(WASHINGTON) – The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) today applauded Reps. Bob Filner, D – CA., Tim Murphy, R – PA., and Steven LaTourette, R – Ohio, for improving the collective bargaining rights of medical professionals in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) by introducing H.R. 4089 to clarify Congress’ intent to afford collective bargaining rights to VA medical employees.
“We applaud Congressmen Filner, Murphy, and LaTourette for having the courage to stand with VA employees,” said John Gage AFGE national president. “It was never the intent of Congress to grant collective bargaining rights for VA employees and then water them down with so many exceptions that no workplace dispute could be bargained over.”
H.R. 4089 amends Title 38 of USC §7422, governing the collective bargaining rights of the employees in the VA. The new legislation clarifies Congress’ original intent by expanding the rights of VA employees to collectively bargain on workplace issues related to indirect patient care, by repealing previously listed exceptions to the provision, establishing a deadline for final review with respect to grievances, and by providing clarification to disciplinary appeals board’s requirements for employees seeking appeals to adverse actions.
Congress initially amended Title 38 in 1991 to provide medical professionals within the VA with collective bargaining rights to allow employees to negotiate, file grievances and arbitrate disputes over working conditions except those related to pay, direct patient care, or clinical competence. VA facility level managers, however, used an overly broad interpretation of the exceptions language to kill any attempt by the employees to bargain over virtually all significant workplace disputes, including number of patients assigned per physician and employment discrimination. Facility managers also overstepped their legislated authority by making bargaining determinations legally reserved for the Under Secretary of Health.
“This new legislation is a strong endorsement for equity in the workplace. The medical professionals in the VA are among the best in the world and they deserve the voice guaranteed them by Congress,” added Gage.