July 26, 2021
The AFGE National VA Council (NVAC) and the VA have reached a historic settlement to restore workplace rights.
AFGE has secured new benefits and other improvements for the 10,000 federal employees who work at military exchange stores and restaurants.
A new five-year contract went into effect late last year for bargaining unit employees at the Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES), who belong to AFGE Council 235.
The contract includes several provisions directly affecting workers’ take-home wages and benefits, including new clauses related to employee bonuses, work shoe allowances, and paid leave during administrative closures.
“There’s a lot that needs to be done to improve the lives of AAFES employees, but the provisions in this contract are a start,” said Alice Morgan, president of Council 235.
Most AAFES employees are part-timers who work between 25 and 30 hours a pay period – not enough to quality for full-time benefits, Morgan said. So, anything that lowers their expenses and provides them with more take-home pay is welcome.
Here’s a rundown of the major new provisions in the contract:
Protective footwear. Under the new contract, employees working in exchanges or warehouses will receive $200 every two years toward the purchase of protective footwear. Employees previously received a one-time subsidy of $50.
Administrative leave. Employees now will receive paid administrative leave if they are unable to work scheduled hours due to unplanned closures resulting from inclement weather or other events. The new contract stipulates that employees will receive paid leave for any hours unworked within 24 hours of the closure notice. Employees previously had to use their own personal leave or not get paid for that time.
Employee bonuses. The contract also formalizes the process for providing profit-sharing bonuses and team awards to bargaining unit employees. Morgan said employees will receive an average bonus of $400 annually under the new contract, contingent on store profits.
Work shirts. Another provision entitles employees who have direct contact with customers to receive two Exchange polo shirts upfront and a third shirt after six months. Employees are responsible for requesting the additional shirts.
Official time. AFGE also secured additional official time for multiple employee volunteers, which will allow the council to provide better representation to workers. The contract provides for two employees at 100 percent official time, one employee at 50 percent official time and 50 percent leave without pay, another employee at 50 percent official time, and two others at 25 percent official time.
AFGE applauds the House Oversight and Reform Committee for passing a pro-family bill.
Organizing during a pandemic brings about new tools, tactics, and ideas.