AFGE Testifies Before House and Senate Veterans' Affairs Committees on Collective Bargaining Rights
(WASHINGTON) – J. David Cox, national secretary-treasurer of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), testified last week before House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees on pending personnel legislation. Cox, who is also a retired Veterans Affairs (VA) registered nurse, commended Congressional leaders for their attention to the concerns of frontline VA health care providers.
“On behalf of our nearly 160,000 members in the VA, more than two-thirds of whom are on the front-lines of veterans’ care at VA hospitals, clinics, and long term care facilities, we would like to the thank the committee members for hearing our concerns,” said Cox.
The AFGE supported pending legislation aimed at increasing the VA’s ability to retain and recruit nurses, restoring collective bargaining rights, providing assured funding for VA health care, and expanding access to specialized care for women veterans.
AFGE commended Senator Rockefeller for introducing S. 2824 to restore collective bargaining rights, and cautioned Committee members that VA’s current assault on these rights undermines all other legislative efforts to address recruitment and retention because it deprives nurses and physicians of the ability to grieve or negotiate over management actions that fail to comply with laws on nurse schedules, physician pay and other personnel matters.
“Over the past seven years, the VA has undergone a sea change in personnel policies that now hamper efforts to recruit and retain quality staff,” added Cox. The VA’s current interpretation of Section 7422 of Title 38, that establishes collective bargaining rights for providers, widely impact employees’ rights to grievances, arbitrations, and labor-management negotiations, as well as employees ability to receive fair locality compensation.
Mr. Cox applauded Senate VA Committee Chair Akaka for introducing S. 2969, a comprehensive nurse bill addressing premium pay, mandatory overtime and educational loan assistance through a comprehensive bill aimed at making VA policies will be more consistent and competitive with those in the private sector.