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The MTD-affiliated American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is calling out the White House’s latest attempt to cut back union stewards’ efforts to represent workers at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Announced on November 8, the VA stated it plans to move about 430 AFGE members who have been performing union work under federal statutory ‘official time’ back to working fulltime health jobs within the department. These AFGE stewards handle grievances and other problems within the jurisdiction of the VA collective bargaining agreement. The stewards have to represent all workers – whether or not they pay union dues.

“Removing access to this time is like asking the fire department to operate without fire trucks or a firehose,’ declared AFGE National President (and MTD Executive Board Member) J. David Cox. “The result will be just as disastrous for our veterans.”

Cox explained, “Clinicians use official time to raise concerns about patient safety, access to care and staffing shortages. Silencing their voices endangers our veterans.

“Union leaders and members working at VA facilities across the country ensure that our veterans are treated properly and are provided the care they are owed,” added Cox, who started his AFGE career as a VA nurse. “They have blown the whistle on wait-list scandals, fought back against the gender-pay disparity and brought to light the rampant understaffing throughout the VA.”

AFGE noted the 430 members who set to be cut from official-time work will make a small dent in the 45,000 vacancies throughout the department, “including 35,000 vacant health care positions in the VA.”

Cox noted, “The Trump administration already has been rebuked twice for trying to deny workers their representational rights. The administration needs to stop playing politics with our veterans’ care and fill the vacancies.”