Protect VA Patients and Nurses: Support S. 1556 and H.R. 4580
National Nurses United, 7/16/14
Ensure Strong Patient Advocacy and Collective Bargaining Rights
Certain Veterans Affairs (VA) professionals gained the right to bargain collectively in 1991. They have the right to negotiate, file grievances, and arbitrate disputes over working conditions, except for matters concerning or arising out of professional conduct or competence, peer review, or compensation (Section 7422 of Title 38 of the U.S. code). However, over the last several years, the interpretation of the statute’s exemptions to collective bargaining has broadened considerably, leaving workers with few meaningful collective bargaining rights.
These exemptions are unfortunate for both workers and patients. The collective bargaining process is key to providing healthcare that is centered on the patient. Registered nurses (RNs), as the frontline workers in the healthcare system, have a right and a duty to be patient advocates. As such, they are quite motivated and well qualified to advocate for the highest quality care available for the heroic men and women who have laid their lives and health on the line in defense of our nation. Previous legislation to remove such restrictions was supported by the Disabled American Veterans, Paralyzed Veterans of America, and Vietnam Veterans of America.
S. 1556 (introduced by Senators Brown, Begich and Merkley) and H.R. 4580 (introduced by Representatives Schiff, Honda, Walz and Van Hollen) would bring the collective bargaining rights of RNs at the VA in line with those of other VA clinicians, such as LPNs, nursing assistants, and nursing unit clerks. These bills would also give RNs at the VA the same rights that RNs at other agencies are entitled to, such as at the Department of Defense.
Please support S. 1556 and H.R. 4580 to remove the exemptions to Section 7422 of Title 38. It is a matter of basic fairness and patient safety.