BONHAM - Veterans Affairs workers hope to make their voices heard when gathering in front of the Bonham VA Hospital Wednesday, part of protests also planned in D. C. challenging what they believe as arbitrary position downgrades.
Roger Hooper is the president of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 2836, which operates at the Sam Rayburn Memorial VA Center.
“The VA has seen fit to cut lower echelon people’s pay in several cases,” says Hooper, otherwise known as Country. “We’ve had about 30 downgrades out of 550 employees here so far.”
He says downgrades of patient support assistants, medical record clerks and transportation assistants will hurt veterans’ care. Hooper believes the lower the pay the more likely highly-qualified employees will leave, making way for new workers willing to do the job for much less.
“If you’re going to have mediocre pay eventually you’re going to have mediocre candidates.”
He adds these downgrades could also have an impact on the local economy. According to the Bonham Chamber of Commerce website, the Sam Rayburn Memorial Veterans Affairs Center is the second largest employer in the city.
According to AFGE’s National VA Council, the Department of Veterans Affairs hasn’t been able to show how the downgrades of support personnel would enhance their function or its ability to serve veterans. The council has called for a moratorium on the lowering of these positions.
This informational picket line, as Hooper calls it, will setup outside the front gates of the Sam Rayburn Memorial VA Center beginning at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday at 1201 E. 9th Street and run all day.
The American Federation of Government Employees is the largest federal employee union representing 600,000 federal and D.C. government workers nationwide and overseas. Local 2836 in Bonham is one of 1,100 locals across the country, which are divided into 12 geographical districts. The union is headquartered in Washington, D.C.