Hundreds of thousands of federal employees are sitting at home on furlough today and every one of them ought to be asking themselves this question: Why am I sitting here not getting paid but Joe Blow federal worker union representative keeps working and getting a paycheck? That question is relevant because of one of those totally unexpected turns in the government shutdown that has exposed yet another facet of the blatant favoritism President Obama showers on Big Labor.

As the Washington Examiner's Susan Crabtree reported Saturday, “taxpayer-funded union activity is drawing new scrutiny after the Obama administration carved out a furlough exemption for government workers who serve as labor representatives.

“The Office of Personnel Management, the agency managing federal employee issues, last Friday opened the door for some workers who serve as union representatives across the federal government to return to work and receive regular paychecks while most of their colleagues remain furloughed.

“After complaints from government workers that they lacked union representation during the shutdown, OPM last Friday rewrote its previous guidance to allow those employees who are involved in representing co-workers on union-related matters to return to work with a regular paycheck.”

In other words, under Obama, carrying water for the American Federation of Government Employees, National Treasury Employees Union or National Federation of Federal Employees is more important than helping make sure Social Security checks go out on time, Veterans health care benefits are processed properly, or helping protect the nation from pandemic outbreaks of disease. Surely this order of priorities demonstrates that Obama’s first thought is always how to use government to take care of his political friends and benefactors first.

And as another Washington Examiner reporter has recently documented, Obama is no slouch when it comes to doling out tax dollars for union reps organizing federal workers on “official time.” Senior investigative reporter Mark Flatten began asking federal agencies nearly a year ago how many of their workers were allowed to do union work while drawing their regular salaries as civil service employees and at what cost.

What followed was an amazing series of evasions, misrepresentations and outright refusals to document something every small business owner knows is essential to staying alive – knowing who in your firm is doing what and how much it costs. Most of the agencies Flatten approached either refused to provide the data or could only produce incomplete numbers.

But some disturbing facts became clear from the data Flatten received from the few agencies that did produce the requested information. At the Department of Veterans Affairs, at least 19 federal employees doing nothing but union work are paid more than $100,000 annually. Remember, that figure doesn’t include the cost of their benefits like health insurance and retirement, which are generally more generous than those typically offered private sector employees.

Rep. Phil Gingrey told Crabtree that “rewriting shutdown guidelines to allow union bureaucrats to continue this practice is reprehensible.” It’s hard not to think every U.S. taxpayers would agree with the Georgia Republican.