AFGE Members at VA Win Major Arbitration in Another Blow to Union-Busting Administration

The Trump administration was delivered another blow against its attempts to undo our apolitical civil service system and dismantle unions across the country.  

In a recent decision by an independent arbitrator, the Department of Veterans Affairs was found to be in violation of the existing Master Agreement between the VA and AFGE by improperly implementing the VA Accountability Act.  

This decision comes on the heels of the August 24 U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruling that the Trump administration’s May 25 executive order on official time violated the U.S. Constitution and the separation of powers as established in law, and August 29 guidance from the Office of Personnel Management directing agencies to rescind the provisions of the orders that were enjoined. 

“As the president and his administration continue their heinous anti-worker attacks on unions and federal workers, it’s great to see momentum swinging in our direction,” said AFGE President J. David Cox Sr. “From Missourians voting down right-to-work to our recent victories in the court, it’s clear the American people are wise to the union-busting tactics employed by this administration.” 

For more than a year the VA has been improperly using the so-called Accountability Act to target workers at the VA – one-third of whom are veterans themselves – with the clear intent to stamp out the union. Veterans’ care or access to it is not improved by firing rank-and-file workers, and now, thanks to this ruling, our members can get back to work making the VA the best health care provider in the country.  

“These women and men have dedicated their lives to caring for veterans at the VA, and they can once again fulfill their duty without the fear of unjust firings from management,” Cox added. 

Unprecedented attacks on VA employees 

Last year, after the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017 was signed into law, workers at the VA began to face firings, suspensions, and demotions without receiving a performance improvement plan (PIP).  

At the same time, employees who had worked at the agency for years reported that the standards for their performances were being changed with little-to-no explanation from management. This led to workers, who had gone decades without any negative performance evaluations, being told they were failing – based on the new metrics – without any recourse to improve.  

In September 2017, AFGE – which represents more than 260,000 working people at the VA – filed a grievance with the agency for violating the previously agreed to Master Agreement and instituting new processes and procedures concerning performance appraisal and improvement. 

“We came to work at the VA because we believe in the mission of caring for the men and women who served this country,” said AFGE National Veterans Affairs Council President Alma L. Lee. “But instead of getting support for our work, we’ve been dealing with managers moving the goalposts and using these bogus standards to fire dedicated public servants. It’s disgraceful. And I’m so glad the arbitrator ruled on the side of reason, allowing us to get back to work serving those who have borne the battle.” 

The ruling by Arbitrator Jerome Ross won’t immediately take effect, but once finalized, the VA will once again be forced to follow the contract they signed with the union, and workers’ rights to PIPs will be restored. 

“With this administration’s constant attempts to dismantle the VA and bust unions, we know this fight is far from over,” said Cox. “But we’ll take this victory today and keep up the fight!”  


Recent AFGE News:

Alice Hamilton Changed the World. Do You Know Her Story?

September 21, 2018

Our workplace is a lot safer today than it was 100 years ago, thanks to the health and safety advocates who fought for protections for all workers. There is one person in particular, however, who took it upon herself to study job-related diseases and deaths among industrial workers at a time when no one else was paying any attention.

Read More

Closure of FLRA Dallas Office Leaves Fed Employee Rights in Jeopardy

September 17, 2018

The Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) is a tiny agency tasked with resolving labor-management issues involving more than 2 million federal employees. These issues range from unfair labor practices (ULP) to arbitration appeals to union elections. Federal employee unions go to the FLRA to challenge agencies’ unfair practices or failures to follow their own policies, among other things. But office closures across the country are leaving workers without a place to turn.

Read More


Join AFGE Today

BECOME A MEMBER

Weekend of Action

Fight Back the EOs

AFGE Events

Event Calendar is for Members Only. Please Log In to see our calendar of events.

LOG IN!

SUBSCRIBE Latest news & info