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tv   Federal Labor Union Employees  CSPAN  June 18, 2018 6:53pm-8:03pm EDT

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had opposed. tonight on the communicators, we will look at the case and what it means for media companies and consumers. our guest are diana moss of the american antitrust institute and george mason university professor joshua right. watch the communicators tonight at 8 pm eastern on c-span two. the adjusters -- the justice department testifies for the house oversight and government reform committee on the ongoing hillary clinton email investigation by the fbi and justice department. life coverage starts at 10 am eastern on c-span 3. online@c- span.org and on the c-span 3 app. a hearing on how federal labor union employees report how much time they are able to spend engaged in union activities while at work.
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a former union negotiator dashed testify. -- testify. subcommittee on government operations will come to order. the chair is authorized to declare recess at any time. official time is for employees performing union represent -- while getting paid their regular salaries.
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the number of employees using official time and the amount of hours spent on it are governed by collective bargaining agreements agency. some collective bargaining agreements allow for certain employees to spend 100% of their time on official time. meaning they never do the job that they were hired to do. on january 9, i along with some of my colleagues at this committee and the senate homeland security and governmental affairs committee sent a letter to 24 agencies requesting information on official time usage in the federal government. the results were quite interesting. and likely surprising to the average taxpayer. some 12,508 employees and 23 agencies used official time in some capacity. of those, nearly 1000 spent half or all of their workday on official time. another 221 employees in this category were paid over $100,000 by the federal government. the government
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spends one day on salaries of employees who took some of their work time as official time. every hour spent on official time is an hour spent away from official tasks the federal government has before it. there are 472 employees who spent 50% or more of their time on official time. meaning that they were not gearing for the veterans. 185 employees spent 100% of their time performing representational work on behalf of the unions which means they are not serving the american taxpayer. i asked that the committee staff report be inserted into the record. while not performing the work and employee was hired to do is bad enough, there are other aspects of official time that can
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impact the mission. official time allows the union to file grievances and appeal to the agencies and bring the work of the government to a halt. by way of example, we have heard from a federal employee told us that after repeated requests that an employee come to work on time, this employee complained that the official was harassing the employee filed agreements. the union representative of back and forth the employee agency to push back her start time by 15 minutes. to me as a private business guy this sounds absurd. the grievance filed while on official time can also locate national security. luke air force base in arizona ended off base access to email system with only a password after it experienced multiple security breaches.
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the union filed a grievance saying this was a challenge -- a change in the working conditions that the air force base needed to negotiate. this committee is not alone in examining official time. a recent office of personnel management report found that official time usage is on the rise in government -- governmentwide. they saw 4.7 percent increase. they also estimate that the total cost of official time in fiscal year 2016 to be $177.2 million. opm said that this number does not reflect the true total cost because opm does not take into account government cost relating to the free use of government property and supplies by union officials. i would ask that the official time usage report for fiscal year 2016 of the federal government be submitted into
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the record without objection so ordered. this administration is taking steps to reverse this troubling trend. recently the amount official time employees can use had been lowered. i'd like to enter into the record a letter explaining the recent changes made to the collective bargaining agreement . without objection so ordered. in a hearing last week, the new director of opm testified official time is an agency and the administration is committed to re-examining its use. i would like to thank the witnesses for their testimony and look forward to hearing their insightful comments and with that i recognize the ranking member, the gentleman from virginia mr. connolly for his opening remarks. >> i think the chair and i would ask that the democratic rebuttal to the republican staff memo which was not
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cleared on our side be entered into hours -- into evidence. >> later -- labor organizations and collective bargaining are in the public interest. because the reality is that unions contribute to the effective conduct of business and facilitate settlement of employee dispute. federal unions are required to represent all employees within a bargaining unit including those who do not pay dues. and may not seek fees from nonmembers. in exchange for those representational duties, the civil service format authorize the use of official time. the legal authorization federal oral -- federal employees protect. they negotiate collective bargaining agreements. sometimes they are troubleshooters who
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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 operations of government. unions and agencies must agree on the amount of time for representational activities which must be reasonable, necessary, and in the public interest. congress carefully crafted a collective targeting system or the federal government that balance the interest of the agencies involved. federal employees and the american public we ulcer. the cost -- we all serve. the cost is just 40 seconds per day. that is the amount of time federal employees spend
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according to the office of personnel management. that is less than the time it takes to get a cup of coffee. my republican friends want to prohibit federal employees from getting their morning coffee because it is a drain on the federal government? this hearing isn't about protecting the taxpayer dollar. as a republican staff memo makes all too clear, it is about attacking federal employees. a central theme of this congress and the trump administration. last week, the oversight committee held a hearing to discuss the recently issued president management agenda. and the president's plan to take $143 billion from middle- class federal workers in rage -- wage and retirement cuts and use their money to offset the cost -- the cost. federal employees have had -- we might
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even add censorship scientist send through their work. whether it is through congressional oversight or 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 42nd spent on official time, it should also look into how the trump administration political appointees spend their time. according to numerous press reports, the director of scheduling in advance for the epa administrator scott pruett spearheaded a search for new housing after he moved out of a condo he rented for $50 a night
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from the wife of a lobbyist. part of his search clearly took place on official hours. 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 a social hub where young staffers throughout the administration stop by to hang out on couches and smoke electronic cigarettes. epo leaders regularly host happy hours in their offices that include beer, wine, and snacks for not only ppl employees but also white house liaison work for other federal agencies. in january they played a drinking game in the office called icing. this was for an employee's
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birthday. icing involves hiding a bottle of smirnov ice and demanding that the person who discovers it drink it as quickly as possible. these individuals may be able to guzzle a 12 ounce bottle of flavored malt liquor in 40 seconds but it is a less productive use of employee time beneficial time. i look forward to hearing from our witnesses today on their perspective regarding the impact of official time on the efficiency and effectiveness of the federal government. thank you mr. chairman. >> i think 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. be glad to do that in a bipartisan way. i would like to thank the witnesses for coming today. i will introduce mr. trey kovacs , policy analyst at the competitive enterprise institute, mr. bob gilson
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senior labor and employee relations consultant and author, welcome. and mr. darrell west vice president and director of government studies at brookings institute. 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 are about to give is the whole truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you god? thank you, you may be seated. 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 five minutes in your entire written testimony will be made part of the record. there is a clock in front of you. if you will just press the red button and speak into the microphone, mr. kovacs we
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recognize you for five minutes. >> chairman metals, -- meadows, thank you for ordering this hearing and providing me the opportunity to discuss official time in the federal workforce. my name is trey kovacs and i am a policy analyst at cei. it is a nonprofit 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
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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 cost approximately $175 million and employees spent 3.6 million hours conducting union activities instead of their assigned public duty. problems with official time other than poor record-keeping have been recognized by administrations from both political parties. during the clinton administration, the opm explained when federal employees are on official time, they are not available to perform the duties associated with the regular position. this can hamper the agency from accomplishing its mission as certain assignments must be delayed, covered by their employees or accomplished through the use of overtime. the use of significant amount
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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 reform. congress should enact legislation to eliminate the practice of official time. one potential reform can eliminate official time and nullify a 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. as a result eliminate the need
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for official time. membership in 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 time, and protects workers freedom of association. short of eliminating official time, federal agencies must track and record official time in greater detail and with more precision. under the current economy 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
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sponsored by representative dennis ross would increase transparency regarding official time. specifically it requires opm to furnish a report on the cost of official time throughout the federal government on an annual basis. this includes information presented in the current opm report, details specific activities for which official time was granted, details official times impact on agency operations and determining the amount of office space of officials seeking out official time. 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. i would welcome any questions. thank you. >> thank you so much, mr. gilson you are recognized for five minutes. if you will hit the red button there.
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>> thank you for the opportunity to address the subcommittee. i am a retired federal employee. i worked in this area for over 40 years. as an agency representative advisor advocate or negotiator, i regularly write for the website devoted to federal issues. i currently train, advise, and bargain on behalf of federal agencies as a contractor. a service reform act was passed in 1978 and i was service commissioner at that time. it is labor relations provisions were touted by its 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 the classes. one result and why we are here today is the evolution of the concept of official time no one
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40 years ago intended would believe. the laws creation of the federal general counsel to administer government labor relations has had far-reaching consequences on federal government. while expanding the statutes official time and the creation of other 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 agency submissions and that some agencies didn't submit reports. this report frankly should not be relied upon. no one knows what official time cost. 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 deity is more
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organized -- dod is more organized than justice is in labor relations. department of labor is almost 3 times as much but they have less than half the number of employees of the department of defense. das numbers are probably closer to the truth but are also unreliable. based on my 44 years of representing agencies, i bet opm's gross total is lowered by a factor of five or 10. that is not a percentage figure. no one knows. labor relations official time is not the only official time representative get. in 2009 resident obama issued executive order 13 522 requiring agencies to engage in pre-decisional involvement on agency decisions and other activities. the unions complained that agencies would hold them to official time and labor agreements. they were advised by opm that
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since they were complying with a presidential order, duty time, not official time would be appropriate for union involvement activities. thousands of hours were used under this order. no one knows what it cost. equal employment opportunity regulations creates what it also called official time. a federal employee representing a complaint in any stage of the process is on eeoc's official time. they also specify the activities warranting its official time. hundreds of thousands of eeo allegations a year. no one knows what this cost. also true of the protection board and workers compensation. i did not include eeoc time in my estimate. why don't they hold people accountable for this? if you are a supervisor and you
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have a union steward, are you going to risk grievances if you try to hold their feet to the fire? in addition if someone is representing someone on an eeo complaint and management hold their feet to the fire for reporting time, will they get a reprisal complaint? that is a fact. official time however defined and other free services have never been accurately reported. all of the cost, office space, furniture, computers, internet space, all of these costs are covered by labor agreements in the government. no one knows what they cost. federal unions pay nothing. inside an agency to represent employees not a single penny. when they walk in the door, there official time, their offices, their space, in many cases their travel, their training of the representatives is all paid for by the
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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. i for one don't have a clue what they got for their money. no one knows what this actually cost. thank you mr. chairman. >> thank you mr. gilson. mr. west you are recognized for five minutes. >> thank you. chairman meadows, and members of the subcommittee thank you for the opportunity to testify. i'm 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
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workplace, education and public policy. what i want to do today is to summarize my testimony on official time. i'm going to talk about three points. how much it cost the federal government, the benefits of official time, and how proposed changes would affect federal employees. in its april report, the office of personnel management estimated that official time in fiscal year 2016 total 3.6 million hours and cost around 174.8 alien dollars. -- 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 included that the overall 2016 hourly total represents an increase in official time over that of fiscal year 14. based on my reading on the report, i don't believe that conclusion is warranted by the
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data. the difference between 2.95 hours and 2.88 hours in the 2014 is 700 of an hour or four minutes per employee for the year. aj oh analysis indicated concern about the opm methodology. the opm estimate would be higher or lower. given those data limitations it is impossible to know if official time costs are rising staying the same, or 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
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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 the current rules on official time. the u.s. department of education has eliminated official time as part of its new labor contract. in addition the official reform act of 2017 proposes major changes in the existing law. it's as an employee may not be granted official time for purposes of engaging in any political activity including lobbying activity. in my view, adoption of this provision would weaken labor- management relations in the federal government, would reduce the ability 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 viewpoint and petition government for a redress of grievances.
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i think curtailing those rights would deny federal workers important privileges that are guaranteed by the u.s. constitution. thank you and i would be happy to answer questions. >> thank you very much. >> yes sir. >> just a unanimous consent request. i have four documents to enter into the record, statement of national treasury, statement of government employees, statement of the international federation professional and technical engineers, and a copy of an unfair labor charge filed by the american federation of government employees. >> without objection. >> i think the chair. >> i will not recognize myself or five minutes. i think -- thank each of the witnesses for being here. do i have a graph? is it available? if not i will go over some of the basics of it. there has been an increase in official time since 2010
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through 2016 of over 17%. 3.6 million hours were used on official time in 2016. mr. kovacs, mr. gilson, do those figures sound accurate to you from what you have tracked? >> yes, that sounds accurate but as i said in my testimony and as well as mr. gilson, severely unreliable. >> underestimated. mr. gilson does that sound ballpark is to you? >> opm admits that the report is inaccurate. >> so more or less? >> as i said in my testimony it is low by a factor of five or 10. >> based on what opm has given us we have if you take an average eight hour day, we have almost half 1 million days a year that the taxpayers are paying. your testimony what
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you're saying today mr. kovach is that that is severely underestimated. this is quite disturbing to many of us because it is writing on the backs of the tech -- riding on the backs of the taxpayers. for an example, the department of veterans affairs has nearly 2000 employees who are involved in official time in one capacity or another. hundreds of them, 100% of their time doing official time. they were hired to do a specific job and they are doing none of that job and instead doing 100% union work by getting paid for the job they were hired to do. of these hundred percent people on official time who is doing the work that they were hired to do? mr. kovacs? >> it is unknown. potentially new hires would have to be brought in to do their work. assignments would have to be given to employees who were not
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on official time. due to the lack of reporting, it is unclear. potentially their jobs were not met and potentially the work was not done. >> mr. gilson would you agree to that? >> there is an early case which said that whatever time was negotiated the agency was obliged to get his work done. >> with the va just for example, for those that are involved 100% official time, we have nurses, addiction therapist, pharmacist, physicians, lab people who are important to the care of a veteran not doing the job they were hired. 100% of the time is going to unions. this is very disturbing to me. mr. gilson, something you said in your testimony i want to come back to that caught my attention. you said 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
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union business since the taxpayer is paying operational cost. that is quite a powerful statement. are you saying that the federal employee union can afford to divert resources to other activities besides union operations because the taxpayer is subsidizing the union in essence? >> efg currently has a $54 million set of assets. it is able to build, and by the way not national headquarters. that doesn't count their councils and locals. i would probably say it is 150 million in assets. >> those are coming from the taxpayers >> okay, is it fair to say taxpayers are subsidizing them? >> 100%. >> all right. you mentioned a fte.
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-- af ge. how involved are they politically? >> that is a question i don't know the answer to, congressman. i do know that they don't send federal employees out. 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 last cycle getting to employees -- giving to candidates, 92% were democrats. national treasury, 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 taxpayers are paying for text people are -- taxpayers to do you union -- to do union
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work. is that something that the unions are supposed to be involved in? mr. kovacs? >> certainly labor unions have every right to engage in political activities. i would just say that the taxpayers shouldn't have to subsidize their representation. >> that is the point i'm getting at. i realize my time has expired. i want to recognize the ranking member for five minutes. >> i think the chair. what is good for the goose is good for the gander. if we're going to talk about political support i wonder what kind of tax payout sheldon elson got and the coke brothers got in the recent tax cut bill. and who do they support? almost exclusively republican. if we are going to talk about quid pro quo or the implication of would croak well i would be glad -- of quid pro quo i would
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be glad to have that discussion. labor unions support those who support them. they act in their own interest. mr. west would you agree with that? >> i would agree with that. all the activities we are talking about, the establishment of official time in the activities that are taking place were authorized by the civil reform act of 1978 and i would like to remind members of the subcommittee the act passed the subcommittee on the 87 to 1 vote in the house agreed to the report on a 365 to 8 vote. it was passed on a bipartisan basis, almost no one in congress opposed it. >> mr. gilson makes the point. he said yeah, that is true. in 1978 no one foresaw the expansion of the use of the expansion of official time. no one had that in mind when they passed the bill. it has evolved into something that would not be recognizable to those people. would you comment on that?
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have i got that accurate mr. gilson? mr. west what about that? >> 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 was a sexual harassment charge, if there was a grievance that needed to get filed. these individuals who are being supported through official time are helping their fellow employees. i see nothing wrong with that. >> okay. i want to expose that a little bit. you talked in your testimony about the benefits of official time. the narrative so far in this hearing with the exception of you and me, one would assume that official time is a sinkhole. no good comes out of it. it is all on the taxpayer dime, it is a ripoff. it is unions exploiting the taxpayer and once again not really putting in a full day. in some cases not putting in a day at all.
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now, are there specific benefits that come from official time? does official time cover whistleblowers? mr. west? >> the legislation did set up the whistleblower 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. >> it is not just a cost, there is a benefit. we recover cost. i take mr. gilson's point and prepare to work with my republican friends and try to have more accurate data so we know what we are dealing with. i think that is a totally fair point. it has to work both ways. it can't just be about the cost of official time itself and how we calculated, it has to be some estimate of the benefits.
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what is the dollar value of the benefit? in 2017 long after 1978, the gao did a report about whistleblowers and the department of veterans affairs and it said, it praised official time that facilitated the whistleblower process with the va. what did the whistleblower process entail? and uncover the overprescribing of opioids 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 it was. does that ring a bell with you mr. west? >> absolutely. >> is there value to that? >> there is great value in that. activities that take place under official time save the federal government money.
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all the efforts to increase transparency and collect better data do need to identify not just the cost side of the benefit side. >> helping our veterans and maybe to the tune of millions of dollars. >> remember the problems of veterans hospitals several years ago and some of those were uncovered because federal employees spoke up about those. >> that is not just our opinion that is the gao finding in 2017. my time is up, i think this chair. >> thank you gentlemen. i now recognize -- >> a year ago today the house passed on my bill hr 1293 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. it doesn't pass judgment on what the time was used for, what it should be used for,
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nothing. all it does is create a transparent process of accounting for all official time. in furtherance of that i would like to submit for the record and editorial from a newspaper in my district discussing the benefits of that particular legislation. >> without objection. >> my first question is is there any reason not to have a transparent accountability process set forth in hr 1293 for the purpose of reporting official time? mr. kovacs? >> i think it is an excellent idea. taxpayers should know what federal employees are doing while paid by the public. >> mr. gilson? >> i honestly don't think that he would get an accurate report even under statute. >> but it is better than what we have? >> absolutely. >> i support efforts of greater transparency and getting a greater handle on the cost but
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we need to identify the benefits and how much money has been saved for this activity. >> mr. west you helped me prove my case, in my testimony given the data imitations it is impossible to know whether the costs are rising, staying the same, or increasing. in that sense it would be good to have that baseline accountability. we have that accountability in sick time, in vacation time, in -- this is another accounting procedure to account for what time is being used on union time as opposed to being used in business. my next question, we are 435 members of a board of trustees that has the public trust is the foremost interest. the public trust is what we do with the taxpayer dollars that are appropriated to us mr. kovacs can you say what benefit the taxpayers gain by official time. >> i cannot. >> mr. gilson?
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>> please. >> mr. west is correct in one regard. that is that there is a benefit in some circumstances for labor and management to sit down and fall problem and to negotiate and to work on employee grievances. official time has gone so far beyond that that that is not just what it covers. for example since the law passed they have built over a quarter million unfair labor practice cases filed with the federal labor relations policy. the agencies have no say on them and also the use of official time in those cases is mandated by the federal labor relations for everyone assisting one of their attorneys for any employee that is engaged in official time, including whistleblowers? whistleblowers don't need
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official time, they are protected by statute. >> whistleblower is not what we are talking about. it is a separate matter under the law. i am talking about official time for union abuse. there is a great deal of union abuse of 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 allow union stewards to shop for time to work grievances. would you say if you know there is an accountability of that time that is being used and the furtherance of that private concern? >> i think the company is going to exact the cost of that across the table if it is
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hurting productivity. >> precisely. 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 an official time. can you say mr. gilson? can you say how the process works? >> i'm sitting at the bargaining table for a couple agencies as a chief negotiator and i do miss my whole career. what the unions put on the table is a proposal. what happens eventually is trade-offs are made. i hesitate to say this but i believe it is true. i have yet to see a federal sector union take anything less then a union institutional benefit over an employee benefit in negotiations.
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what happens is if an agency was to accomplish something it often trades the union benefit to get something done. i have seen this happen over and over again. that is how unions have managed to leverage the amount of official time and other cost that the agencies pay. the agencies will accomplish things. by the way, in the city to get a space move done within the beltway, i have known agencies to take 6 to 8 years in negotiations because the unions don't want the change to happen. they delay, they file complaints, they file unfair labor practices. eventually the agency has to say let's make a deal if they want to move at all. all of that cost official time. >> thank you mr. gilson my time is expired. >> thank you gentlemen we will take time for a few more questions if any members have any further. let me ask you this.
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there are hundreds of employees making over $100,000 a year and they are involved with official time. the department of veterans affairs, 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. >> i would assume it makes it more difficult to achieve the agency mission when you have that many employees who don't perform any agency activity. i think this is one of the things with official time is supposed to be given if it is necessary in the public interest. i am not sure how an employee who never does their regularly assigned duties can achieve the public interest. mr. gilson? what i have seen in my career
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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 1, number 2 is supervisors and managers would rather have someone who wants to cause him problems away from the job. so what do they do? other employees cover if they can hire someone they try. there is an expression in the business that i am in, he is not heavy, he is my colleague. especially in places where the union is less then 20% of the people paying dues which is very common in the federal services. less than one in five employees pay dues. >> just out of curiosity, i mentioned the department of veterans affairs. we have a host of other agencies. the va seems to have a large number, 100% on official time.
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do any of you have any information regarding other agencies where there seems to be an unusually high number of individuals on 100%? >> i think that there is quite a number in hhs, social security and the other hhs agencies. i think in the prisons , wherever the union activity is great. the department of agriculture safety inspection service, in places where you see a lot of grievances and unfair labor practices filed, you see people with 100%. in addition mr. congressman, the most highly paid federal employees are in fdic, the securities and exchange commission, national credit union administration and the comptroller conservancy. when you say $100,000, some of those people in those agencies
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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 back in january i worked with chairman metals and others trying to write a letter trying to request information from various agencies on official time. it took months and months and months, over five months and then when we finally got a response, it was so difficult to compile staff and countless hours to get the information in a way that it could be remotely understandable. we are 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 system and put their hours. if you are union steward or
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official, one of the blocks is official time. >> for those that use official time what they are using it for? i'm not talking about collective bargaining, that kind of stuff they're supposed to be using, what other activities are utilized during that time? >> the federal labor authority has generally made it an unfair labor practice in many cases for an agency to inquire what the union is using the official time for. >> agency doesn't even know? >> no clue. in many cases. >> already, i think the gentleman. the gentleman recognizes mr. conley for five minutes. >> thank you mr. chairman. mr. gilson, you talked about representing agencies on one side of the table and unions are on the other side, that correct? >> yes her. >> is that we do for living?
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>> i am retired. i do it part-time. >> have you ever been hired by a union to represent them? >> yes sir. i was a high school teacher union representative 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 clear on factual errors and misrepresentation. we have mr. kovacs who has an ideological should be doing which is very little. even saying just now well, people are doing work they weren't hired to do meeting official time. and yet when i checked the law, official time is actually protected i the law. it is not like they're doing something wrong. mr. gilson makes a point i do concede and i think it is
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valuable that it has to be captured accurately. it has to be transparent. we have to know how much time. that is not really what this hearing is about. this hearing is about attacking unions and we heard it from our chairman. you don't like the fact that they give money to democrats. and he doesn't like the fact that they are active. we are going to have a hearing where we don't acknowledge any possible benefit from official time. and that disturbs me because that is not an intellectually honest enterprise. that is something else. that is union bashing. we are apparently willing to distort facts and make assertions irrespective of the law mr. west cited which passed overwhelmingly. mr. west am i correct that contrary to the image we are allowing here in this hearing that we have out-
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of-control union members who are running around doing things they shouldn't be doing and calling it official time, and every agency is there not an agreement that circumscribes official time? >> there are agreements, supervisors have to approve the use of official time. presumably if these individuals were engaging in abhorrent acts, the supervisor would not be approving it. there are number of good uses of the union time. we recently have seen a big increase in sexual harassment claims, that is 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 are also informal troubleshooting that those people engage in so that it doesn't even get to the official grievance? >> there certainly are preliminary efforts to resolve disputes in the workplace. >> might that be something
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management might actually welcome? >> management should welcome that because that would improve the operations of the agency. >> and make managers life easier. >> absolutely. their efforts to reorganize and introduce administrative processes and new technologies coming to the workplace. all of which i applaud. sometimes management needs help from union officials to get those things adopted. >> mr. gilson talks about management as throwing in the towel, sometimes saying just appease them because it is easier than fighting. i can see that. by the way that happens in the private sector, too. but, what about that mr. west? is that something we ought to be concerned about that management, my words not mr. gilson, allowing unions to run amok and run the agency instead
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of the other way around? >> well, there should be cooperation between labor and management. if that doesn't happen, we need to look at why that is not happening. in a time period where i think all of us want the federal government to do a better job, we want agencies to function much better, we need ways for employees to be able to communicate to management what is taking place. >> 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 is done well, sometimes it is not. in the public and the private sector. the idea that there is a labor- management dynamic that has to be addressed is not a new concept, is it? >> it is not. >> thank you mr. west. and thank you mr. chairman for second round. >> think the gentleman and we will now recognize chairman metals and we will be leaving in on time. we will take
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questions if we have extra time. >> in your opening testimony i was listening very closely. you would agree that we have no idea whether official time has increased or decreased, is that correct? >> that is correct. >> you think official time is a good thing. >> yes. >> official time is a good thing, we don't know whether we have more or less of it, do you think that the problem? if it is a good thing shouldn't we have more of it. >> i would like to see better data that captures both cost and benefit. >> you have someone here who have 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 recognized the law and the contractual reason for official time. here's where i have a problem. when you have so many people
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for official time, the statement you made to the ranking member from virginia that they are supposed to check in with her supervisor. if they are on 100% of official time, they don't have to check in. would you agree with that? >> no. the statute says no -- let me ask you differently. i know the answer to the question. i will ask it a different way. those individuals that are on 100% official time, do you believe that they have the same accountability as someone who may be on 25% official time? to their supervisors? >> a supervisor has approved it, the answer would be yes. >> they have the same accountability. and you want -- what quantifiable data 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?
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i look at the numbers, what you have to back that up? >> my sense is -- i'm not asking for your sense. i am asking for real data to back up your claim. >> we have done a lot of research through our public management center. i spent 40 years looking at governance questions. we do a lot of work on federal agencies and how to -- >> you spent 40 years, 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 is 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
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data to support it x >> i'm just giving the benefits of my research. >> so yes or no, do quantifiable data? >> based on our research we think the answer to that is that there is evidence. >> the quantifiable data will give you 30 days to get to this committee if you have it. is that enough time? >> yes. >> you are going to commit to get quantifiable data on that question. >> i will give you the benefit of my impressions, yes. >> that is not what i am asking for. we already have your impression. you are 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 -- at the same time we have to have
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some kind of matrix to figure out who is being accountable and who is not because according to your testimony it is a good thing. we need to understand when it is a good thing and when it is not. would you agree? >> i would agree. we have to make that -- >> we have to make that determination. i have a real concern that we have people that don't have to check in with their management. >> in fact is a supervisor i wouldn't expect them to be around if they were on 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 statute still requires supervisor approval even if someone is working 100% unofficial time. >> all right. in your 40 years of experience, have you ever seen anyone who did not get supervisor approval?
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>> i don't know the answer to that question. >> you have not seen anyone ever, you have studied this, you have not seen anyone get supervisor approval in 40 years? you are so wanted 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 the question. >> mr. gilson, have you seen anyone ever >> over, and over and over again. >> mr. kovacs in your experience have you seen the accountability at sometimes is less than robust? >> 2009 national labor inspector general report showed that consistently supervisors did not approve of official time. >> okay. but you weren't aware of that report mr. west, is that correct? >> which report?
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>> 2009 inspector general report from the national labor relations board. >> i have not seen that report. >> but you study and you are an expert. and you weren't aware of that. >> i have not seen that report no. >> rio aware of it, that is a different question? >> i am aware of the inspector general doing lots of reports. >> all right. mr. chairman, i can see that this line of questioning is not producing any real resorts for me or mr. west. i will yield back. -- results for me or mr. west. i will yield back. >> thank you gentlemen. any more questions? >> in the spirit of what is good for the goose is good for the gander, are we going to assist that mr. west provide data in support of official time, i would certainly like to see data to collaborate mr. gilson's anecdotal observations that over and over again he has witnessed. >> i have no objection to that. >> am i the goose of the gander?
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>> 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. if there is no further business, without objections the subcommittee stands adjourned. thank you.
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