oversight

Federal Labor Relations: Survey of Official Time Used for Union Activities

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1997-09-30.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

United States
General Accounting Office
Washington, D .C .20548

General Government Division

B-276197

September 30, 1997

The Honorable John L. Mica
Chairman, Subcommittee on Civil Service
Committee on Government Reform and Oversight
House of Representatives

The Honorable Pete Hoekstra
Chairman, Subcommittee on Oversight
 and Investigations
Committee on Education and the Workforce
House of Representatives

Subject: Federal Labor Relations: Survev of Official Time Used for Union
         Activities

This letter responds to your March 26, 1996, request for information on the
resources used for employee union activities across the federal government.
Specifically, the objective of our ongoing review is to develop information on
the following seven areas, as reported to us by selected federal organizations:

-   amount of official time used by employees for union activities;’
-   number of employees who used official time;
-   number of employees who spent all of their time on union activities;
-   dollar value of the time used for union activities;
-   dollar value of travel used for union activities;
-   dollar value of office space and related items; and
-   benefits and disadvantages, according to the federal organizations, of using
    official time for union activities.

On May 19, 1997, we briefed your offices on the preliminary results of our work.
This letter, provided at your recent request, records the substance of that
briefing. As you know, at your request, we are currently following up on our



‘“Official time” is time granted an employee by a federal organization to perform
certain union activities when the employee would otherwise be in a duty status.

                              GAO/GGD-97-182R Survey of Oflicial Time Used for Union Activities
B-276197
initial work to obtain additional information from the selected federal organizations
regarding resources used for union activities.

To address the seven areas identified in this letter, our initial work involved a survey
that we developed and distributed to selected federal organizations. Our survey
originally included the 30 federal organizations with the greatest number of employees
covered by collective bargaining agreements.’ To this number, we added five federal
organizations of special interest to the Chairman, Subcommittee on Oversight and
Investigations: the Department of Education, the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission (EEOC), the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the Corporation for
National Service, and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). A sixth federal
organization of special interest to the Chairman, Subcommittee on Oversight and
Investigations, the Department of Labor, was already included in our original list of 30
federal organizations; therefore, the total number of federal organizations we surveyed
was 35. (See encl.) However, NEA reported that none of its employees was
represented by a union, so our survey results covered 34 federal organizations with
employees represented by unions. The employees represented by unions at these 34
organizations constituted approximately 87 percent of the over 1 million nonpostal
federal workers covered by collective bargainmg agreements.

We asked each of the federal organizations we surveyed to determine if all of its
components collected data on resources used for employee union activities. If alI of a
federal organization’s components collected data, we asked the organization to
provide, for each of the areas covered by the survey, “reported data.” In this context,
“reported data” meant data either systematically captured in an existing database from
payroll, personnel, or other official source or compiled for agency reports. The 8
fiscal years for which we requested data were 1989 to 1996.

We conducted our review fiorn December 1996 through May 1997 in accordance with
generally accepted government auditing standards.

BACKGROUND

For the most part, labor-management relations at the federal organizations that were
included in our survey are governed by title VII of the Civil Service Reform Act of
1978 (CSRA).” CSRA allows federal employees to bargain collectively through labor


*To determine these 30 agencies, we relied on OPM’s Labor Agreement Information
Retrieval System (LAIRS). We did not verify the reliability of the LAIRS data.
3Public Law 95-454, Oct. 13, 1978, 5 U.S.C. 7101 et seq. CSRA codified practices on the
use of official time that were previously authorized by executive order. The
Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) was the only federal organization included in our
review that is fully excluded from CSRA. TVA’s authority to enter into labor
management agreements is contained in 16 U.S.C. 831b. 22 U.S.C. 4118(d) provides
for official time for the foreign service officers at the Department of State.

 2                                 GAO/GGD-97-182R Survey of Official Time Used for Union Activities
B-276197
organizations of their choice and thereby participate with agency management in the
development of personnel policies and practices and other decisions that affect their
working lives. Title VII of CSRA is administered by the Federal Labor Relations
Authority (FLRA), an organization headed by a three-member panel that issues policy
decisions and adjudicates labor-management disputes.

Official time for collective bargaining and FLRA-authorized activities is provided as a
matter of statutory right. Official time for other purposes is negotiated. CSRA allows
official time to be negotiated in any amount the agency and the union involved agree
to be reasonable, necessary, and in the public interest. However, the act specifies that
activities that relate to internal union business, such as the solicitation of members or
the election of union officials, must be performed when in a nonduty status, that is,
not on official time.

We testified on the use of official time for union activities in September 1996.4 At that
time, we said that (1) the use of official time for union activities is an established
practice in the federal government; (2) based on our work at four federal entities (the
U.S. Postal Service, the Internal Revenue Service, the Social Security Administration,
and the Department of Veterans Affairs), the total amount of official time used for
union activities, the cost of that time, and the number of people using that time were
unknown; and (3) no reporting requirement existed for agencies to generate
comprehensive data on their support of union activities.

RESULTS

Most of the federal organizations responding to our survey did not provide
comprehensive data on resources used for union activities. Of the organizations that
provided data, none provided all of the data requested for all of the 8 fiscal years
covered by our survey. In some cases, the data they provided covered only portions
of fiscal years or were reported on a calendar-year basis. Overall, the data received
from the 34 federal organizations were insufficient for portraying the total amount of
resources they used for union activities.

Of the 34 federal organizations we surveyed, 15 provided information on the amount
of time spent on union activities during at least 1 of the fiscal years from 1989 to 1996.
Twelve of the federal organizations reported hours used for union activities during
fiscal year 1996; these totaled 1,028,544 hours. These data and others provided by the
34 organizations appear in table 1.




‘Federal Labor Relations: Official Time Used for Union Activities (GAO/T-GGD-96-191,
Sept. 11, 1996).
3                                  GAO/GGD-97-P82R Survey of Official Time Used for Union Activities
B-276197
Table 1: Summarv of Resources Used for Union Activities in F’iscal Year 1996. as
Renorted bv Federal Ornanizations

                                                                                Numberof orgtions        that          Number of op,anizations that
                                         Amount of re.sourcesused in                                                   provided info&on      fbr 1 or
 Resourcesused for union                fscal year 1996,as reported by         provided information for fiscal
                                                                                         year 1996
                                                                                                                       more fiscal years from 19S9to
 activities                               the federal organizations’
                                                                                                                                    1996

 Hours of official time that
  employeesused for
  union activities

 Number of employees
  who used official time
  for union activities                                                 s,o92                                     9                                  9

 Xumber of employees
  who spent 100percent
  of their time on union
  xlivitie+                         I                                    17                                      5                                  7

 Dollar value of the
  official time used for
  union activities             -I                              sl,598,2SO                                        9 I                               10

 Dollar value of the travel
  and per diem used for
  union acdvicies                                                 562.197                                        2                                  5

 Dollar value of the office
  space,equipmenz
  telephone use, and
  supplies provided for
  union activities                                                $19,639                                        3                                      D



“In some cases, the data the federal organizations provided covered only portions of or
si time period that differed from the fiscal year.

bWe asked the federal organizations to provide information on the dollar value of
office space and other related items for fiscal year 1996 only.

Source: GAO survey of federal organizations.

Of the five federal organizations of special interest to the Chairman, Subcommittee on
Oversight and Investigations and that had employees covered by collective bargaining
agreements, none reported the number of hours of official time used by employees for
union activities. Two of the organizations (EEOC and NLRB) reported that a total of
six employees spent 100 percent of their time on union activities during fiscal year
1996. One of the organizations (NLRB) reported that the dollar value of travel and per
diem related to union activities totaled about $61,880 in fiscal year 1996. (See table 2.)




                                                                  GAOIGGD-97-182R Survey of 0fEcia.l Time Used for Union Activities
B-276197
Table 2: Summarv of Resources Used for Union Activities in Fiscal Year 1996 at the
Five Federal Organizations of Suecial Interest to the Chairman, Subcommittee on
Oversight and Investigations. as Renorted bv the Federal Organizations

                                     Amount of resourcesusedin           Number of organizations that
                                                                                                              Number of or@niations that
                                    fmccalyear 1996,as repoxtedby       provided information for fiscal       provided information for 1 or
  Resourcesused for union                                                                                     more f=cal years from 1969to
  activities                           the federal otganktions                    year 1996
                                                                                                                          1996

  Hours of official time that
   employeesused for
   union activities                                                                                   0                                   0

  Number of employees
   who used official time
   for union activ*ties

  Number of employees
   who spent 100percent
   of their time on union
   acthdties                                                    6                                     2                                   2

  Dollar value of the
   official time used for
   unionactivhies                                                                                     0                                   0
                                I                                   !                                     I
  Dollar xdue of the travel
   and per diem used for
   union activities             I                         SSl,sSOI                                    1                                   1

  Dollar value of the office
   spae equipment,
   telephone use, and
   supplies provided for
   union acxkities                                                                                    0                                   .


Note: The blank cells in this table indicate that the federal organization did not
collect or report agency data for the item. However, no reporting requirement exists
for federal organizations to generate comprehensive data on their support of union
activities.
“We asked the federal organizations to provide information on the dollar value of
office space and other related items for fiscal year 1996 only.

Source: GAO survey of federal organizations.

Regarding the benefits, according to the federal organizations, of using official time for
union activities, some of the federal organizations we surveyed said that the use of
official time for union activities (1) improved labor-management relations, (2)
decreased the number of grievances, and (3) helped with the implementation of
organizational changes. The one disadvantage, as identied by some of the federal
organizations we surveyed, was that the use of official time for union activities caused
employees to set aside their regular work. (See table 3.)




                                                        GAO/GGD-97-182R Sumey of Official Time Used for Union Activities
B-276197
Table 3: Benefits and Disadvantage of Using Official Time for Union-Activities. as
Reported bv the Federal Organizations

                                                                                              Number of federal
                                                                                           organizations of special
                                                                                          interest to the Chairman,
                                                                                               Subcommittee on
                                                               Number of federal                 Oversight and
                                                               organizations that             Investigations, that
 BenefitMisadvantage of using official time for union             reported the                   reported the
 activities                                                   benefit/disadvantage           benefit/disadvantage
 Benefits:

    Improved labor/management relations                                              23                           2

    Helped with implementation of organizational
     changes                                                                         14                           3
    Decreased number of grievances                                                   13                           4
 Disadvantage:

    Caused employees to set aside regular work                                       13                           2


Source: GAO survey of federal organizations.

AGENCY COMMENTS

We did not obtain agency comments on a draft of this letter because the data it
contains were confirmed with the agencies by different means. First, through the use
of a subsequent questionnaire, we asked the federal organizations to verify the
reported data they provided on the amount of official time used by employees for
union activities; the number of employees who used official time and the number who
spent all of their time on union activities; and the dollar value of time spent on union
activities, travel and per diem for union activities, and office space and related items.
Second, because the federal organizations described the benefits and disadvantages of
using official time for union activities in response to open-ended questions in our
survey, we verified with these federal organizations that we had summarized their
responses appropriately.



As we arranged with your offices, unless you publicly announce this letter’s contents
earlier, we plan no further distribution of it until 15 days after the date of this letter.
We will then send copies to the Ranking Minority Members of your Subconunittees,
the Chairmen and Ranking Minority Members of the Senate Committees on
Governmental Affairs and Labor and Human Resources, and the federal organizations
included in our survey. We will make copies available to others on request.

Major contributors to this letter were Steve Altman, Assistant Director; Brenda
Bridges, Evaluator-in-Charge; Sharon Hogan, Evaluator; Gregory Wihnoth, Senior


6                                                   GAO/GGD-97-182R Survey of Official Time Used for Union Activities
B-276197
Social Science Analyst; and Ernestine Burt, &sue Area Assistant. Please contact me at
(202) 51243676if you or your staff have any questions.




Michael Brostek
Associate Director
Federal Management
  and Workforce Issues

Enclosure




                                  GAO/GGD-97-182R Survey of Official Time Used for Union Actitities
ENCLOSURE                                                                               ENCLOSURE


       CRITERIA USED TO SELECT THE F’EDERAI, ORGANIZATIONS
                     INCLIJDED IN OUR REVIEW




                                      bargaining agreement when the        Specified by the Chairman,




            Finance and Accounting




                                     GAOIGGD-97-182R Survey of Official Time Used for Union Activities
ENCLOSURE                                                                                                      ENCLOSURE

                                                                                   Criteria
                                                                                        I
                                                    Employed the largest number of
                                                   employees covered by a collective
                                                    bargaining agreement when the               Specified by the Chairman,
                                                  sample of federal organizations was         Subcommittee on Oversight and
               Federal organizations                           selected                                Investigations

    1 23    National Park Service                                 X

      24 11 Food Safety and Inspection Service                    X

            lrxlian Health Service                                X

            Federal Deposit Insurance                             X
             Corporation

            Bureau of the Census                                  X

            Department of Education                                                                        X

            National Oceanic and Atmospheric                      X
             Administration
            Equal Employment Opportunity
             Commission
            National Labor Relations Board

            Office of the Secretary of Defense

    II33    Corporation for National Service                                                               X

     34     Bureau of Indian Affairs                              X

    ---I
     35     National Endowment for the Arts”                                                               X


“None of this federal organization’s employees were represented by a union.




(410095)

9                                                GAO/GGD-97-182R Survey of Official Time Used for Union Activities
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