Patty Bowermaster is an Army veteran, a federal employee with the Navy, and an AFGE member. On Sept. 7, she represented AFGE at an event organized by the AFL-CIO's Union Veterans Council at a private residence in Lancaster, Pa., where she and three other veterans were joined by presidential candidate Joe Biden to discuss issues important to union veterans.
When it was her turn to speak, Bowermaster, executive director of AFGE Local 1156, told Biden about Trump’s anti-worker executive orders and how they’re hurting federal workers, one third of whom are veterans.
“Some of the things that have happened under the current regime are devastating to the bargaining unit employees, namely the three executive orders that 45 signed back in – he snuck them in on Friday afternoon on Memorial Day in 2018. There's three of them. 13836, 13837, and 13839. They gut our ability to collectively bargain,” she explained.
“As our Commander-in-Chief, I would hope you would rescind those,” she added, to which Biden responded, “Well, I will.”
Not captured in this video, however, was the moment when they came back to the topic and Biden asked Bowermaster to tell him how the EOs affected federal workers.
Bowermaster explained that at her worksite, the EOs hurt employees who have been treated unfairly because the hours union reps are allowed to help them handle these issues have been cut, and the local fears even more of these hours – called official time – would be taken away.
The administration also prohibits certain union reps from using official time to do research for grievances.
This official time issue is affecting the workers since this is a big local that represents more than 3,000 Navy civilian employees working in logistics at various locations across the country and overseas.
“They’re handcuffing us and preventing us from representing employees effectively,” she said.
The meeting lasted about an hour. Bowermaster, who was a nominee for the AFGE Veteran of the Year, found Biden to be kind, open, and genuine.
After the video was posted to Facebook, Bowermaster received a lot of feedback from her fellow federal employees. An AFGE member who never asked any questions, for example, started asking her questions about the administration’s attacks on federal workers.
This kind of reaction was more than what she had hoped for from a meeting that seemed secretive at first – she did not know she would be meeting Biden. The Union Veterans Council, which hosted the gathering, only asked whether she would be interested in meeting an important individual to discuss labor and veterans’ issues.
“If anything, my interview reached people and made them think critically,” she added.
“AFGE District 3 was proud to coordinate Bowermaster’s attendance at the veterans event with former Vice President Biden,” said AFGE National Vice President for District 3 Philip Glover. “She presented federal union issues well and we appreciated it very much.”