In another victory for AFGE’s National Veterans Affairs Council (NVAC), an arbitrator ruled that the VA had engaged in bad faith bargaining during contract negotiations with AFGE.
This is the second arbitrator to find that the Trump administration’s VA violated its duty to bargain in good faith during these negotiations.
In December 2017, the VA told NVAC it wanted to reopen the 2011 contract. During ground rules negotiations, the VA engaged in bad faith bargaining by declaring an impasse on permissive subjects and delaying providing requested information. NVAC filed a national grievance against the VA in Oct. 2018. In May 2020, an arbitrator found that the VA indeed committed several unfair labor practices. The VA later filed an appeal. The case is now pending with the Federal Labor Relations Authority.
But the first grievance didn’t stop the VA from engaging in further bad faith bargaining.
The second grievance
After the parties agreed to the ground rules, the VA proposed to remove 28 articles from the contract in its initial proposals. It also reduced the language in 12 articles, rendering them overbroad and difficult to enforce.
The VA’s initial proposals also listed unfair labor practices that could be committed by labor unions but not agencies and required the union to pay attorney’s fees to VA lawyers and reimburse the salaries of HR officials who were “required” to participate in grievance proceedings and arbitration hearings.
Prior to the first bargaining session in Long Beach, Calif., the VA failed to secure travel arrangements for several members of the union’s negotiating team. Once the parties arrived in Long Beach, the VA failed to promptly provide the necessary equipment and technology for bargaining – in violation of the ground rules.
In addition, the VA negotiators caucused for more than 26 hours during these two weeks (more than 40% of the time). In that session, they failed to explain their proposals, insisted that the union waive its statutory rights, and went backwards in bargaining and withdrew previous concessions.
As a result, NVAC filed another national grievance in June 2019, the second of eight bad faith bargaining causes ultimately filed against the VA during the negotiations.
The VA and NVAC participated in arbitration hearings in January 2020 and January 2021. The arbitrator last week ruled that the VA did engage in bad faith bargaining in violation of the 2011 agreement and the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute.
She ordered the VA to cease and desist further violations of law and contract, to negotiate in good faith with the council, and to issue a notice signed by the VA secretary saying the VA has engaged in unfair labor practices.
Congratulations to NVAC!