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Union urges Congress to pass measure expanding collective bargaining rights for VA staff

FILE – In this June 21, 2013, file photo, the seal affixed to the front of the Department of Veterans Affairs building in Washington. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

The largest union representing employees of the federal government called on Congress to pass legislation to expand collective bargaining rights for Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) staff. 

The American Federation of Government Employees said in a release on Tuesday that the VA Employee Fairness Act of 2021 would allow thousands of VA employees like doctors, registered nurses and dentists to have full collective bargaining rights to negotiate better working conditions. 

“Passage of the VA Employee Fairness Act is critical to recruiting and retaining top talent at VA facilities, which are already severely understaffed and underfunded,” Everett Kelley, the union’s national president, said in the release. “The extreme limitations placed upon the collective bargaining rights of VA medical professionals are unwarranted and unjust.” 

Kelley said certain VA employees already have these rights, but certain medical professionals in the department do not. He said others who have the same jobs as the medical professionals in other agencies also have these rights. 

The release states that physicians, podiatrists, optometrists, chiropractors and physician assistants are among the medical professionals barred from having full collective bargaining rights. They also cannot raise grievances about staffing shortages or negotiate for competitive awards that could attract future VA employees. 

“For decades, the VA has been chronically understaffed, losing medical professionals to private sector practices that provide better working conditions and competitive salaries,” Alma Lee, the president of the union’s national VA council, said in the release. “To ensure our VA is fully equipped to service our veterans, it is critical that all VA workers have a voice on the job, regardless of their job title.” 

The release states the legislation, introduced by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.), has received more than 200 bipartisan co-sponsors in the House.

Tags Alma Lee Collective bargaining collective bargaining rights Department of Veterans Affairs Everett Kelley Mark Takano Sherrod Brown The American Federation of Government Employees The VA Employee Fairness Act Union Union United States House of Representatives

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