va has less than half of the number of employees of the department of defense. va's numbers are probably closer to the truth, but are also unreliable. based upon my 44 years representing agencies and interacting with program managers, i bet opm's gross total is low by a factor of 5 or 10, and that's not a percentage figure. no one knows. by the way, labor relations official time is not the only official time representatives get. in 2009, president obama issued executive order 13-522 requiring agencies to engage in
predecisional involvement on agency decisions and other activities. the unions complained that agencies would hold them to official time in labor agreements. they were advised by opm that since they were complying with the presidential order, duty time, not official time, would be appropriate for union involvement and order activities. many thousands of hours were used under this order. no one knows what it cost. equal employment opportunity regulations creates what it also calls official time. a federal employee representing an eeo complainant in nay of the stage of the process -- in any stage of the process is on eeoc's official time. they also specify the activities warranting its official time. there are literally hundreds of thousands of eeo allegations a year. no one knows what this costs. also true of the system's protection board and workers' compensation. i did not include eeoc or owcp
time in my estimates. employees agencies you might ask why don't they hold people accountable for this? if you are a supervisor and you have a union steward, are you going to risk the ulp's and grievances if you try to hold their feet to the fire? in addition, if somebody's representing someone on an eeo complaint and management holds their feet to the fire on reporting time, what they will get is a reprisal complaint. that's a fact. official time however defined and other free services have never been accurately reported. all of the costs, office space, furniture, computers, internet space, all of these costs are covered by the -- by labor agreements in the government. nobody knows what they cost. federal unions pay nothing inside an agency to represent employees, not a single penny. when they walk in the door,
their official time, their offices, their space in many cases their travel, their training of the representatives is all paid for by the taxpayer. in closing, no one in 1978, not even the unions themselves would have believed that the cost of federal employee union representation would be entirely borne by the taxpayer and virtually all union dues would be available to those unions as discretionary funds. the taxpayer has paid many billions of dollars over the last 40 years for federal labor union activity and growth. i for one don't have a clue what they got for their money because nobody knows what this actually costs. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you. mr. west, you're recognized for five minutes. >> thank you. chairman meadows, ranking member connelly and members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to testify. i am vice president of government studies at the brookings institution and the author of several books.
my newest book is "the future of work, robots, ai and automation and it looks at the impact of new technologies on the workplace, education and public policy. what i want to do today is to summarize my testimony on official time, and i'm going to talk about three points, how much it costs the federal government, the benefits of official time, and how proposed changes would affect federal employees. >> its april report the office of personnel management estimated that official time in fiscal year 2016 totalled 3.6 million hours and costed around 174.8 million dollars. that comes to 2.95 hours per employee each year and that compares to 2.88 hours in fiscal year 2014. based on that, the report concluded that the overall 2016
hourly total represents an increase in official time over that of fiscal year 14. but based on my reading on the report, i don't believe that conclusion is warranted by the data. the difference between 2.95 hours and 2.88 hours in the 2014 is .07 of an hour or 4 minutes per employee for the year. an analysis indicated concern about the opm methodology and notes that the pom estimate -- opm estimate could be higher or lower. given those data limitations, it is impossible to know if official time costs are rising, staying the same, or actually decreasing. there are a number of benefits of official time. among the activities that take place through that mechanism include things such as the discussion of grievances, dispute resolutions, labor relations training, and new department initiatives among other things.
these activities are important for labor management relationships and they promote a public purpose. they establish vehicles for communications. they provide opportunities for employees to air grievances and they offer a mechanism to resolve conflict. as such, they are vital for agency operations. there have been several efforts to alter current rules on official time. for example, the u.s. department of education has eliminated official time as part of its new labor contract. in addition, the official time reform act of 2017 proposes major changes in the existing law. for example, it says that an employee may not be granted official time for purpose of engaging in any political activity, including lobbying activity. in my view, adoption of this provision would weaken labor management relations and the federal government would reduce of government employees to air their concerns with management and undermine agency
performance. like every other american, it is important that federal employees have the right to express their viewpoints and petition government for a redress of grievances. i think curtailing those rights would deny federal workers important privileges that are guaranteed by the u.s. constitution. thank you. i would be happy to answer any questions. >> thank you very much. mr. chairman? >> yes, sir? >> just unanimous consent request i have four documents i would ask to enter in the record, statement of the national treasury, employees union, the statement of the american federation of government employees, statement of the international federation -- federated professional and technical engineers and a copy of an unfair labor charge filed by the american federation of government employees against the department of education. >> without objection. >> i thank the chair. >> i recognize for five minutes. i thank each of the witnesses for being here. we have got -- do i have a graph? it is available?
if not, i'll go over some of the basics of it. there's been an increase in official time since 2010 through 2016 of over 17%. 3.6 million hours were used on official time in 2016. do those figures sound somewhat accurate to you from what you have tracked? >> yeah. i mean, that does sound accurate, but as i said in my testimony as well as mr. gilson -- >> severely unreliable. >> yeah. >> underestimated. mr. gilson does that sound ballparkish to you? >> no, the opm admits that its report is inaccurate. >> all right. so more or less? >> i'd say as i said in my testimony, it's low by a factor of 5 or 10. >> okay. so we've got based on what opm has given us, we have got somewhere -- if you take an average eight-hour day, we have
almost half a million days a year that the taxpayers are paying. as your testimony is what you are saying today that is severely underestimated. this is quite disturbing to many of us because it is all riding on the backs of the taxpayers. now just for an example, department of veterans' affairs has nearly 2,000 employees who are involved in official time in one capacity or another, hundreds of them -- 100% of their time doing official time. so they were hired to do a specific job, and they're doing none of that job, instead doing 100% union work but getting paid for the job they were hired to do. of these 100% people on official time, who is doing the work that they were hired to do?
>> well, it is unknown. potentially new hires would have to be made to do their work, over time assignments would have to be given to employees who are not on official time, but due to the lack of reporting, potentially their jobs were not met and potentially the work was not done. >> mr. gilson, would you agree to that? >> there's an early federal aviations authority case which said that whatever time was negotiated the agency -- or used the agency was obviously obliged to get its work done. >> so with the va for example of those who are involved in 100% official time, we have nurses, addiction therapists, pharmacists, physicians, have people who are very important to the care of veterans not doing the job they were hired. 100% of their time going to unions. this is very disturbing to me. mr. gilson, something you said in your testimony, i want to come back to it. it caught my attention. you said, quote, federal unions
pay almost nothing toward the cost of their day-to-day operations within the agency. this creates large surpluses that may support lobbying, organizing and other internal union business since the taxpayer is paying operational costs. that is quite a powerful statement. are you saying that these federal employee unions can't afford to divert resources to other activities besides union operations because the taxpayer is subsidizing the union in essence? >> afge currently has a 54 million dollars set of assets, that it is able to build -- and by the way, that's national headquarters. that doesn't count their counsels and locals -- councils and locals. i would say it is probably 150 million in assets. >> those are coming from the taxpayers?
dues and taxpayers? >> yes. >> is it fair to say taxpayers are subsidizing them? >> 100%. >> all right. so you mentioned afge, how involved are they politically? >> that's a question i don't know the answer to, congressman. i do know that they send -- they don't send federal employees out, but they do send their employees out to work either on behalf of or against people running for office. >> i can answer that question. they spent nearly 2 million dollars last cycle giving to employees -- or giving to candidates, 92% were democrats. the national treasury employee, the irs union, right at 96% of their donations went to democrats. i think when all of this is riding on the backs of taxpayers, it seems greatly alarming that the taxpayers are
paying number one, for people to do union work rather than the job they were hired to do, but then the union turns around and is involved in lobbying and political activity. is that something that the unions are supposed to be involved with? >> well, certainly labor unions have every right to engage in political activities. i would just say that, you know, the taxpayer shouldn't have to subsidize their representation of those activities and dues >> that's the point i'm getting. i realize my time has expired. i will recognize the ranking member, five minutes. >> i thank the chair. what's good for the goose is good for the gander. we're going to talk about political support. i wonder what kind of tax pay off sheldon adelson got and the koch brothers got in the recent tax cut bill, and who do they support? almost exclusively republicans.
so if we're going to talk about, you know, quid pro quos or the implication of quid pro quos, we can certainly have that discussion. i'd be glad to have that discussion. i assume labor unions support people who support them. they act in their own self-interest, like any other donor. mr. west, would you agree with that? >> i would certainly agree with that, and all of the activities that we're talking about, the establishment of official time, the activities that are taking place were authorized by the civil service reform act of 1978, and i would just like to remind members of the subcommittee that act passed the senate on an 87-1 vote and the house agreed to the conference report on a 365-8 vote. so it was passed on a purely bipartisan basis. almost nobody in congress opposed it. >> okay, but mr. gilson makes a point. he says yeah, that's true. but in 1978, nobody foresaw the expansion of the use of official time. no one had that in mind when
they passed that bill, that it's evolved into something that's not -- would not be recognizable to those people. would you comment on that? have i got that accurate, mr. gilson? >> yes, sir. >> yep. mr. west, what about that? >> i mean, what the legislation allowed was for representatives to assist their colleagues when their colleagues had grievances. if there was some disagreement in the workplace, if there is a sexual harassment charge, if there's a grievance that needed to get fired -- so these individuals who are being supported through official time are helping their fellow employees. i see nothing wrong with that. >> okay. i want to explore that a little bit because you talked in your testimony about the benefits of official time. now, listen to the narrative so far in this hearing with the exception of you and me, one would assume that official time is a, you know, just a sinkhole. no good comes out of it. it's all on the taxpayer dime. it is a rip-off. it's, you know, unions
exploiting the taxpayer, and once again, not really putting in a full day. in some cases not putting in a day at all. now, are there specific benefits that come from official time? for example, does official time cover whistle-blowers? mr. west? >> the legislation did actually set up the whistle-blower process, and it enabled those working on official time to assist others who were helping to protect the federal government in terms of the waste of taxpayers' money, fraudulent activities that might be taking place or any type of misconduct. >> so it's not just a cost. there's a benefit. we recover costs. now, i take mr. gilson's point and actually certainly am prepared to work with my republican friends in trying to have more accurate data so we know what we're dealing with.
i think that's a totally fair point but it has to work both ways. it can't be just about the cost of the official time itself and how we calculate it. it's also got to be some estimate of the benefits. what is the dollar value of the benefits? now in 2017, long after 1978, the gao did a report r about whistle-blowers at the department of veterans' affairs and said it actually praised official time that facilitated the whistle-blower process at the va. what did that entail? well it uncovered the overprescribing of opioid which is a huge problem across the country and certainly with some of our veteran populations. and long wait times for veterans, which also then led to the uncovering of fraudulent form filling so that the va looked better than in fact it was. does that ring a bell with you, mr. west, what i just said? >> absolutely.
there's -- >> is there a value to that? >> there's great value in that. activities that take place under official time save the federal government money. so all the efforts to increase transparency and collect better data do need to identify not just the cost side, but the benefit side. >> helping our veterans and maybe to the tune of millions of dollars? >> we all remember the problems of veterans hospitals several years ago and some of those were uncovered because federal employees spoke up about those. >> that's not just our opinion. that's the gao finding in 2017. my time is up. i thank the chair. >> thank you, gentlemen. now recognize mr. ross for five minutes. >> thank you, chairman. i thank the panel for being here. a year ago today the house passed on a bill hr 12-93 which is a very fundamental accountability transparency bill that would require opm to submit a report each year including the
total amount of official time granted to employees. doesn't pass judgment on what that time was used for, whether it should be used for, nothing, all it does is create the transparent process of accounting for all official time. and in further of that, i would like to submit for the record an editorial from the ledger, a newspaper in my district, discussing the benefits of that particular legislation. >> without objection. >> and so my first question is is there any reason not to have a transparent accountability process such as set forth in hr 1293 for the purpose of reporting official time? >> i think it's an excellent idea. taxpayers certainly should know what federal employees are doing while paid by the public. >> mr. gilson? >> i honestly don't think that you'd get an accurate report even under a statute. >> but it is better than what we have today? >> absolutely, congressman.
>> so you would have no objection to that? >> absolutely. >> mr. west? >>i support efforts at greater transparency and getting a better handle on the costs but we also need to identify the benefits and how much money has been saved through this activity. >> in fact, mr. west, i think you'd help me prove my case in your testimony you say given the data limitations it is impossible to know whether official time costs are rising staying the same or decreasing. in that sense, it would be good to at least have that baseline accountabili accountability. we have that accountability in sick time, in vacation time, health benefits, tsp's submissions, so this is mainly just another accounting procedure to account for what time is being used on union time as opposed to being used in taxpayer business. and my next question, you know, we're 435 members of a board of trustees of a large organization that has the public trust as our foremost interest. that public trust is exactly what we do with the taxpayer
dollars appropriated to us. can you say what benefit the taxpayers gain by the use of official time? >> i cannot. >> mr. gilson? >> yes, sir. >> and please? >> mr. west is correct in one regard, and that is that the -- there isn't a benefit in some circumstances for labor and management to sit down and solve problems. and to negotiate and to work on employee grievances. official time has gone so far beyond that that that's not just what it covers. for example, since the law passed, there have been over a quarter of a million unfair labor practice cases filed with the federal labor relations authority. the agencies have no say on them. and also the use of official time in those cases is mandated by the federal labor relations authority for every witness, for everybody assisting one of their
attorneys, for any employee that's engaged in that gets official time. >> including whistle-blowers? whistle-blowers don't need official time, do they? they are protected by statute. >> right, whistle-blower time is not the official time we're here to talk about. it is a separate matter under the law. if we're here to talk about the labor relations official time, that's all i'm talking about in terms of union abuse. and there is a great deal of union abuse on official time at least in my experience. >> is there any such similar process in the private sector in dealing with unions with regard to collective bargaining and the use of official time that anyone is aware of? >> some companies, some companies allow union stewards on the shop floor time to work a grievance. >> and would you say if you know that there is an accountability of that time that's being used
in the furtherance of that private concern? >> i think the company is going to exact the cost to that across the table if it's hurting productivity. >> precisely. and so when we have a collective bargaining opportunity, how does it begin? what evidence is used by the unions to say this is how much we need in official time? can you say, mr. gilson? or how that process works? >> i'm sitting at the bargaining table right now with a couple agencies as their chief negotiator and i have done this my whole career. what the unions put on the table is a proposal. and what happens eventually is trade-offs are made. i hesitate to say this, but i believe it's true. i have yet to see a federal sector union take anything less
than a union institutional benefit over an employee benefit in negotiations. so what happens is if an agency wants to accomplish something, it often trades the union benefit to get something done. >> got ya. >> i have seen this happen over and over again. and that's how unions have managed to leverage the amount of official time and other costs that the agencies pay. the agencies want to establish things -- by the way, in this city, to get a space move done within the beltway, i have known agencies to take six, seven, eight years in negotiations because the unions don't want the change to happen. so they delay, they file complaints, they file unfair labor practices. eventually the agency has to play let's make a deal, if they want to move at all. all of that costs official time. >> thank you. my time has expired.
>> we will take some time for a few more questions if any members have any further. let me ask you this, there are hundreds of employees making over $100,000 a year, and they are involved with official time. the department of veterans' affairs, for example, 472 employees, 100% official time. what does this do for an agency when you have this many people not doing the job they were hired to do? >> well, i would assume that it makes it more difficult to achieve the agency mission when you don't have -- when you have that many employees who, you know, don't perform any agency activity. and i think this is one of the things where official time is supposed to be given if it's necessary and in the public interest, and i'm not sure how an employee who never does their
regularly assigned duties can achieve the public interest. >> mr. gilson? >> what i've seen in my career is agency leadership sometimes says to the line supervisor, don't mess with the union official. we don't want to hear the noise. keep the noise down. number one. number two is that supervisors and managers would rather have someone who wants to cause them problems away from the job. so what do they do? other employees cover, if they can hire somebody, they try. there's an expression in the business i'm in, he's not heavy. he's my colleague. which a lot of people apply to in situations of 100% official time, especially in places where the union is less than 20% of the people paid dues which is very common in the federal services, less than 1 in 5 employees pays dues. >> just out of curiosity, i
mentioned the department of veterans' affairs a host of other agencies but va seems to have a large number, 100% on official time. do you have any of you have any information -- do you have any information on other agencies that seem to be an unusually high number of individuals on 100%? >> i think there's quite a number in hhs, social security and the other hhs agencies. i think in the bureau of prisons, there's a number -- wherever the union activity is great. in the department of agriculture, food safety inspection service, in places where you see a lot of grievances, a lot of unfair labor practices filed, you see people with 100%. in addition, mr. congressman, the most highly paid federal employees are in fdic, the federal deposit insurance corporation, the securities and
exchange commission, national credit union administration, and the comptroller of the currency. those folks when you say $100,000 some of those people in those agencies are making 200,000 a year. the other thing you may not know is that those agencies bargain pay without a specific authorization from the congress to do so. >> okay. several months ago, january, i joined with other chairmans trying to writing a letter trying to request information from various agencies on official time, it took over five months. when we finally got a response, it was so difficult to compile, the staff worked countless hours trying to get all that information in such a way that it could even be remotely understandable. we're still going through it. do any agencies really keep track of official time usage to
your knowledge? >> some agencies have as part of the time and attendance system, the employees go into their computer and put their hours in. if you're a union steward or official, one of the blocks is official time. >> do we know what -- for those that use official time, what they are using it for? and i'm not talking about collective bargaining and all that kind of stuff that we know that are supposed to be used. what other activities are utilized during that time? >> the federal labor relations authority has generally over its case law years made it an unfair labor practice in many cases for an agency to inquire what the union is using the official time for. >> so the agent sit doesn't even know? >> -- so the agency doesn't even know? >> no clue in many cases. >> i thank the gentlemen. the gentleman recognizes mr. connelly for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman.
mr. gilson you talked about representing agencies on one side of the table and the unions who were on the other side, is that correct? >> yes, sir >> is that what you do for a living? >> not for a living. i'm retired. i do it part time. >> have you ever been hired by a union to represent them? >> no, sir. >> okay. >> however i was a high school teacher union representative for six years before i became a federal employee. >> good for you. some of my best friends are union members. so we have a hearing here with a very partisan memo that was not cleared on our side that was filled with factual errors and misrepresentations. we have a witness who has
idealogical point of view. when i checked the law, the official time is protected by the law. it is not like they are doing something wrong. mr. gilson makes a point that i think is valuable it has top captured accurately. there needs to be transparency. we've got to know how much time. that's not what this hearing is about. this hearing is about attacking unions. we heard it from our chairman, whom i respect. you don't like the fact that they give money to democrats. and he doesn't like the fact that they are active and we're going to have a hearing where we don't acknowledge any possible benefits from official time. and that disturbs me because that's not an intellectually honest enterprise. that's something else. that's union bashing. and we're apparently willing to distort facts and make assertions, irrespective of the fact of the law that mr. west cited, which passed overwhelmingly.
mr. west, am i correct that contrary to sort of the image we're kind of allowing here in this hearing that we've got out of control union members who are running around doing things they shouldn't be doing and calling it official time, in every agency is there not an agreement that circumscribes official time? >> there are agreements. supervisors have to approve the use of official time. so presumably if these individuals were engaging in abhorrent acts, the supervisor would not be approving it. there are a number of good uses of the union time. we have recently seen a big increase in sexual harassment claims. that's something that employees are subject to and often need assistance in drafting those types of grievances. unions often are the first line of defense for those individuals. >> is there also sort of informal troubleshooting that those people engage in so that it doesn't even get to the
official grievance stage? >> there certainly are preliminary efforts to resolve disputes that take place in the workplace. >> and might that be something management might actually welcome? >> management should welcome that because that would improve the operations of the agency. >> and make management's life a little easier? >> exactly. and of course there are lots of efforts to reorganize, to introduce new administrative processes, new technologies coming to the workplace, all of which i applaud. sometimes management needs help from union officials to get those things adopted. >> uh-huh. and you know, mr. gilson talks about management is throwing in the towel sometimes saying just appease them because it's easier than fighting. and i can see that. by the way, that happens in the private sector too, with workforce. but what about that, mr. west? is that something that we ought
to be concerned about, that management just -- my words -- not mr. gilson's, you know, allowing unions to run amok and kind of run the agency instead of the other way around? >> well, there should be cooperation between labor and management. and if that doesn't happen, we need to look at why that is not happening, but in a time period where i think all of us want the federal government to do a better job, we all want agencies to function much better, we need ways for employees to be able to communicate to management what is taking place. >> and so another way of putting that might be labor management relations are kind of an important part of managing an agency toward its mission and its effectiveness. sometimes it's done well. sometimes it's not. in the public and the private sector. but the idea that there's a labor management dynamic that has to be addressed is not a new concept, is it? >> it is not a new concept.
>> thank you mr. west. thank you mr. chairman for the second round. >> thank the gentlemen. we will now recognize chairman meadows and we will be leaning in on time since you missed the first. if you have some extra questions, you are welcome to. >> thank you, mr. chairman. mr. west, let me come directly to you because in your opening testimony i was listening very closely. you would agree we have no idea whether official time is increased or decreased; is that correct? >> that's correct. >> but you think official time is a good thing? >> yes. >> so official time is a good thing and we don't know whether we have more or less of it, you don't see that's a problem? because if it's a good thing, shouldn't we have more of it? >> i would like to see better data that actually captures both costs and benefits. >> so you have someone here that had the head of the union working with me in a previous career and i can tell you, the relationship was extremely good because official time i
recognize the law and the contractual reason for official time. here's where i have a problem. when you have so many people on 100% official time, your statement you just made to the ranking member from virginia about well they are supposed to check in with their supervisor, if they are on 100% official time, they don't have to check in, would you agree with that >> no the statutes says the official time has to be approved by a supervisor. >> let me ask it a different way. i know the answer to the question so i will ask it in a different way. those people, individuals that are on 100% official time, do you believe they have the same accountability that someone who may be on 25% official time? to their supervisors? >> if their supervisor has approved it, the answer would be yes. >> they have the same accountability? >> yes. >> what quantifiable data do you have to back up that claim,
mr. west? do you have anything from brookings that would prove that? i would venture to say you do not. what do you have? i will look at the numbers. what do you have to back that up? >> i mean, my sense is if someone is working 100% -- >> i'm not asking for your sense. i'm asking for real data to back up your claim. >> we've done a lot of research through our public management center. i've spent 40 years kind of looking at governance questions. we do a lot of work on federal agencies and how to improve their performance. and if supervisors are proving this, then there's accountability. >> you spent 40 years. do you have any quantifiable data to suggest that someone who is on 100% official time has the same accountability to their management as someone that is on partial official time? >> if they are helping their colleagues file grievances, resolve disputes, communicate with management, there's accountability there.
>> you answered a great question i didn't ask. i asked do you have any quantifiable data to support that hypothesis, mr. west? after 40 years, do you have any data to support it? >> i'm just giving you the benefits of my research and -- >> so yes -- >> case studies that we have -- >> yes or no? do you have quantifiable data? >> based on our research, we think the answer to that is that there is evidence and support -- >> so the quantifiable data, we will give you 30 days to get to this committee, if you have got it. is that enough time? >> yes. >> all right. and so you're going to commit to get quantifiable data on that question? >> i will give you the benefit of my impressions, yes. >> that's not what i'm asking for. we already have your impression. you're an expert witness. you are here. what i'm looking for is data. here's my problem, i'm willing to go with the ranking member on acknowledging that we have to
have official time, even there are some who probably ought to have 100% official time if indeed they are the head of this and they are doing -- but at the same time, we have to have some kind of matrix to figure out who is being accountable and who is not because according to your testimony, it's a good thing, and we need to understand when it's a good thing and when it's not. wouldn't you agree? >> yes, i would agree with that. >> so if we have to make that determination, i have a real concern that we have people that they don't have to check in with their management. i'm on 100% official time. in fact, as a supervisor, i wouldn't expect them to be around if they were on is00%. -- 100%. i wouldn't ask them to do any work on behalf of the taxpayer if they are 100%. do you see how that accountability may not be the same as someone who was only there part time? >> all i know is the statutes still requires supervisor
approval even if somebody is working 100% on official time. >> in your 40 years of experience, have you ever seen anybody who did not get supervisor approval? >> i don't know the answer to that question. >> so you've not seen anybody ever -- and you have studied this, and you have never seen anybody not get supervisory approval in 40 years? that's your sworn testimony here today? >> i don't know the answer to that question. >> either you know or you don't. so you have not seen anybody? >> i can't answer that question. >> mr. gilson, have you seen anybody ever? >> over and over and over again. >> okay. >> in your experience, have you seen that the accountability sometimes is less than robust? >> yeah, i mean, 2009, national labor relation for inspector general report showed that consistently supervisors did not prove of official time.
>> okay. but you weren't aware of that report, mr. west, is that correct? >> which report? >> 2009 inspector general report from the national labor relations board. >> i have not seen that report. >> but you study it and you're an expert. you weren't aware of that? >> i've not seen that report, no. >> i didn't ask you if you have seen it. were you aware of it? that's a different question. >> i'm aware of the inspector general does lots of reports. >> all right. mr. chairman, i can see this line of questioning is not producing any real results for me or mr. west. so i will yield back. >> thank you, gentlemen. any other questions? >> mr. chairman, i would just say in the spirit of what's good for the goose is good for the gander, if we're going to insist that mr. west provide data in support of official time, i would certainly like to see data that corroborates mr. gilson's
anecdotal observation that over and over and over again he has witnessed -- >> i have no objection to that. am i the goose or the gander? [laughter] >> we may want to end there. listen, i want to thank the witnesses for joining us today. we appreciate you taking time and the members who remained as well. thank you very much. the hearing record will remain open for two weeks for any member to submit a written opening statement or questions for the record. there's no further business. without objection, the subcommittee stands adjourned. >> thank you.