The Department of Veterans Affairs Marion National Cemetery in Indiana was hoping to quietly contract out some cemetery work traditionally done by VA employees. But thanks to AFGE Local 1020, that didn’t happen.
In yet another reminder that the union has to be on the lookout for illegal outsourcing at all times, the cemetery had claimed that the work being contracted out is not being done by federal employees. But in a letter to the cemetery director, the union proved the opposite is true. Federal employees have been solely responsible for these functions targeted for outsourcing: mowing, trimming, edging curbs and sidewalks, snow and ice removal, leaf collections/mulch removal, headstone and marker cleaning, among other things.
“Such action would mean that National Cemetery Administration would be in violation of federal law and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) guidance,” Local 1020 President Amy Rudbeck wrote. She requested detailed information about the contract and demanded to bargain over changes in working conditions. She had filed an unfair labor practice (ULP) for the information, but the agency’s response was inadequate, prompting her to send the letter and threaten another ULP.
A few days after the Local sent the letter, VA managers pulled back the funds and decided not to award the contract.
But Rudbeck is not resting just yet as she’s concerned the agency will resume contracting out the services based on recent responses from the director.
“We have filed a bargaining demand with a cease and desist that may help delay this longer,” she said. “This has been an eight month ordeal so far, but we are continuing to fight.”
AFGE congratulates the Local for working really hard and stopping the first attempt from moving forward.
“This is a great victory for the VA Council, all of AFGE, and veterans,” said AFGE National VA Council President Alma Lee. “We must keep fighting every attempt by the agency to illegally contract out VA work that should be performed in-house and that provides valuable employment opportunities for disabled veterans.”