We’ve seen Koch-funded politicians across the country introduce bills that dismantle public-sector unions at the state level. Now it seems they’ve got their eye on a bigger prize, attempting to destroy unions at the federal level as well.
On Wednesday, the House Subcommittee on Federal Workforce held a hearing on “Official Time” which the government defines as “authorized, paid time off from assigned Government duties to represent a union or its bargaining unit employees.” Unions use this time to complete tasks such as setting safety requirements, overtime assignments, and dispute-resolution procedures, all of which are necessary for a productive workforce.
Official time was granted by the Civil Reform Act of 1978. This time is strictly regulated, and can only be used on activities that both labor and management deem reasonable, necessary, and in the public interest.
Despite the fact that official time costs only $130 million per year — significantly less expensive than having outsiders handle arbitration and other issues that would arise without official time — and has survived and been deemed useful through three Republican administrations, the GOP is now considering cutting it due to “budgetary restraints.”
It’s no surprise that the Koch brothers have invested heavily in those who are now trying to chip away at federal employee unions. The congressman who brought up this issue, Rep. Phil Gingrey, counts Koch Industries as one of his top 20 contributors. Of the “expert witnesses” at the hearing discussing official time, two were from organizations heavily funded by the Koch brothers. Witnesses from both the Heritage Foundation and Competitive Enterprise Institute were present, organizations that received 4,115,571 and $700,499 respectively in 2009.
Federal unions are required, by law, to represent all employees in certain agencies or positions, even if they don’t pay their union dues. In exchange for this, they are allowed “official time” in which to complete some union work. John Gage, the National President for the American Federation of Government Employees, stated the ramifications of ending official time clearly, revealing that ending official time would nearly completely take away the collective bargaining rights of federal employees, making it impossible for unions to effectively function.