Hines VA Stewards Say the Ability to Use “Official Time” Is an Essential Tool to Enforce Union Contracts, Resolve Grievances, and Hold Management Accountable
(August 25th, 2018, Chicago) – A federal district judge from D.C. ruled against President Trump’s executive orders aimed at federal unions and essentially called the President’s actions illegal and reversed the administration’s anti-union policies. The Trump administration sought to stop federal unions from using “official time” for stewards to resolve grievances and enforce contracts while working on the clock, as well as making it easier to fire federal workers.
Union stewards at the VA and members of SEIU Healthcare Illinois Indiana responded to today’s news.
Jeanne Harris, a 15-year steward at Hines VA and healthcare tech in the nursing department stated:
“The Court rightfully sided with federal workers that union contracts simply can’t be wiped away with the stroke of a pen or on the whim of any President. Using official time is how we improve patient care within the VA. Our frontline hospital workers need to know that if and when we see issues within the VA that need to be addressed, or witness poor management, that workers won’t be retaliated against if we report a concern,” said Harris.
Melody Young, an LPN as Hines VA echoed that sentiment. “Government agencies, especially the VA, need strong and effective unions. Addressing issues with management, improving processes and demanding accountability shouldn’t be a ‘volunteer activity’ after work hours.”
The VA has a $200 billion budget that cares for over 9 million veterans and is tasked with running 170 medical centers and 1,061 outpatient clinics. This is all the more reason why stewards must be able to address issues within the sprawling bureaucracy.
Jeanne Harris added that, “Unions are advocates for patients, families, and co-workers. These ongoing attacks against our fellow federal workers are self-defeating and must stop from the Trump administration. That’s why we rallied outside Hines VA to stand up for our rights and why I’m calling upon all my fellow VA hospital workers to join our union to strengthen our voices and demonstrate our true power.”