WASHINGTON – The American Federation of Government Employees strongly opposes legislation moving through the House that would limit an employee’s access to union representation and financially penalize employees who voluntarily serve as union representatives.
The Official Time Reform Act of 2017 would arbitrarily cap how much time union volunteers can spend per day on representational work, such as resolving workplace conflicts between employees and managers, or meeting with agency leaders to discuss workplace improvements. It also would create a financial disincentive for employees to volunteer as union representatives by cutting their retirement for any time spent on representational work above the arbitrary caps.
“This legislation is a blatant attempt to bust federal employee unions and silence the voice of workers in decisions that impact not only their jobs, but services the American people rely on,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said.
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. Federal employees who volunteer as union representatives spend all or part of their work day on official time, where they work 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 is official agency business.
“Federal managers and their employees are fully competent to negotiate the terms of official time, when it is needed, how much is needed, and where it should be used to address unique agency and workplace issues,” AFGE said in a letter to lawmakers.
“This legislation creates a form of micromanaging that will tie the hands of supervisors and agency officials when it comes to scheduling meetings, legal proceedings, and non-official time work for union representatives, ultimately discouraging the use of official time.”
Employees are allowed to use official time only to perform representational activities, such as setting procedures that protect employees from on-the-job injuries, enforcing protections from unlawful discrimination, providing workers with a voice in determining working conditions, and representing employees in grievances and disciplinary actions.
Union representatives are not allowed to use official time to conduct union-specific business such as organizing new members, holding internal union meetings, electing union officers, or engaging in partisan political activities.