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Lankford, Colleagues Demand to Know More about Federal Employees’ Taxpayer-funded Union Time

WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK), lead Republican on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Government Operations and Border Management, sent a letter to 54 federal agencies to gain additional information about the use of taxpayer-funded union time by federal employees. Lankford was joined in sending the letters by Senators Richard Burr (R-NC), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Rand Paul, MD (R-KY), Mitt Romney (R-UT), and Mike Braun (R-IN).

In May 2018 President Trump issued Executive Order 13837 regarding taxpayer-funded union time use. Agencies then began to promulgate policies to comply with the accountability and transparency of union time spent on the taxpayers’ dime. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) reported that in 2019, union time cost taxpayers $163 million, which was a significant decrease in the cost of union time under President Obama. Although President Biden revoked President Trump’s transparency measures, Congress and the American people still deserve to know how their taxpayer dollars are spent for our federal workforce.

The Senators wrote, “Any official time granted to an employee pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 7131 (‘taxpayer-funded union time’) also falls within Congress’s mandate that executive branch agencies interpret the law ‘in a manner consistent with the requirements of effective and efficient government.’ Federal agencies therefore have a duty to make sure that taxpayer-funded union time is only authorized in amounts that are ‘reasonable, necessary, and in the public interest.’”

A copy of the letter is available HERE and below.

Dear Director Ahuja:

We are writing to request information pertaining to the use of taxpayer-funded union time. Federal employees are permitted by law to represent labor organizations and perform other non-agency business while being paid by American taxpayers. Any official time granted to an employee pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 7131 (“taxpayer-funded union time”) also falls within Congress’s mandate that executive branch agencies interpret the law “in a manner consistent with the requirements of effective and efficient government.” Federal agencies therefore have a duty to make sure that taxpayer-funded union time is only authorized in amounts that are “reasonable, necessary, and in the public interest.” Congress and the public likewise have an interest in knowing that taxpayer-funded union time complies with the purposes for which it is authorized. It is in this interest that we write today.

On May 25, 2018, President Trump issued Executive Order 13837 to ensure transparency, accountability, and efficiency in taxpayer-funded union time use. The Order required that certain information and data be provided to the public and agencies began promulgating policy to comply. Unfortunately, President Biden revoked the Order. However, agencies are able to continue providing transparency on this subject and the public and Congress maintain an interest in a transparent and effective use of taxpayer resources. Please provide the following information relating to fiscal year 2021:

  1. The purposes for which the agency has authorized the use of taxpayer-funded union time, and the amounts of time used for each such purpose;
  1. The job title and total compensation of each employee who has used taxpayer-funded union time in the fiscal year, as well as the total number of hours each employee spent on these activities and the proportion of each employee’s total paid hours that number represents;
  1. Whether the agency has allowed labor organizations or individuals on taxpayer-funded union time the free or discounted use of government property; if so, please provide the closest estimate for the total number of hours and days this free or discounted use of government property was allowed. 
  1. Any expenses the agency paid for activities conducted on or for taxpayer-funded union time; and
  1. The amount of any reimbursement paid by the labor organizations for the use of government property.

To the degree possible, please provide this information no later than September 3, 2021, in the format as formed to comply with the guidelines promulgated under the now-revoked Executive Order 13837. Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

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