U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced legislation to support healthcare workers at Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facilities. The VA Employee Fairness Act would help build and retain a strong, talented team of nurses, physicians, and other healthcare professionals by restoring the right to bargain for wages and benefits for VA medical professionals. Ohio is home to five VA medical facilities in Chillicothe, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, and Dayton.
“Creating a better workplace for vha nurses, doctors, and other healthcare providers will lead to higher quality care for Ohio veterans,” said Brown. “All workers should have the opportunity to bargain for better wages, benefits, and working conditions – including those serving the veterans health administration who care for our veterans.”
While VA employees have had collective bargaining rights since 1991, health care providers are exempted from collective bargaining on matters of professional conduct or competence, peer-review, or changes to employee compensation. As a result, they are prevented from raising grievances about staffing shortages that undermine patient care or negotiating for competitive pay that will attract health care workers to the VA. The VA Employee Fairness Act removes this exemption, and grants front line health care providers their full collective bargaining rights.
U.S. Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA-41) introduced a House companion bill.
“The quality of care our veterans receive is ultimately determined by the quality of the VA workforce that treats them,” said Rep. Takano. “We need to focus our efforts on recruiting the best doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals to VA health facilities and this bill is a step in the right direction.”
The VA Employee Fairness Act is supported by the American Federation Government Employees (AFGE) and National Nurses United.
“The Employee Fairness Act will make the VA stronger and continue its reputation as a world-class health care system for our nation’s veterans,” said AFGE National President J. David Cox. “The act will help the va recruit and retain much-needed front-line doctors and nurses at medical centers across the country. This legislation will ensure those workers have strong workplace rights and are not silenced when they advocate for improvements to veterans’ care.”
“Registered nurses are on the front lines of patient care for our nation’s veterans – in fact, they serve as the first line of defense for patients in the V.A.,” said Jean Ross, RN, Co-President of National Nurses United. “Without full collective bargaining rights, V.A. nurses have been limited in their ability to speak out about working conditions that impact the quality and safety of patient care, such as safe staffing.
“The restoration of their full collective bargaining rights is necessary for registered nurses to serve as effective advocates for their patients,” she continued. “We applaud Senator Brown and Rep. Takano for fighting for improved patient care in the V.A., and the restoration of the rights of RNS in the V.A.”