In a move to protect the best care and services for veterans, the working people of the Department of Veterans Affairs filed a national grievance against the agency and the Trump Administration yesterday.
The American Federation of Government Employees, which represents more than 260,000 VA workers, is seeking a status quo ante remedy which would result in a complete reversal of the implementation of Executive Order 13837, and a return to the terms of the current and valid Collective Bargaining Agreement.
“This administration doesn’t get to play both sides of the same argument. They either want the best services and care for veterans and achieve that by investing in the most qualified professional, apolitical care – the VA staff – or they’re harming veterans, plain and simple,” said AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr.
Cox, who served as a registered nurse at the VA for more than 20 years added, “this unwarranted attack on federal workers’ rights does nothing to improve care. It hurts morale, it hurts productivity, and it hurts the veterans who need a fully-functioning VA. Without official time, we would never have heard about the wait list crisis, Legionnaires’ outbreaks, and staffing shortages at facilities around the country. How does silencing those workers who speak out against waste, fraud, and abuse help veterans or the American taxpayer?”
On Friday, May 25, President Trump signed two executive orders that chip away at due process and collective bargaining rights for federal employees and a third which impedes employee representation at the job site. That order, 13837, is the focus of the grievance and a lawsuit – AFGE v. Trump – that was heard in court two weeks ago.
“We filed today’s grievance because the VA’s implementation of this heinous executive order violates the Federal Service Labor Management Relations Statute by ignoring our valid and binding CBA; because the order violates terms negotiated within our CBA; and finally, because the implementation violates the terms of the order itself,” said Cox.
The implementation of the orders has been scattershot across the country, with inconsistent implementation dates, the elimination of official time at certain facilities, and some union officials being denied access to representational or union work.
“Our sisters and brothers at the VA know how important their work is – especially since one-third are veterans themselves. They believe in providing the highest level of care for those who have borne the battle and ensuring veterans get the benefits they’ve earned. But now they’re being asked to do so without the basic workplace rights that were agreed to by the VA,” said Cox.
“We already know that when there isn’t a strong union presence for working people, there is rampant intimidation, discrimination, and retaliation – the last of which is growing at an alarming rate for whistleblowers at the VA already,” said Cox. “We cannot allow veterans’ care to take even one step back because of an administration intent on bending the truth to fit their narrative. We must immediately go back to the terms of our existing CBA, stop fighting over rules that have already been bargained over, and get to work filling the nearly 49,000 vacancies plaguing the agency nationwide,” he added.
The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest federal employee union, representing 700,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia.