WASHINGTON – The largest union representing federal and D.C. government workers, the American Federation of Government Employees, spoke out today against efforts to limit or dismantle the decades-old representational practice known as official time.
“Through the use of official time, volunteer representatives are able to work together with federal managers to use their time, talent, and resources to make our government even better,” AFGE said in a statement submitted for Thursday’s hearing before the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Government Operations.
“Gains in quality, productivity, and efficiency – year after year, in department after department – simply would not have been possible without the reasonable and sound use of official time.”
Official time is the system Congress established in law 40 years ago 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 on representational activities – working with employees and managers to resolve disputes, address issues of discrimination and retaliation, and effect improvements in the workplace that benefit all employees.
“Official time reduces employee turnover, improves customer service, prevents costly litigation, and leads to quicker and more efficient implementation of agency initiatives,” the AFGE statement says. “The important services that these federal employees provide the American public are evidence that there is too much at stake to weaken or eliminate the current system of structured communication and collaboration between federal employees and management.”
AFGE also thanked the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s minority members for highlighting what it called a “fundamentally flawed” memo from the majority leadership that fabricates or distorts data regarding the cost and usage of official time.