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Highlights

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed union activities at the Social Security Administration (SSA) and how these activities compare with other federal agencies, federal corporations, and the private sector. GAO noted that: (1) unions have significant involvement in operations and management decisions and union representatives use authorized paid time off to conduct their activities; (2) agencies are not required to track the amount of official time charged to union activities; (3) in 1995, time spent on union activities at SSA totalled about 413,000 hours, costing SSA trust funds about $12.6 million; (4) in 1995, the number of full-time SSA union representatives increased to 145; (5) SSA believes that time spent on union activities is underreported because there is no reporting system that adequately tracks union representatives' activities; (6) unions determine the amount of time representatives should spend on union activities, without consent from local managers; (7) SSA field managers believe that the lack of consent for union activities has caused operational problems; (8) union officials believe that the time spent on union activities is necessary to fully represent the interests of SSA workers; (9) the amount and cost of union activity at the Internal Revenue Service is slightly more than at SSA; (10) the Postal Service incurred substantially more union activity costs than SSA; and (11) the extent to which private industry supports and pays for union activities varies widely among companies.

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