Government affairs

Legislative Updates

House subcommittee holds hearing on official time

Today, the House Oversight and Government Reform (OGR) Subcommittee on Government Operations held a hearing titled “Union Time on the People's Dime.” Subcommittee Chairman Mark Meadows (R-NC) called the hearing to investigate the use of official time by federal employees and a 2016 report on the matter by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). The hearing featured three witnesses, none of which were representatives from federal employee groups.

Ahead of the hearing, OGR committee staff released a memo citing “total compensation of all federal employees using any official time was $1 billion,” a number far higher than what was cited in the 2016 OPM report, which estimated that the total cost of compensation for hours spent on official time in fiscal year 2016 was around $174.8 million.

Throughout the hearing, Congressional Republicans including Chairman Meadows and Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA), suggested the amount of time union representatives spent on official time was far lower than what was actually being reported, that it came at serious cost to taxpayers, and that federal employees ought to do the job they were hired to do, rather than any union-related work.

Ranking Member Rep. Gerry Connelly (D-VA), the sole Democrat in attendance at the hearing, argued that the hearing was held simply for the purposes of condemning official time and unions for using it, and that Republican members had no intention of improving its use.

“If we’re going to have a hearing that doesn’t acknowledge any possible benefit from official time, that disturbs me and that’s not an intellectually honest enterprise,” said Rep Connolly. “That’s union bashing, and we’re apparently willing to distort facts and make assertions irrespective of the fact that the [1978 Civil Service Reform Act that created official time] passed overwhelmingly.”

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