Rep. Gingrey leads fight against federal employees using ‘official time’ for union activity

Matthew Boyle | Investigative Reporter

Rep. Phil Gingrey, Georgia Republican, is spearheading legislation that would stop federal employees from doing union activities while on the clock. Gingrey’s bill, the Federal Employee Accountability Act of 2011, would stop federal employees from doing arbitration, collective bargaining and compiling lists of grievances for their bosses during working hours.

“The purpose of it is to put responsibility in government and save money,” Gingrey said in an interview with The Daily Caller, before pointing out that this legislation’s roots were in his YouCut idea proposal from the 111th Congress. “This YouCut proposition that I made in regard to this union abuse, and I clearly think it is an abuse of taxpayer dollars, we put it now in the form of legislation.”

The Office of Personnel Management, a government agency that tracks federal employee efficiency, among other things, reported that federal employees used 2,893,922 official work hours for union work in 2008. No report has been compiled for federal employees’ use of official time for union activity since President Barack Obama took office.

WATCH: Rep. Phil Gingrey, Georgia Republican, speaks to TheDC about stopping federal employees from doing union work on the clock:

Gingrey said his legislation would save taxpayers $600 million over five years, or $1.2 billion over a decade.

The National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE), a federal employee union which claims its membership is more than 100,000 and is clearly opposed to Gingrey’s proposal, thinks allowing federal workers to use official time to handle union-related issues is efficient.

“Official time for representational duties allows employee representatives to handle sensitive workplace issues faster than the normal administrative process would allow, resolving issues more efficiently for the American taxpayer,” William Dougan, NFFE national president, said in an e-mail to TheDC. “Strong employee-employer communication is a necessary precondition for good government. Official time allows both employees and employee representatives to work constructively with management toward a more efficient and accountable federal workplace.”

But Gingrey maintains his bill is not anti-union. He said this is more about saving taxpayer money than about fighting unions, and allowing federal employees to collective bargain and arbitrate on taxpayers’ dimes isn’t something he wants to continue.

“I think the time has come when the American people understand that federal employees need to work an 8-hour day just like everybody else,” Gingrey said. “If they happen to be a union officer, or indeed just a grieved union member, they take that grievance and that collective bargaining to their employer, i.e. the federal government, but they do it on their own time.”

Gingrey said he’s almost certain the bill will pass the House as Republicans throughout the lower chamber have expressed their support for it. But he’s worried about the Senate where unions have a strong influence on both Republicans and Democrats.

“You can pass it in the House but, because of the very strong lobby of the unions and the influence that they have over both Republicans and Democrats in the Senate is going to make it a heavier lift,” Gingrey told TheDC. “That doesn’t shy me away from giving it 110 percent effort because it’s worth the effort.”

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