Biden Hides Public Records Showing How Much Taxpayers Are Paying Unions

The federal government pays more than $100 million a year to employees who aren’t doing their actual government jobs, but rather working for unions representing government employees against management — with taxpayers essentially funding both sides of the bargaining table. 

For decades, the government has tracked and reported those figures, but the Biden administration has removed the reports.

Under the policy known as “official time,” hundreds of nominal government employees haven’t done anything but full-time union work in years, yet remain on the federal payroll. Not only is the policy expensive to taxpayers, but it also props up the power of unions by subsidizing their activities, giving them resources even if employees don’t support them enough to pay dues. Those unions fight against the firing of employees accused of misconduct, and advocate for policies that sometimes pit the interests of employees over the interests of taxpayers, such as resisting a return to in-person work.

The Office of Personnel Management has historically kept track of and published how the program is being used, including during the Obama administration. But the data has not been updated since 2019 — when the government shelled out for 2.6 million hours, or nearly 300 years’ worth, of employee time that was actually spent on union business.

The Biden administration has even been secretive about its secrecy. In December, The Daily Wire asked OPM why the page listing the reports was missing, along with all historical reports except 2019, which can only be located via the search function. A spokesperson said, “Previous reports on official time are not currently available because OPM is reorganizing our website to improve navigation and customer experience.”

But months later, they remain gone. OPM refused to answer the question of whether OPM was still collecting the statistics, why it hasn’t published reports for the years since 2019, and whether The Daily Wire could review those reports even if they aren’t housed online. 

A report by the Freedom Foundation questioned the accuracy of OPM’s explanation, saying that the factual information detailing how taxpayer money was spent was taken down around July 2023, the same month that OPM added a “Worker Empowerment” page boasting that the administration supports “policies, practices, and programs that promote worker power, worker organizing, and collective bargaining.”

The think tank said there is a difference between supporting unions and hiding public data in service of an agenda. “Despite differing views on the policy’s merits, recent presidential administrations of both parties have made regular attempts to at least measure the use of official time across the federal workforce,” it said.

On Thursday, in honor of Sunshine Week—a celebration of government transparency—Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) introduced a bill requiring the reports to be reinstated, called the Taxpayer-Funded Union Time Transparency Act.  She said the bill requires agencies to publish detailed records about the cost and justification of taxpayer-funded union work.

“I’m dragging shady spending into the light and exposing abuse of our dollars. Public service should always be about benefiting taxpayers, not bureaucrats. From failing to return to the office to wasting time on the job, we cannot allow the Biden administration to disregard critical reporting requirements and transparency measures. Every cent of Iowans’ hard-earned money should be serving them, not bargaining for more tele-‘work,’” she said in a statement.

Ernst obtained limited data from the Small Business Administration showing that at that agency, official time hours rose from 3,200 in fiscal year 2020 to nearly 4,000 in fiscal year 2023, suggesting that across the government, official time expenses could be at record highs.

In 2014, the Washington Examiner found more than 500 employees who did no or almost no work for their actual government jobs, despite drawing a full-time salary from taxpayers, because of official time. That includes 271 employees on full-time union release with the Department of Veterans Affairs, and 201 from the IRS.

Then-Sen. Tom Coburn said “I just don’t think the federal taxpayers ought to be paying for that… That’s what union dues are for. What’s irksome to me is that we are paying someone to be a pharmacist or a nurse, but they’re not doing that. They’re doing union work.”