March 09, 2017

Tim Kauffman

[email protected]

House Bill Targeting Employee Pensions Blatant Attack on Federal Union Rights

Categories: Washington, D.C., Congress, Workers' Rights, Retirement, Labor, AFGE National President

Bill seeks to suppress union representation by denying retirement savings to union volunteers

WASHINGTON – The American Federation of Government Employees is condemning a House bill that would strip some federal employees of their retirement savings if they volunteer to serve as union representatives.

“This is this most blatant attack on federal union representatives that I have seen throughout all my years of representing federal workers,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said.

“This bill would deny federal employees their lawful right to fair union representation by imposing artificial caps on how much time the union and federal agencies agree is needed to adequately represent workers. Even worse, this bill would financially penalize union representatives who exceed those artificial caps by taking away the retirement benefits they have rightfully earned.

“This is a backdoor attempt to bust federal employee unions by stripping union representatives of their retirement income. Every House member who votes in support of this bill is voting to cut the pay of working-class Americans who live and work in their communities.”

The bill is HR 1364, the Official Time Reform Act of 2017. It was introduced March 6 by Rep. Jody Hice of Georgia and could come up for a vote by the full House by next week.

The legislation targets federal employees’ use of official time, which is the system Congress established to ensure that all employees entitled to union representation receive it – regardless of whether they choose to join the union.

Through official time, federal employees who volunteer as union representatives spend all or part of their day working with employees and managers to resolve disputes, address issues of discrimination and retaliation, and effect improvements in the workplace that benefit all employees. The Hice bill would deny pensions to any employee who works more than 80 percent of their workday on representational issues using official time.

“This bill is a solution in search of a problem,” Cox said. “Congress has not heard from a single agency official about how they are unable to carry out their mission because of official time. That’s because agencies benefit from official time just as much as employees do. Union representatives use official time to meet with managers to resolve routine disputes before they escalate into costly litigation and to effect improvements in the workplace that benefit all employees.”

Official time is official agency business. Employees are allowed to use official time only to perform representational activities. Union-specific business is not conducted using official time.

“Official time is not a boondoggle to the union,” Cox said. “The terms and conditions for representing employees on official time are spelled out in law and agreed to by each agency and union. This bill would create more inefficiencies in the workplace by essentially tying the hands of agency managers and union representatives to determine for themselves how best to use official time to uphold the rights of federal employees.”

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