Social Security:

Union Activity at the Social Security Administration

HEHS-97-3: Published: Oct 2, 1996. Publicly Released: Oct 2, 1996.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the time and expenses devoted to union activities at the Social Security Administration (SSA) and other large federal agencies, focusing on: (1) how SSA accounts for employee salaries and expenses for union activities; and (2) union activities in the private sector.

GAO found that: (1) federal agencies have the discretion to grant employees official time for certain union activities; (2) government employee unions are significantly involved in operational and management decisions but generally cannot bargain over employees' pay and other economic benefits; (3) over the last 6 years, the time spent on union activities at SSA has grown from 254,000 hours to at least 413,000 hours annually, at a cost of $12.6 million in 1995; (4) the number of full-time union representatives at SSA grew from 80 to 145 between 1993 and 1995; (5) although SSA is developing a new system to more accurately track the time spent on union activities, it plans to replace only the automated reporting system for union representatives in SSA field offices and teleservice centers; and (6) SSA field managers stated that their having no involvement in decisions about how much time individuals spend on union activities causes problems in managing day-to-day operations. GAO also found that: (1) the Postal Service reported that 1.7 million hours were spent on union activities related to grievances in fiscal year (FY) 1995; (2) the Internal Revenue Service reported spending 527,000 hours on union activities in FY 1995; and (3) some private-sector employers pay at least some of the salaries and expenses of union representatives, while others do not.

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