FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 13, 2017

Contact:
Tim Kauffman

202-639-6405/202-374-6491
tim.kauffman@afge.org

VA Union: Congressman Seeks to Undermine Rights of Veterans’ Advocates

Rep. Arrington's anti-union bill would erode working conditions at VA facilities, AFGE says

WASHINGTON – Union-busting legislation affecting workers at the Department of Veterans Affairs would wreck the agency's ability to serve veterans, said J. David Cox Sr., a former VA nurse who now leads the largest union representing VA workers, the American Federation of Government Employees.

President Cox issued the following statement on H.R. 1461, which was introduced by Rep. Jody Arrington of Texas:

"Congressman Arrington's bill is nothing but union busting, an attempt to silence the men and women who care for veterans at VA facilities. The bill's message is that these patriotic Americans, more than a third of whom are veterans themselves, are somehow responsible for instances of agency mismanagement. The truth is that managers and political appointees are responsible for mismanagement, not the frontline employees Representative Arrington is attacking.

"Workers at the VA need protection from dishonest, inept, and corrupt VA management just as much as veterans do. That's why they vote to join together in a union that can stand up and tell the public about waste, fraud, and abuse.

"Representative Arrington's bill, parading as a way to protect veterans from the very people who protect and care for them, would make it almost impossible for elected union shop stewards and local presidents to do the work current law promotes: resolving conflict and helping management make more informed and pro-veteran decisions on resource allocation, training, technology needs. These are laws that have led to resolving conflict and helping management make more informed and pro-veteran decisions on resource allocation, training, technology needs. These are laws that have led to good public administration for more than four decades, and this bill would effectively throw the whole structure into chaos.

"Those bent on undermining the VA to the point where privatization will start looking like the only alternative should cheer this bill. But anyone who cherishes the excellence of the VA health care system and recognizes its extraordinary cost-effectiveness should go all out to defeat it.

"Rep. Arrington's bill does two main things. It takes away the ability of agency leaders and hospital directors and their employee representatives to determine the appropriate amount of time needed for formal agency labor-management relations, and it destabilizes the union by inviting members to withdraw from the union on a daily basis.

"No one should be fooled by the false rhetoric surrounding Rep. Arrington's bill. It will hurt care at VA hospitals, it will hurt efforts to recruit high-quality personnel for the 45,000 positions currently vacant, and it will undermine accountability to the public to such a degree that we will never hear about mismanagement, waste, fraud, and abuse until it is far too late."

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