Topics: Labor Unions

A shutdown isn't a shutdown when you're a union boss

|
Op-Eds,Labor unions,Barack Obama,Labor,Government Shutdown,Official Time

While government workers struggle as the second week of the federal government shutdown continues, such employees who serve as union representatives have been given a free pass.

In the dead of night, President Obama's administration issued an exemption for federal workers who do union business, thus permitting them to return to work on behalf of Big Labor and be paid on schedule.

So, while furloughed mothers and fathers, many of whom live in the Washington metropolitan area, do not know when they will be able to return to work and receive a paycheck, federal workers who handle tasks for union bosses in the government have been given preferential treatment.

It comes as a shock to most people outside the Beltway that labor representatives doing union work are allowed to do so on taxpayer time.

Most of us would naturally think that dues pay for the work of the union representatives and that it would be done before the work day begins, after it ends or on the weekend.

But not in Washington. And now, these union representatives have been declared essential to the federal government.

The action on this matter by Obama's Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the federal agency which manages the civil service workforce, contradicts the agency's previous guidance when the shutdown began.

In its initial communication, OPM defined who must continue showing up for work and who would be allowed to work voluntarily.

The Washington Examiner reported that “deep into the guidance, OPM posed the question of whether government workers who are also union representatives could continue working on official time during a shutdown.

"It concluded that, under federal law, only ‘excepted’ employees — those expected to show up and get a paycheck as usual — could conduct union work for pay.

"Any labor-oriented work would have to be on a voluntary basis and ‘could not be working on official time or in any other way incurring obligations that would require subsequent agency payment.' On [Oct. 4, 2013,] OPM updated its guidance to provide several carefully crafted carve-outs for furloughed government workers to perform union work on official, paid time.”

Not surprisingly, when called for comment, no one at Obama’s OPM was available. So what happened between the time OPM issued its initial guidance and the time it issued its updated guidance?

Did someone from the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), the largest of federal employee unions, connect with friends in the White House? Why hasn’t the AFGE responded to media inquiries on the matter?

The payback to the labor bosses who helped bankroll the president’s campaigns in 2008 and 2012 obviously continues in earnest. More than $1 billion in political support apparently buys a lot of favors.

It is not surprising that the president’s team at OPM released its drastically revised update on a Friday and failed to alert the traditional or digital media to the changes being made.

It simply emphasizes the fact they were seeking to obscure the information from the public to the best of their ability. With the union activists at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) out of commission due to the government shutdown, union bosses must have been anxious to get something out of the White House, and once again, they did.

OPM’s actions breed cynicism and contempt. They are the worst kind of politics. Worse yet, the costs are being subsidized by taxpayers who cannot go to work because of the dysfunction in the nation’s capital, of which, the president and his administration bear a significant degree of responsibility.

When is a government shutdown not a government shutdown? When the president is beholden to Big Labor and places greater importance on paying back union bosses than treating federal workers fairly.

Fred Wszolek is a spokesperson for the Workforce Fairness Institute.
View article comments Leave a comment