Johnson Offers Amendments to NDAA to Reform Taxpayer-Funded Union Activity

WASHINGTON  Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, offered two amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2017 (NDAA) that would reform the way union activity funded by taxpayers is used by federal employees. The amendments would also provide needed transparency regarding the total hours federal employees spend conducting union business instead of the duties for which they were hired.

“Transparency and accountability for taxpayer-funded union work by federal employees is long overdue,” said Johnson.  “It should be common sense that government employees hired to care for our veterans, ensure our food is safe, and protect the border perform those jobs well. The American people should know exactly how much union activity they are paying for.”

One amendment, 878, would limit retirement benefits and bonuses for federal employees who spend their work days primarily performing union duties instead of their regular jobs, known as “official time.”  The amendment also renames “official time” as “taxpayer-funded union time” to more accurately reflect its purpose.  This amendment, based on H.R. 1364, the Official Time Reform Act of 2017, would return official time to the occasional, limited usage intended by Congress.

The second amendment, 877, would require federal agencies to report annually on the use of government resources and taxpayer funds by federal employees to conduct work for unions.  There is currently no requirement for agencies to report on this data, keeping Congress and taxpayers in the dark on the extent the federal government subsidizes union activities.  This amendment is based on H.R. 1293, which passed the House and Senate committees of jurisdiction. 

Background on Official Time:

  • In fiscal year 2014, federal employees spent over 3.4 million hours on official time, costing taxpayers an estimated $162.5 million in payroll costs to perform union activities.
  • 346 VA employees work solely on official time instead of caring for veterans.
  • 200 IRS employees work solely on official time while IRS struggles to provide quality customer service to taxpayers.
  • Majority of official time (78 percent) by employees is spent performing undisclosed “general labor-management relations.”