AFGE joins millions of nurses around the world in celebrating National Nurses Week May 6-12. As a representative of more than 100,000 government employees who are proud members of the nursing profession, AFGE is committed to fighting for their workplace rights. Through collective bargaining, legislative advocacy, legal representation, organizing and education, AFGE ensures that government sector nurses and the patients they care for are protected.
“As a former nurse this week holds a special place in my heart,” said AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. “The commitment nurses have to their patients and the profession is inspiring. Most of us have relied on a nurse to care for us at one point in our lives and we should use this time to celebrate their service.”
To address the concerns of nurses in the public sector, AFGE utilizes its Nurses Steering Committee and National VA Council to work with lawmakers in drafting bills concerning patient safety, work hours, safe staffing, patient safety, professional education and other critical issues. The committee also prides itself in promoting justice and equality at worksites to ensure nurse satisfaction, retention and delivery of quality care to patients.
“Our committee plays an important role in how we represent nurses as a union,” said AFGE District 8 National Vice President and committee chair Jane Nygaard. “Our nurses are on the front lines of patient care and are in a unique position to use the union to implement critical changes in the workplace.”
AFGE has worked with Veteran Service Organizations on a wide range of issues impacting federal nurses, including adequate and predictable funding, to ensure agencies such as the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) can serve veterans without interruption and uncertainty. This became critical during the shutdown as VA nurses were able to stay on the job during the lockout and keep serving our nation’s heroes.
“Nurses provide care in so many areas of medicine,” said AFGE National VA Council President Alma Lee. “We must ensure that we are supporting their work needs as they focus on caring for our loved ones. To provide that level of support is an honor for us as an organization.”
AFGE continues to work with legislators in correcting compensation, scheduling and assignment issues that plague VA Title 38 employees under 38 USC 7422. Problems persist as registered nurses and other medical professionals are not able to bargain over routine pay matters, in contrast to their Title 5 counterparts working alongside them in VA facilities and nurses at medical facilities run by the Department of Defense and the Bureau of Prisons. AFGE is also working with Congressman Tim Walz of Minnesota to ensure that veterans who continue to serve their country in civilian nursing jobs have equal veterans’ preference hiring rights regardless of the agency in which they are working.
The demands on nurses continue to increase in the government sector as agencies face restricted budgets and understaffing. AFGE will continue to amplify the voice of its members in its fight for safe staffing, full bargaining rights, fair overtime pay rules and safe workplaces.