AFGE leaders and activists jump started the spring season with a dynamic learning opportunity — the AFGE National VA Council (NVAC) Annual Health and Safety Conference.
AFGE members and other government workers gathered in Denver to grow their knowledge and skills when it comes to health and safety on the job. The conference returned in person after going virtual last year due to the pandemic.
“Training is important because as a union president I felt that if you train people, they will be empowered to help themselves and others,” said AFGE NVAC Interim Director of Training and Education Tinita Cole. “If you hold the knowledge to yourself then you cannot help anybody, and they cannot help themselves. So training is always important. It empowers people to go out there and fight and represent.”
More than 200 attendees convened at the Hyatt Regency Denver Colorado Convention Center to hear from speakers who are experts in a variety of fields related to our health and safety at work. Featured training sessions included:
- VHA Basic and Intermediate H&S
- Workers' Compensation
- Bullying and Harassment in the Workplace
- Fire and Life Safety
- Office Safety & Ergonomics
- Nuts and Bolts of Accident Investigation
- Emergency & Disaster Preparedness
“It's been a while since I've had the workers' comp training class, so I decided to do the advanced workers' comp class with Joe Mansour and it is awesome,” said AFGE NVAC National Representative Debra Cook-Rice. “The actual itinerary is such a well-rounded itinerary with everything from workers' comp to OSHA, emergency preparedness, disaster to domestic violence in the workplace. I think that agencies should allow more of our employees to attend the Health and Safety Conference as well as some of their managers."
“I’m at the conference this week to gain some tools to help better manage the safety and really the stress that VBA employees are feeling these days,” said AFGE NVAC National Representative Dave Bump. “Most of my classes are about stress and mental health. Because with the pandemic and coming out of the executive orders and the fight for our new contract, we need this knowledge. We need this sort of thing to bring back to our employees.”
Participants attend a workshop focused on stress in the workplace.
In addition to a week packed full of one-of-a-kind training classes, the conference also featured an opening plenary session where attendees heard from labor leaders such as AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler, AFGE NVAC President Alma Lee, AFGE President Everett Kelley, AFGE National Vice President for Women’s and Fair Practices Jeremy Lannan, and Denver Area Labor Federation President Dewey Jackson. VA Secretary Denis McDonough also sent video greetings to the attendees.
“The energy here has been so exciting,” said AFGE NVAC National Representative Anthony McCray. “They [participants] are energetic about learning the information because now we’ve been able to make some historic gains regarding the turnover of some of the executive orders. So, they are coming here with a hunger to be able to go back and be able to match the power of those that are in management by having the knowledge that’s found in the regulations.”
The conference closed with a panel on building successful partnerships to address health and safety concerns by working with management in joint committees and collaborating with community-based organizations.
“After years of being excluded during the previous administration, conference participants are eager to fully engage in health and safety committees and briefing meetings to address concerns and work to eliminate workplace hazards. The NVAC safety reps and I are here to support them,” said AFGE Health and Safety Specialist Milly Rodríguez.
Participants receive a hands-on demonstration with medical transport equipment.
During the conference, union members were also invited to a special meeting to discuss the VA’s latest plans to close facilities throughout the country as part of their report to the Asset and Infrastructure Review (AIR) Commission. AFGE has launched its #SaveMyVA campaign to educate members and the public about this terrible plan that will negatively impact the care veterans receive. Attendees at this meeting heard from award-winning journalist, author and veterans’ advocate Suzanne Gordon who affirmed the need to beat back the VA’s closure plans.
Click here to learn more about AFGE’s Save My VA campaign.