AFGE members and VA workers nationwide are calling on VA Secretary Denis McDonough to replace VA Chief Negotiator Kurt Martin with a new chief negotiator who will work with our union to empower workers and strengthen collective bargaining rights so that we can better serve our nation’s veterans.
AFGE and the VA have been in contract negotiations for months, but the VA’s conduct has prompted AFGE to file two national grievances alleging that the VA negotiating team, under Martin’s leadership, has not been negotiating in good faith with the union. The parties have discussed eight articles, exchanged 50 proposals, and have reached zero agreements.
“We are calling on you to take immediate action to protect VA workers by replacing the VA Chief Negotiator with a leader who will comply with President Biden’s labor policy to empower workers, expand collective bargaining rights, and make VA a “model employer,” said the workers in a petition to McDonough.
“VA employees swore an oath to uphold the VA’s mission of caring for those who have borne the battle. And in return, we demand that our employer provide us with dignity, fairness, and respect by negotiating in good faith with our union and fulfilling President Biden’s promise that his administration would be the most pro-worker, pro-union government in history,” they added.
VA employees’ rights have been under attack for nearly five years. Under the last administration, VA worked to strip away our fundamental rights and protections. Instead of pushing President Biden’s labor initiatives, VA negotiators have been advancing many of the same proposals the union fought against in the previous administration.
For example, VA negotiators have been resistant to strengthening due process protections for employees and expanding employees’ right to union representation. VA negotiators have insisted on placing arbitrary caps on official time and tell AFGE’s National VA Council that union representatives should take leave without pay or personal leave to represent employees. These anti-worker positions are not consistent with President Biden’s labor policy.
“You’ve said time and time again that employees are VA’s greatest asset, and we are your “union partner.” Unfortunately, your negotiators at the bargaining table do not seem to share that same sentiment,” the workers concluded. “As Secretary, you are responsible for the positions that your negotiators take at the bargaining table. Your Chief Negotiator, Kurt Martin, is not fulfilling President Biden’s pro-worker promise or the “union reset” you vowed to oversee when you were confirmed.”