The Department of Veterans Affairs and AFGE are scheduled to meet Dec. 3. It’s not clear, however, what issues are going to be discussed as the VA has not responded to the union as of Dec.1. It could be normal contract negotiations of the articles we have pending, the counters still on the table, or President Trump’s anti-worker executive orders.
The VA has earlier said it will no longer abide by provisions of the existing labor contract covering 260,000 employees represented by AFGE and is threatening to evict union representatives from the worksite to enforce the anti-labor executive orders, impeding the union’s ability to effectively represent employees.
So far evictions have not happened yet, but the threat “is a punitive and illegal action that’s intended to silence employees and discourage them from reporting mismanagement or other abuses that harm veterans’ care,” said AFGE National VA Council President Alma Lee. “We will pursue any and all legal options at the national and local levels to challenge this illegal activity and preserve employees’ collective bargaining rights.”
AFGE is urging Congress to adopt language included in the House-passed Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill ( HR 3351) in the final FY 2020 funding measure. The language would prevent federal agencies from unilaterally imposing anti-worker management edicts in the place of negotiated collective bargaining agreements. The language would also require agencies to abide by current law and bargain in good faith with federal employee unions.
Denying employees access to their union representatives at the worksite is one of many anti-labor provisions outlined in three executive orders President Trump issued in May 2018 that AFGE and other unions have challenged in the courts. Even though a federal court has lifted a previous injunction, the administration cannot begin implementing provisions that violate existing collective bargaining agreements without first negotiating the changes with labor unions.
In the meantime, AFGE is advising its locals to preserve union records, personnel files, and other important documents in the event they are denied access to union offices.
“AFGE is ready and willing to negotiate a new contract that equips employees with the resources and support they need to serve our veterans,” Lee said. “We call on VA management to come to the table and engage in good-faith bargaining instead of attempting to enforce these illegal provisions.”