(WASHINGTON) – The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) today applauded the efforts of Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and Representative Bob Filner, Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs for authoring legislation to amend Section 7422 of Title 38, expanding the workplace voice and negotiating rights of physicians, dentists, registered nurses and other frontline health care employees in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
Sen. Rockefeller and Rep. Filner introduced legislation, S.362 and H.R. 949, clarifying Congress’ clear intent to afford VA health care professionals the same collective bargaining rights enjoyed by their counterparts in military hospitals and Bureau of Prison facilities “This critical legislation will go a along way to ensure that the VA is a model employer who can compete for the best health care professionals to care for our veterans,” said J. David Cox, AFGE national secretary-treasurer.
Over thirty years ago, Congress recognized the importance of collective bargaining rights when it enacted the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978, declaring that collective bargaining rights are in the public interest. Since that time, employees throughout the federal government have utilized collective bargaining to voice concerns about important workplace matters. Congress took action again in 1991 to ensure equal bargaining rights for VA health care professionals by enacting Section 7422 of Title 38. However, over the past six years, the VA has increasingly used this section of the law to directly contradict Congressional intent and deprive these clinicians of the very same rights used every day by their colleagues working side by side with them at the VA, such as pharmacists, social workers, psychologists and licensed practical nurses.
“Collective bargaining rights play a critical role in improving public safety and the quality of public services provided by federal, state, and local governments, including safe air travel, crime control, and safe health care,” said J. David Cox, AFGE national secretary-treasurer. “Congress outlined its intent to afford VA employees the same collective bargaining rights as other federal employees, but unfortunately for the VA workforce and the veterans they care for, the VA’s current human resources policy has acted contrary to that intent.”