A group of senators demanded that the Department of Veterans Affairs abandon its dishonest acts during contract negotiations with AFGE and return to the bargaining table.
In a July 31 letter to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie, the senators laid out the anti-worker, anti-union tactics the department is engaged in an effort to gut VA employees’ workplace rights and their union.
“These extreme tactics are not in the interest of the VA’s front-line employees, nor are they in the interests of the veterans these employees serve,” said the 34 senators.
They laid out the most serious or dishonest acts the VA is engaged in to make sure the negotiations with AFGE do not succeed:
- The department initially refused to negotiate negotiation ground rules such as when and where to meet or to pay for travel to the talks.
- In an unprecedented action, the VA sent those decisions to an impasses panel immediately, clearly demonstrating it had no intention of engaging in a productive negotiation.
- The department now refuses to follow those very ground rules it insisted on.
- It is scrapping 63% of the existing contract without providing any legitimate rationale for doing so.
- It is eliminating labor-management corporation.
- It is requiring that the union pay for all management time and attorney’s fees spent dealing with employee matters.
- It is requiring that union dues withholding through automatic paycheck deduction be renewed by employees every year.
- It is eliminating current grievance procedures and requiring that all employees’ grievances be handled at the national level instead of in local offices.
- It is requiring that some leave requests be made 60-90 days in advance.
- It is eliminating all memorandums of understandings and past practices.
- It is extending the term of the contract to 10 years with the Department, not the Union, having authority to make unilateral changes.
“VA employees provide medical care, process education benefits, and adjudicate disability claims and appeals on behalf of veterans and their families,” said the senators. “The harsh negotiating tactics currently being taken by your agency undermine VA’s mission and threaten the quality of the services it is entrusted to provide to our constituents, our nation’s veterans.”
The senators also demanded that the VA explain and provide documented evidence of why it needs these anti-worker proposals.