Oppose H.R.1364 and Protect the Civil Rights of Federal Workers

Media 03.8,17

Recipient: Representative Jason Chaffetz and Representative Elijah Cummings

View a PDF of this letter here.

Oppose H.R. 1364 and Protect the Civil Rights of Federal Workers


Dear Chairman Chaffetz and Ranking Member Cummings:

On behalf of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 210 national organizations to promote and protect the civil and human rights of all persons in the United States, we write to strongly oppose the “Official Time Reform Act of 2017” (H.R. 1364). This bill would amend current law and arbitrarily cap the amount of time that can be used per day for conducting official agency business related to conflicts that arise in the workplace, without considering the needs or working conditions of individual agencies as current law allows. In addition, H.R.1364 proposes to penalize pension accrual for those employees who serve as union representatives. As a result, employees who would otherwise be willing to volunteer to serve as union representatives, may decline to do so, making it very difficult for the union to operate. 

Unions and union representatives play an important role in advancing civil rights protections for federal workers. They help to improve workplace safety and working conditions for all workers, and are integral in challenging harassment and discrimination in the workplace, especially for women and people of color. Enabling workers to freely exercise the right to form unions and provide employees with union representation to improve labor-management relations and reduce workplace conflicts is thus one of the most effective, efficient, and comprehensive ways to translate promised equal opportunity into real economic security.

In our view, H.R. 1364 would undermine the ability of unions to function and advocate effectively on behalf of workers who face discrimination and harassment in the workplace. Current law prohibits the use of official time for union business. However, on official time, unions are permitted to protect whistleblowers from retaliation, defend victims of discrimination, file grievances, meet with management to resolve workplace disputes amicably, negotiate labor agreements, and cooperate with management to improve the efficient operation of government. Therefore, the use of official time, which has been a bedrock policy under federal labor-management relations law since 1978, is a fundamental tool that gives agencies and employees the means and opportunity to quickly and effectively secure employee input to address mission-related challenges.

America’s workers need – and have a right to enjoy – union representation in the workplace. Unions must be able to use the full panoply of tools currently available to them to end systemic workplace discrimination and maximize the potential to achieve equal opportunity and employment equity. The use of official time by union representatives continues to play a significant role in advancing the rights and interests of all workers in the workplace and making the federal government more efficient, effective, and responsive to the needs of its employees. But this legislation would ruthlessly strip away this critical tool, to the detriment of all workers, particularly women and people of color.

H.R. 1364 will have a chilling effect on the ability of employees to act as union representatives and facilitate constructive dialogue with management to address a myriad of workplace issues on behalf of all workers. By severely limiting the use of official time, this bill is a veiled attempt to eliminate unions in the federal workforce. Therefore, we strongly urge you to oppose H.R. 1364. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact June Zeitlin, Director of Human Rights Policy at zeitlin@civilrights.org or (202)-263-2852.


Wade Henderson
President & CEO

Nancy Zirkin
Executive Vice President