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HomeBreakingBiden Administration Defends Decision to Nix Union Accountability Effort

Biden Administration Defends Decision to Nix Union Accountability Effort



The Biden administration has removed a federal webpage dedicated to union transparency and accountability and apparently has no plans to replace it.

The Center Square on Tuesday exclusively obtained a letter from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management to 10 U.S. senators defending its decision to remove a webpage built to hold unions accountable.

After the accountability webpage disappeared last year, an OPM spokesperson told The Center Square “previous reports on official time are not currently available because OPM is reorganizing our website to improve navigation and customer experience.”

Since then, OPM has declined to comment on the issue multiple times.

As The Center Square previously reported, the Office of Personnel Management created the webpage in question to track “official time,” a practice when federal employees who are union members conduct union business during normal work hours, which means taxpayers pick up the tab.

The practice has gone on for decades, but concerns about abuse and accountability led lawmakers to push for more reporting. Until last year, OPM had a webpage dedicated to official time accountability with a history of past reports.

Now, in its letter to lawmakers, OPM points out it has moved the official time data to an “agency reports” webpage. However, the last official time report on the site is from fiscal year 2019, meaning none have been completed since Biden took office.

No other official time reports are listed on the OPM reports page.

“Most tellingly, Director [Kiran] Ahuja offered no apology for the removal of the official time webpage, made no commitment to restoring it, and declined to commit OPM to producing any additional estimates of taxpayer-funded union time use and costs in the future…” Maxford Nelsen, a labor policy expert at the Freedom Foundation, told The Center Square.

OPM has released the reports regularly since the Clinton administration, but in the letter pointed out they are not legally required to do so.

In the letter, OPM said the official time reports were taken down to improve the website and that the decision “was not based on any discussions with outside parties such as federal unions, other agencies, or the White House.”

The Center Square, however, exposed coordination between the Biden administration and labor unions at taxpayer expense in the past.

A national labor union representing over 100,000 federal employees boasted in a document online that they had persuaded the Biden administration to use taxpayer resources to make it easier for unions to recruit new members. After The Center Square reported on the issue, the document was taken down.

In OPM’s letter this week, the agency says its decision was not political but was part of a larger overhaul to the website.

From OPM’s letter:

As part of modernizing and consolidating our webpages, we routinely remove or migrate information to ensure our web content is up to date and to improve the customer Experience. In the course of updating our website, official time reports were taken down from their original location. The most recent of those reports, from 2019, was migrated along with numerous other documents to the Agency Reports page of OPM’s website. OPM made the decision to remove official time reports for the reasons described above; the decision was not based on any discussions with outside parties such as federal unions, other agencies, or the White House.

Annual reports on official time usage are not mandated by statute, and these statistics have not been reported on a consistent basis for more than a decade. In the past ten years, official time reports have only been issued four times. The most recent estimates on official time are included in the Fiscal Year 2019 report. Agencies reported that bargaining unit employees spent a total of 2,606,390 official time hours representing 1,329,222 non-Postal federal civil service employees. This represents a decrease of 28.26 percent in the use of official time compared to the previous report, which covered Fiscal Year 2016.

Nelsen pointed out that President Joe Biden has repeatedly stated his pro-union stance and his plans to be the “the most pro-union president in history,” so no official coordination was needed, though its unclear whether OPM’s claim of no coordination is true.

Nelsen pushed back, saying Ahuja “made no effort to explain how deletion of the federal government’s sole repository of official time information and historic data – which was perfectly functional and up-to-date until the day of its removal last summer – helps improve the public’s access to data.”

As The Center Square previously reported, “official time” was codified in 1978. Almost immediately, though, accountability became a major concern.

The Government Accountability Office reported in 1979 that “no one knows how much official time is authorized for Federal employees” because of “widespread failure” when it comes to keeping records. The GAO made similar comments again in 1996 before Congress.

“Overall, it’s fair to say that the Biden administration has zero interest in the public knowing the extent to which federal employees are working for unions instead of performing the public service roles for which they were hired and continue to be compensated by taxpayers,” Nelsen said.

Casey Harper
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Reposted with permission

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