WASHINGTON - On Tuesday, negotiations over a new collective bargaining agreement began between the American Federation of Government Employees’ National VA Council (AFGE NVAC), the largest union representing over 283,000 VA workers, and the Veterans Affairs (VA) Department. The contract negotiations will focus on 12 articles, in which VA workers are demanding safer working conditions and adequate staffing levels to manage the COVID-19 pandemic, the space and equipment needed to ensure veterans receive the best care possible, and mechanisms to protect workers from the whims of management.
“Our union has worked tirelessly to reach this point, after years of defending the rights of VA workers against an onslaught of attacks by the previous administration,” said AFGE NVAC President Alma Lee. “Since the current administration took office, we have been able to reset the relationship between workers and VA leadership. But the health and safety of VA employees shouldn’t be contingent on who’s in office. That is why we need consistency and reliability built into a new collective bargaining agreement. As contract negotiations begin, we look forward to the VA making good on their pro-collective bargaining promises and negotiating, in good faith, a new contract that ensures the VA remains a great place for employees to work and for veterans to receive care.”
Since entering office, President Joe Biden’s administration, which promised to be the most pro-union administration in decades, has helped forge a more productive path forward for the new contract. In June 2021, AFGE NVAC reached a historic settlement agreement with the VA that rolled back anti-worker actions taken by the previous administration, restored employee representational rights, resolved pending litigation and outlined the parameters for the upcoming negotiations over the new collective bargaining agreement.
“For years, our members stood strong against the illegal, anti-worker policies of the previous administration, which threatened the health and safety of VA workers and veterans,” said AFGE National President Everett Kelley. “With the start of these negotiations, there is the potential to establish a collective bargaining agreement that sets a new standard for labor-management relations in the federal government. We hope the new contract is negotiated in good faith and ultimately serves as a model for other agencies across the federal government.”