WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs says it will no longer abide by provisions of the existing labor contract covering 260,000 employees represented by the American Federation of Government Employees and is threatening to evict union representatives from the worksite to enforce President Trump’s three anti-labor executive orders, the union said today.
The VA notified AFGE that it would begin charging the union for office space inside VA facilities that currently is provided at no cost under the existing labor contract. Locals that do not agree to pay for the office space will be evicted from the worksite – impeding the union’s ability to effectively represent employees.
“This is a punitive and illegal action that’s intended to silence employees and discourage them from reporting mismanagement or other abuses that harm veterans’ care,” AFGE National VA Council President Alma Lee said. “We will pursue any and all legal options at the national and local levels to challenge this illegal activity and preserve employees’ collective bargaining rights.”
Denying employees access to their union representatives at the worksite is one of many anti-labor provisions outlined in three executive orders President Trump issued in May 2018 that AFGE and other unions have challenged in the courts. Even though a federal court has lifted a previous injunction, the administration cannot begin implementing provisions that violate existing collective bargaining agreements without first negotiating the changes with labor unions.
“This is a coordinated plan on behalf of the White House to sew chaos and confusion inside the VA during the middle of ongoing negotiations,” AFGE National Secretary-Treasurer Everett Kelley said. “I’m frankly disgusted by the administration’s puppets who are blindly following its anti-union playbook, even when it is clear that doing so threatens the VA’s operations and will harm veterans in communities across this nation who our members serve every day.”
In the meantime, AFGE is advising its locals to preserve union records, personnel files, and other important documents in the event they are denied access to union offices.
“AFGE is ready and willing to negotiate a new contract that equips employees with the resources and support they need to serve our veterans,” Lee said. “We call on VA management to come to the table and engage in good-faith bargaining instead of attempting to enforce these illegal provisions.”