Senate Plan Targets Official Time

Among the amendments to the pending Senate defense authorization bill (S-1519) is one that would apply government-wide, targeting the use of “official time”–on-the-clock time that employees with union positions can spend on certain union-related activities.

The amendment, offered by Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee chairman Ron Johnson, R-Wis., is the latest in a series of proposals to restrict use of that time, which sponsors say should be spent instead on agency business. Unions respond that official time was authorized in law to balance out the requirement that they represent all employees in a bargaining unit regardless of whether they pay dues.

Under the amendment, official time would be redesignated as “taxpayer-funded union time” and employees on that time 80 percent or more of their working hours during a year would not receive credit for that year in their later retirement benefit calculation–although the year would qualify toward age and service combinations for retirement eligibility. Also, those employees would be ineligible for recruitment, retention or relocation incentive payments.

Reports on the use of official time do not identify how many employees who use it are in that status for 80 percent or more of their time. A separate amendment proposed by Johnson would require more detailed reporting on official time, including how many employees spend all their time in that status and how much is used to represent employees who don’t pay union dues.