WASHINGTON – Today, the American Federation of Government Employees, the largest federal employee union, representing over 265,000 employees at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), reached an historic settlement agreement with the VA that rolls back anti-worker actions taken by the previous administration and restores employee representational rights. The settlement agreement also resolves pending litigation and outlines the parameters for the upcoming negotiations of the new collective bargaining agreement, which is the largest union contract in the federal government.
In May 2018, the previous administration issued three anti-worker executive orders (EO) that severely restricted collective bargaining and union representation rights in the federal government. Although AFGE sued the previous administration over the legality of these EOs, which could not override CBAs, the VA implemented the illegal orders anyway, kicking unions off government property and refusing to honor the agency’s contractual obligation to meet with union officials to discuss new policies and issues around health and safety.
During his first week in office, President Biden issued EO 14003, which not only rescinded the three executive orders but also instructed agencies to promote collective bargaining within the federal government. Since then, AFGE locals have returned to their union offices and have regained their seat back at the negotiating table. This return to status quo was critical as local VA union officials were left out of important COVID-19 response discussions on measures to keep workers and veterans safe.
“For four years, our members fought back against the illegal, anti-worker policies implemented by the previous administration, which compromised the health and safety of VA workers and veterans alike during the pandemic,” said AFGE National President Everett Kelley. “We’re proud to have reached this historic settlement to reverse those anti-worker policies and reset the relationship between VA management and employees so that we can once again work together in good faith to make the VA a great place for employees to work and the recognized leader in veteran care.
“This settlement agreement sets a new standard for what labor-management relations in the federal government should look like. Now is the time for other agencies to follow suit,” Kelley added.
AFGE National VA Council and the VA are expected to return to the bargaining table within the next 4-6 months.
“AFGE NVAC has worked tirelessly to reach this settlement, which is a complete restoration of worker rights and reset of the previously toxic relationship between workers and VA leadership,” said AFGE NVAC President Alma Lee. “We look forward to the VA making good on the pro-collective bargaining promises of the administration and negotiating, in good faith, a new collective bargaining agreement that ensures the VA remains a great place for employees to work and for veterans to receive care.”