The Government Scandal (You Haven’t Heard Of)

HooverInstFrom Clint Bolick at the Hoover Institute:

The union officials who negotiate lavish contracts for government workers are paid with your taxpayer dollars.

By now it is well-known that public employee contracts with generous wage and benefits are bankrupting state and local governments across the country and encircling the necks of future generations with an anvil of debt. What is almost completely unknown is that the hard-nosed union officials who negotiate lavish contracts for government workers are often paid to do so with taxpayer dollars.

That is part of a widespread practice called “release time,” in which public employees are paid full-time wages and benefits by taxpayers, yet they report and answer not to government officials (or taxpayers) but to their unions. In turn, release time can be used for lobbying, campaigning, soliciting grievances, union recruiting, and negotiating for higher wages and benefits—all at taxpayer expense.

The practice was exposed in a 2011 report by Goldwater Institute investigative journalist Mark Flatten. He found that the City of Phoenix’s seven public employee union contracts included 73,000 hours of release time, at a total cost of $3.7 million. Most other cities around the nation, he found, also have release time.So does the federal government, which calls it “official time.” In 2011, taxpayers funded 3.4 million hours of union work at a cost of $156 million. Among those diverted to union work from their government jobs are 17 air traffic controllers—16 of whom are paid six-figure salaries to do so—a wasteful extravagance that came to light when air traffic controllers were furloughed as part of the Obama Administration’s response to the federal budget sequester. Since then, it was reported that part of the backlog in processing claims at the Veterans’ Administration is attributable to—you guessed it—union release time.

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