AFGE and other unions representing employees at the Department of Veterans Affairs completed the final step in our lawsuits against the VA for removing hundreds of employees from official time.
The case is now pending before the judge, and it’s estimated that it will take at least six months for a ruling.
Last November, AFGE, National Federation of Federal Employees, National Association of Government Employees, and National Nurses United filed the lawsuits against the VA for banning the use of official time by Title 38 medical employees. The ban is part of the VA’s attempt to bust unions and ensure that workers have no ability to blow the whistle or fight harassment, discrimination, and retaliation in the workplace.
AFGE and other federal unions are required by law to represent everyone covered by a union contract – even if they choose not to join and pay dues. For this reason, Congress decades ago established a statutory process called ‘official time’ to allow employees who are union representatives to use certain hours during their workdays to ensure all employees are represented.
By banning official time, the VA is denying workplace rights and union representation to more than 100,000 health care workers at the VA and hurting veterans who benefit directly from that process.
“Without official time, we never would have known about the VA waitlist scandal in 2014,” said AFGE National VA Council President Alma Lee. “ Kathleen Dahl wouldn’t have been able to blow the whistle on a Legionnaires’ outbreak at her VA that killed six veterans and sickened 16 others. Dr. Michelle Washington wouldn’t have been allowed to testify before Congress about a shortage of doctors to treat troops returning from war with PTSD. But thanks to official time, Dr. Washington and Ms. Dahl’s stories were heard and lives were saved.”
“There are more than 49,000 vacancies at the VA,” said AFGE President J. David Cox Sr. “If the VA wants to improve patient care for veterans, it merely needs to hire more people. But the agency has said on multiple occasions that this is not a priority.”