As a union member and retired federal employee with 32 years working for the U.S. Department of Defense, I am appalled by the threats by representatives of the Department of Veterans Affairs to evict union representatives from the worksite and their disregard for the well-being of our nation’s veterans.
VA employees dedicate their lives to serving our heroic veterans — more than one-third of them are veterans themselves — and have a special bond with the veterans in our communities. VA managers don’t seem to understand that, or, if they do, they don’t seem to care.
Denying employees access to their labor representatives at the worksite is blatant union busting and violates the existing contract between the VA and its largest union, the American Federation of Government Employees. This is a punitive and illegal action that is intended to silence employees and discourage employees from reporting mismanagement or other abuses that harm veterans’ care.
Making it harder for employees to raise and resolve problems in the workplace will have a direct impact on the care that veterans receive as issues such as health and safety violations go unreported. Employees absolutely should identify anything impacting care of our veterans. They absolutely should not have to worry that doing so will lead to discipline or removal, but that’s the position the VA wants them to be in.
While the VA claims it’s merely trying to enforce three executive orders issued by President Donald Trump last year, those orders themselves clearly prevent agencies from implementing provisions that violate existing collective bargaining agreements without first negotiating the changes with labor unions.
If VA leaders really care about providing the best service to our nation’s veterans, they will stop these illegal union-busting actions and engage in good-faith bargaining on a contract that equips employees with the resources and support they need to succeed.