House Legislation Takes Aim at VA Union ‘Bribes’

Legislation introduced to the House of Representatives by Congressman Neal Dunn (R-FL) would bar the Veterans Affairs (VA) secretary from entering into collective bargaining agreements that offer “financial incentives to prospective members.” House Republicans have expressed support for the measure which union leaders have called a waste of time.

The VA Workplace Integrity Act was introduced last week with one cosponsor and referred to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs which Rep. Dunn sits on.

According to Dunn’s office, new hires at the VA are often approached by the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) union representatives and offered $100 to join the union on the spot. Dunn argues this influence makes it difficult to make an informed decision on union membership.

“Manipulating new federal employees at the VA to join a union with a $100 bribe as they walk in the door is unethical. Federal employees should have the freedom to choose whether or not they join a union and participate in union activities on their own accord. The undue pressure and financial commitment associated with joining a union is something that should not be taken lightly,” said Rep. Dunn.

Andrew Huddleston, an AFGE spokesman, described the characterization of financial incentives as bribes “strange.”

According to GovExec, Huddleston said the rebates were intended only to make membership more accessible to employees who may otherwise face a financial burden in paying their dues. He equated the practice to an organization like the AARP offering a temporary 20% discount on its dues to recruit new members.

J. David Cox, AFGE national president, said "Every American who buys groceries, makes a big purchase, or joins an organization with monthly fees understands how discounts and rebates work.”

He added that doing "actual, substantive oversight work" and tackling the vacancies issue would "actually help some of our nation’s veterans.”

House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Ranking Member, Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN), described the practice as “ethically questionable” and applauded Rep. Dunn for introducing the legislation.

Earlier this month Rep. Dunn sent a letter to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie asking for additional information on the practice and for a general counsel ruling on its legality.

Posted in From the Hill

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