Office of Personnel Management Director Katherine Archuleta is one of several high-level bureaucrats that are promoting Public Service Recognition Week, and will participate in a town hall meeting to discuss “the value of government service and the dedicated men and women who deliver that value on behalf of the American people every day.”
While Archuleta is willing to go out in public to promote the federal workforce, she has been far less transparent regarding the practice of allowing federal employees to shirk their public duty.
The practice is known as union official time, where federal employees conduct union business on the taxpayer dime. The union subsidy has been doled out since the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 was enacted. Activities federal employees perform on official time, include lobbying, collective bargaining, and representing members in grievance procedures.
In March of 2014, U.S. Reps. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.) and Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) sent a letter to OPM Director Archuleta requesting the agency release the amount of hours federal employees spent on official time and the cost in FY 2012.
Commenting on the lack of transparency on the part of OPM, Rep. Ross said, “Since taxpayers pay the salary of all federal employees, they have a right to know how much of their money is used for conducting union business while on the clock.”
Unfortunately, transparency regarding official time has been a consistent problem under the Obama administration (read more here). And to no one’s surprise, OPM has not responded to Rep. Ross’ letter or released the report on official time.
The most recent official time numbers are from FY 2011. OPM reported that official time cost $155 million with federal employees dedicating 3.4 million hours to union business. It is important to note that the cost of official time is understated because OPM does not report the cost of office space, telephones, and travel associated with the union subsidy.
So, OPM Director Archuleta can publicly promote public service, but she should be working double-time to ensure that federal employees actually perform public service. At minimum, Archuleta should let taxpayers know how much of their money is paying for union business.