“Release Time” is a practice that allows public employees to conduct union business during working hours without loss of pay. A number of union activities can legally performed while employees are on release time, including contract negotiations, lobbying, attending union meetings/conferences and processing grievances.
Release time is tantamount to working at a job, or taking time off, and expecting to be paid during your absence. Release time is a practice more common than it should be and occurs across a multitude of government agencies, including police, fire, city and county government agencies, and schools.
The Freedom Foundation found that Clark County spent more than $56,000 on 1,996 hours of release time during 2012 and 2013. Taxpayers spent more than $28 per hour to county employees who engaged in union business, with no appreciable benefit to the county.
None of that release time pay has been reimbursed by the union back to the county.
Clark County is just beginning negotiations to renew its collective bargaining agreements. Two Clark County councilors, Tom Mielke and Jeanne Stewart, recently withdrew their support of negotiating these contracts in public view. As a result, taxpayers won’t know if the release time provisions are actually discussed or simply rolled over into the new contracts.
The problem of release time goes beyond Clark County. The Yakima Herald recently reported “…the school board agreed to pay 75 percent of the salary and benefits of Steve McKenna, president of the Yakima Education Association, who is also released full time from teaching to perform union duties.”
McKenna’s deal will result in the Yakima School District paying him $72,000 annually for union activities, not educating children.
The Freedom Foundation has made inquiries of a few key state agencies in hopes of finding out how far this problem reaches into our state government.