(WASHINGTON) – The American Federation of Government Employees, (AFGE) announced today that John Gage, AFGE national president, was invited to meet with U.S. Secretary of the Department of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. AFGE represents employees throughout the Department of Agriculture, including thousands of food inspectors in AFGE Council 45. Over the past eight years the union has fought vehemently against funding and staffing shortfalls throughout the department.
“I am very grateful for having the opportunity to meet with Secretary Vilsack. The USDA is facing critical challenges, now,” said Gage. “The department has been through several years of neglect and a political culture that favored meat and poultry producers over public safety. Our members are eager to work with Secretary Vilsack to enhance and ensure the safety of the nation’s food supply.”
According to the union, the invitation of National President John Gage to meet with Secretary Vilsack is a promising signal that the new administration will be receptive to the input of USDA employees. The previous administration had an adversarial relationship with federal unions and AFGE looks forward to a partnership with the new leaders in Washington. During the campaign and throughout the transition process AFGE has shared ideas with the Obama administration based on the expertise of their members on the frontlines of public service.
“After meeting with Secretary Vilsack, it is clear that this administration is serious about the need to refocus the department and the Food Safety Inspection Service agency to meet the needs of the American people,” said Gage. “The duties of our food safety inspectors are of the utmost importance to public safety.”
After media reports highlighting contaminations in produce, poultry, and meat; the safety of the U.S. food supply has been scrutinized by consumer advocates. According to union members in the food inspection agency, these critical lapses can be directly attributed to a lack of resources and staff monitoring food suppliers. AFGE has been vocal in its request for additional resources for the agency and is confident the Obama administration respects the needs of agency employees.
The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest federal employee union, representing 700,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia.