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Official Time as a Form of Union Security in Federal Sector Labor-Management Relations

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Master's thesis

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Can a nationwide labor-management relations system based on the principle of exclusive representation operate effectively, even if the law deprives the unions of the ability to obtain adequate financial support The majority of federal workers are represented by unions that have the right and the duty to represent all employees, regardless of union membership. Since the unions are required to offer their basic services to all, incentives for employees to join and pay union dues are much weaker than they are in many private-sector and state government bargaining units. How do federal-sector unions effectively represent all employees without a traditional system of union security i.e., the means to compel financial support from the employees served A system has gradually evolved in which official time i.e., paid federal time spent by union officials performing representational activities has become a substitute for union dues. While the costs of official time are relatively minor in relation to the overall federal personnel budget, it has been the subject of controversy. This article will show that between 1962 and 1978, the Executive Branch and Congress allowed the official-time system to evolve haphazardly, disregarding sound advice and options on union security provided by government studies. There are substantial indications that official time is not an adequate substitute for more direct methods of union security, and moreover it causes problems and imposes costs that would not exist if other forms of union security were available to unions. While there is not yet sufficient information on the subject to choose a single alternative, Congress should authorize agencies to conduct test programs, so that arrangements that have proven themselves in the private and non-Federal public sectors can be evaluated at the Federal level. In the absence of Congressional action, union leaders and managers should be vigilant in controlling the use of official time.

Subject Categories:

  • Economics and Cost Analysis
  • Government and Political Science
  • Personnel Management and Labor Relations

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