WASHINGTON – The American Federation of Government Employees and its National Veterans Affairs Council (NVAC) today applauded the leadership of Rep. Adam Schiff of California for his introduction of the “Improving Clinical Care Workforce for Our Vets Act,” legislation that would restore equal bargaining rights to Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care professionals.
Under the current Title 38 personnel system, registered nurses, physicians, dentists, physician assistants and several other groups of VA professionals lack full collective bargaining rights. AFGE also thanks cosponsors Reps. Michael Honda of California, Chris Van Hollen of Maryland and Tim Walz of Minnesota for their support of this critical legislation for ensuring a strong VA health care system.
“Simply put, our health care professionals deserve better,” said AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. “We will continue to fight and work with our allies in Congress who understand that those who care for our veterans deserve fair and just treatment on the job.”
Congressman Schiff’s bill would amend 38 USC 7422, enacted in 1991, to ensure that these clinicians have equal bargaining rights as other federal employees. For the past decade, the agency has applied Section 7422 extremely broadly as a means of denying medical professionals the ability to bargain over routine workplace matters.
Last fall, the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs voted favorably on companion bill S.1556, which was introduced by Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio and cosponsored by Senators Mark Begich of Alaska and Jeff Merkley of Oregon. Several veterans’ groups have also expressed their support for these legislative changes in Congressional testimony.
“These dedicated employees have waited long enough,” said AFGE NVAC President Alma Lee. “The agency has continued to apply an overly broad and harmful interpretation of this law. It is time for legislative action. This policy severely weakens the VA’s ability to recruit and retain a strong workforce. What’s more, it denies a select group of workers, caring for our nation’s heroes, an equal voice at work. We applaud Rep. Schiff’s leadership on this issue and urge his colleagues to follow suit.”
“Equal bargaining rights allows our dedicated VA nurses and physicians to speak up for patient care and decent working conditions,” added Cox. “To ensure that veterans get safe, quality care at every VA facility, our clinicians need a voice to speak up for adequate staffing, safe schedules and other workplace practices that impact patient care.”