Who of us would be allowed to keep our jobs and get full retirement benefits if we spent 100% of our day doing work that we weren’t hired to do? Surprisingly, some federal employees are allowed to do just that. This practice, known as “official time,” allows federal employees to engage in union activities during regular working hours, rather than perform the job they were hired to do. While completely unacceptable for any other job, official time is explicitly allowed and accepted by our federal government.
Despite the enormous obligation federal employees have to the citizens of our Nation, the government employs thousands who spend the majority of their working hours on union activity and even occasionally on grassroots lobbying efforts – not on the job the American taxpayers are paying them to do. In terms of our veterans, these brave heroes return from service fully deserving of the best care we can give them. And yet, in 2015 alone, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) had over 300 healthcare employees – nurses, pharmacists, therapists, and even a prosthetic specialist – operating solely on official time. Instead of helping and serving the men and women who have fought for our country, their time is spent negotiating contracts and defending employee grievances. Even worse, the VA has had to hire others to pick up the slack and do the job these union workers were originally hired to do. This is completely unacceptable and an egregious misuse of time and resources.
To address this widespread issue, I’ve introduced H.R. 1364, the Official Time Reform Act, which would prohibit federal employees from lobbying while on official time, putting a stop to public taxpayer dollars being used to subsidize these union activities and putting them towards serving the taxpayer, where they belong. It would also prevent employees who spend more than 80% of their work on official time from counting that time as creditable service under the Civil Service Retirement System. Through the work I’ve done on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, I’ve seen how official time causes waste throughout our federal agencies. Simply put, we shouldn’t need to hire two people to do one job. My bill is a step towards combatting the unchecked waste, fraud, and abuse running rampant in our government.
Ensuring that our government operates in a way that is open, transparent, and accountable is one of my top priorities as your representative in Congress. I will continue to work towards ridding the system of the obscurity and waste caused by official time and certify that taxpayer money is used for public needs – not private, union-related needs. I’m very proud that the Official Time Reform Act has passed the House Oversight Committee, and I look forward to its upcoming consideration on the House Floor.
The Honorable Jody Hice represents Georgia’s 10th District in the U.S. House of Representatives. He is a member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee