New Bill Would Ban ‘Official Time’ for Unionized Federal Workers

AFGE logoFor decades, federal employees have used working hours to conduct union business, effectively forcing taxpayers to cover the costs of activity unrelated to job responsibilities.  Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga., thinks this practice, known as ‘official time,’ is due for an overhaul.  On March 26, Hice unveiled the Federal Employee Accountability Act (H.R. 1658).  The bill, which has gathered more than 15 House co-sponsors, would bar unionized federal workers from engaging in bargaining or arbitration while on agency time. “After examining the practices of over 60 government agencies,” said Hice, “my office has found an astounding amount of government waste.  By eliminating the ‘official time’ practice, we will return over $1 billion to hardworking American taxpayers, and shed this shady, wasteful practice that only benefits unions.”

The use of official time has its roots in the Civil Service Act of 1978.  A section of this Carter-era legislation authorized union-member federal …

New Reports Show Severe Shortfalls in Multiemployer Union Pensions

pension crisisA retirement plan supposedly is an excellent reason for joining a union. Yet a March report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office reveals chronic underfunding and potential insolvency of pension plans involving a union and two or more private-sector employers within the same industry. The insurance fund covering these “multiemployer” plans, run by a federal agency, Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), “would be exhausted in about two to three years if projected insolvencies of either of two large plans occur in the next 10 to 20 years.” The study follows a January PBGC report projecting “current premiums ultimately will be inadequate to maintain benefit guarantee levels.” That same month (January), PBGC, the Labor Department and the Treasury Department jointly released a separate troubling report. The best option for the agency may be to phase out coverage of multiemployer plans altogether. 

Traditional pensions are often known as “defined benefit” retirement plans. They are distinct from “defined contribution” plans, …

Lame Duck Congress Approves $4.55 Billion to Settle Pigford, Indian Land Trust Suits

money in handDemanding reparations from the federal government is now a growth industry. And Congress just helped it grow some more. Yesterday the House of Representatives voted 256-152 to authorize $4.55 billion to settle a pair of unrelated longstanding class-action lawsuits, one against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the other against the Department of the Interior. In the first case, tens of thousands of black farmers – or at least blacks claiming to have been farmers – will receive $1.15 billion for alleged discrimination during 1981-96 at the hands of administrators of USDA aid programs, but who filed (or could have filed) claims after the deadline. This would be on top of the more than $1 billion that over 15,000 other plaintiffs have received. In the second case, an estimated 300,000 to 500,000 Indians will receive access to a $3.4 billion trust fund intended to rectify alleged Interior Department mishandling of royalty …

Federal Audits Reveal Further Legal Services Abuses

Senator Charles Grassley, R-IowaWhen it comes to oversight of federal programs, President Obama and key Democratic allies appear mired in self-contradiction. On one hand, they demand more accountability from the programs. On the other, they advocate increasing budgets for agencies with documented weak internal controls. Legal Services Corporation (LSC) may be the most glaring example of this syndrome.The White House Fiscal 2010 budget calls for a hike in LSC spending from $390 million to $435 million. That’s actually a taxpayer bargain compared to the $750 million a year that Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, is seeking for the corporation under his proposed Civil Access to Justice Act (S. 718). If lawmakers really want to do the public a good turn, they would focus on how LSC spends its existing money. Recent audits of the corporation by Legal Services Corporation’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) and Congress’ Government Accountability Office (GAO) reveal an organization …

Congressional Audit Agency Researchers Vote to Unionize

Ask almost anyone in Washington to name the best public policy analysis shop in town, and a common response would be the Government Accountability Office (GAO).  Created in 1921, this agency, known until July 2004 as the General Accounting Office, performs hundreds of program audits each year for Congress, often at the behest of one or more of its members.  These studies are widely trusted for their timeliness, depth and accuracy.  A major reason for the high quality is the agency’s lack of an ideological axe to grind.  The GAO’s nonpartisan status gives its analysts maximum leeway to investigate and evaluate federal activity of all kinds, without fear of political reprisals.  But that freedom could be jeopardized in the wake of the recent vote to form a union by analysts at agency headquarters and 11 field offices.       

 

On Thursday evening, September 20, the