Government Union Bosses Victimize Sick Veterans

david-shulkin
David Shulkin, the VA secretary, is well aware that far too many VA employee hours are “being spent away from clinical duties and other duties” due to union “official time.” But his power to stop it is minimal. CREDIT: Zach Gibson/AFP-Getty Images

Nearly 350 VA Employees Did Union Work 100% of the Time in 2015

For several years now, media reports of agonizingly long waits for many Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) applicants seeking medical care, and the inability of many sick veterans to get any care at all, have enraged and saddened Americans.

But so far little has been done to stop federal union bosses who wield monopoly-bargaining power over roughly 77% of VA employees from exploiting that power to enable hundreds of VA employees to collect their taxpayer-funded paychecks while doing union work full-time.

During Fiscal Year (FY) 2015, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), VA employees spent nearly 1.1 million hours on so-called “official time” for “union representational activities.”

Law Herding Federal Workers Into Unions Should Be Voided

“The institutionalized mistreatment of sick and injured veterans by the VA powerfully illustrates why the so-called Civil Service ‘Reform’ Act [CSRA] of 1978 ought to be repealed by Congress as soon as possible,” said National Right to Work Committee Vice President Mary King.

The CSRA statutorily imposed union monopoly bargaining over employee disciplinary procedures and other work rules.

Effectively, this Jimmy Carter-era law makes power-mad federal union bosses like AFGE President J. David Cox co-managers of the scandal-ridden VA.

And, as Betsy McCaughey, New York’s former lieutenant governor, explained in a May 2014 column for the New York Post, the AFGE union contract at the VA is “filled with mind-numbing rules.”

These Big Labor work rules prevent workers from being “given a new task,” required to “change shifts, or . . . disciplined for shoddy work.”

Dr. McCaughey concluded that, unless monopolistic unionism at the VA is eliminated or at least rolled back significantly, “the inefficiencies and corruption won’t be fixed.”

Federal union bosses even oppose a VA program rolled out in the summer of 2013 to “refer vets needing specialists to civilian medical centers, if the wait at their VA is too long or if they live too far away,” as Dr. McCaughey put it.

Employees Paid ‘to Represent The Union and Not’ Perform ‘Clinical and Other Duties’

“It’s likely that the vast majority of veterans who need surgery and are 65 or over, and thus eligible for Medicare, would be better off being operated on at civilian hospitals, which have better survival rates for the procedures senior citizens most often require,” said Ms. King.

“But, as shocking as it sounds, for Organized Labor bosses like AFGE czar Cox, it is apparently more important to keep increasing the number of VA employees subject to federal union control than it is to furnish ailing vets with what they need.”

“Official time” is one of the most outrageous abuses resulting from union monopoly bargaining at the VA and other federal and state agencies.

According to a GAO report issued this January, during FY 2015, at the VA alone, a total of at least 346 employees spent 100% of their work time on “official time.”

In an analysis for FedSmith, veteran federal human-resources specialist Ralph Smith cogently explained what this means: “[T]he entire salary and benefits paid by the agency for these 346 employees were spent for the employees to represent the union and not [perform] clinical or other duties for the VA.”

Serve Veterans First Act a Step in the Right Direction

“Until the day Congress finally steps up to the plate and repeals all the monopoly-bargaining provisions in the CSRA,” said Ms. King, “taxpayers at least shouldn’t be forced to fund union class warfare and lobbying under the guise of ‘official time.’

“That’s why the Serve Veterans First Act, or S.1477, is a significant, albeit modest, step in the right direction.”

The Serve Veterans First Act would mitigate the harm union monopoly bargaining inflicts on VA patients by ensuring no VA employee is paid for union or union organizing activities until all veterans seeking hospital care or other medical services from the VA are able to receive an appointment within 30 days.

Ms. King promised the Committee would work to ensure that S.1477 is brought up for debate and recorded votes in the Senate.

(Source: September 2017 National Right To Work Newsletter)