The practice of federal agencies providing employees to work on behalf of unions is being questioned in a new report recently published by the Americans for Limited Government Foundation.
The report, created through Freedom of Information Act requests, identifies 490 federal employees who work as full-time union employees but are being paid with taxpayer dollars.
It found instances of employees devoted to union work at the Federal Aviation Administration, the U.S. Postal Service and the Departments of Energy, Education, Labor, Commerce and Homeland Security.
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The report estimates that the practice has cost $1 billion in tax-supported salaries over the past 20 years – more if local and state governments were included.
Jared Labell, executive director of the Chicago-based Taxpayers United of America, said the report indicates that unions have a stranglehold of influence over federal agencies, and that the agencies don’t have much incentive to change.
“I think it’s kind of an iron triangle of issues,” Labell said. “It helps perpetuate the system, and so it benefits the labor unions, it benefits the politicians, and so why would they want to change the status quo?”
Labell said the issue of union-supported employees is magnified at the state level, where his organization is working to enact reforms to reduce union influence on taxpayer-funded agencies.
“By putting pressure there, we can make federal reforms as well,” Labell said. “So I think it’s great (to have) as many organizations as possible to highlight this issue, among many, and to try to get reforms enacted.”
According to Labell, the practice has become so ingrained in how government conducts business, it won’t change unless more people become involved and speak out. “This is an issue that has gone on without serious reforms for decades, so contacting your elected officials – that’s one way to get the ball rolling for hopefully more transparency and reform of a system that is a net loss for taxpayers."