February 14, 2019

Warren Joins Brown, Colleagues in Introducing VA Employee Fairness Act

Bill Allows Physicians, Nurses, and Other Health Care Workers to Collectively Bargain

Bill Text (PDF)

Washington, DC - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) joined Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and four of their Senate colleagues in introducing the VA Employee Fairness Act to support the goal of building a talented workforce to care for America's veterans. The bill would create a better environment for attracting and retaining physicians, nurses, and other health care professionals by restoring collective bargaining rights to workers at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

Senators Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) are also original cosponsors of the bill.

"A strong VA workforce makes for a strong VA. We should ensure our veterans receive the health care they deserve and one important way we can accomplish this goal is to strengthen the collective bargaining rights of VA employees, many of whom served our country in uniform," said Senator Warren. "I'm glad to support a bill that restores fairness for these health care professionals." 

"The nurses, physicians, and health care workers at our nation's VA medical centers, many of whom are veterans themselves, are the best at what they do. When they are able to collectively bargain and have their voices heard in the workplace, care improves for veterans. At a time when Americans are working harder and earning less for the time they put in, we should be making it easier for all workers to advocate for better working conditions, which leads to better veteran services and care," said Senator Sherrod Brown.

 "Veterans are provided the best quality and timely care when the VA workforce can thrive," said Representative Mark Takano. "With more than 40,000 employee vacancies in the VHA alone, it is crucial to ensure that doctors, nurses, and other medical professional are equipped with the best tools to retain and recruit the best talent to serve veterans - this bill will help make that possible."

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.

The VA Employee Fairness Act is supported by the American Federation Government Employees (AFGE) and National Nurses United.