FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

December 14, 2020

CONTACT:

Logan Elizabeth Padgett

lpadgett@jamesmadison.org

(850)386-3131

STATEMENT RELEASE: JMI Calls for End of Taxpayer Subsidies of Unions Through Release Time

Local governments in Florida are allowing a “blatant misuse of taxpayer money” by paying employees to perform union tasks unrelated to their public duties, essentially giving away scarce tax resources to private entities for private benefit, The James Madison Institute says in a new policy brief.

In a new JMI report, Sean Higgins, a research fellow at Competitive Enterprise Institute concludes that Florida should put an end to “union release time,” a taxpayer-funded subsidy that allows members of public employee unions to conduct union business during working hours without loss of pay.

Even after the Supreme Court ruled in Janus v. AFSCME that a public sector worker can not be forced to join a union as a condition of employment, Florida municipalities give public employee unions access to millions of taxpayer dollars each year in the form of release time, according to the JMI policy brief.

Working in conjunction with JMI, researchers from the Competitive Enterprise Institute compiled public records from Miami-Dade County and the cities of Tampa and Jacksonville to examine the number of hours of union release time, activities paid for with release time, and the cost.

Miami-Dade, Florida’s most populous county, allowed nearly 132,433 hours on release time at a cost of $4.3 million from FY 2017-2019. In the past three fiscal years, Miami-Dade County paid over $600,000 per year to employees who spent 100 percent of their working hours on release time. Perhaps of more concern than the actual dollar figures is the fact that Miami-Dade County officials could not provide information on what activity takes place on union release time.

In FY 2018 and 2019, release time cost the City of Tampa taxpayers $822,690. The city also did not keep records related to the activity performed on release time.

City of Jacksonville employees spent approximately 7,000 to 15,000 hours per year on union activity instead of actual government work.

The report states that government employees should not perform duties unrelated to their public duties while on the clock at their government jobs. JMI recommends that Florida eliminate union release time, citing several ways this can be accomplished.

“Simply put, ‘release time’ means that Florida taxpayer dollars are funding people whose job is make municipal governments more expensive. People on release time are working for the benefit of government unions, not taxpayers, so the unions should pay for them.” – Sean Higgins, Research Fellow, Competitive Enterprise Institute.

“In the face of economic challenges presented from the pandemic response, local governments across the state are under enormous fiscal challenges. They will be looking for ways to ensure that essential public services are continued. Given these realities, it is absolutely unconscionable that critical taxpayer dollars continue to be diverted to activities that have no public service connection. The lack of transparency over this process and policy means that public sector labor organizations are either too incapable of accountability or too corrupt in their fleecing of taxpayer dollars. This is an area in which our legislature can and should act to remedy.”– Sal Nuzzo, Vice President of Policy, The James Madison Institute

To read, “Union Time on the Taxpayer Dime: How Florida Taxpayers Subsidize Private Union Activity, click here.

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The James Madison Institute is a 501(c)3 organization dedicated to the advancement of free markets and liberty. The Institute conducts research on such issues as criminal justice, health care, taxes, and regulatory environments.