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Taxpayers funding 35 six-figure union chiefs at Transportation Department

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Photo - Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood's department includes 35 government employees being paid six-figure salaries for doing full-time work for civil service worker unions. (AP Photo)
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood's department includes 35 government employees being paid six-figure salaries for doing full-time work for civil service worker unions. (AP Photo)
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Thirty five federal employees with the U.S. Department of Transportation are being paid tax-funded salaries averaging more than $135,000 annually, but they don't do work for the public. They work full-time for unions.

The 35 and their salary data were obtained by a conservative political activist group, Americans for Limited Government, which submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the DOT. A total of $4.8 million was paid by the government for the full-time salaries of the union officials.

"It is obscene that in one department alone, taxpayers are being stuck with almost $5 million in public employee union salary costs," said Bill Wilson, ALG's president. "These unions collect member dues and should pay for their own employees."

Twenty one of the 35 are officials of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, with eight of the 21 being paid in excess of $170,000, according to ALG.

The lowest salary paid among the 35 was an official with the National Federation of Federal Employees who is paid $80,748.

Federal employee unions, led by the largest, the American Federation of Government Employees, aren't able to negotiate compensation, but they are allowed by federal law to bargain on virtually all other working conditions throughout the federal government. Federal law also requires that departments and agencies continue to pay the salaries of career employees who work on "official time" performing union duties.

For more from ALG, go here.

Official time expenses are tracked government-wide by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. In its most recent report, OPM said the Department of Transportation paid more than $15.4 million in such costs in 2010, compared to $12.5 million in 2009.

The OPM report estimated that government-wide costs for official time exceeded $137 million, an increase of 6.42 percent over the preceding year.

"We estimate each agency's official time wage costs by multiplying the reported official time hours by each agency's average bargaining unit employee hourly wage plus fringe benefits," OPM said in its report.

"This increase reflects, in part, the increased number of bargaining unit employees and the corresponding increase in official time usage government-wide. Official time costs represented less than two tenths of one percent of the total civilian personnel budget (salary and benefits) for federal civil service bargaining unit employees," OPM said.

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