Press Release

Registered nurses applaud the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs passage of the VA Employee Fairness Act

Sign "Nurses and Veterans stand together"

National Nurses United (NNU) applauds the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs passage of the VA Employee Fairness Act today. H.R. 1948, sponsored by VA Committee Chairman Mark Takano, would guarantee full collective bargaining rights for nurses and other Title 38 clinicians working in the VA. The legislation would allow nurses to advocate for the highest quality of patient care without threat of retaliation.

“We are very encouraged that the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs understands how important it is for us to be able to advocate freely about the conditions that affect patient care,” said Irma Westmoreland, RN and chair of Veterans Affairs for NNU. “As nurses at the bedside, we are the voice for our patients, our nation’s veterans. Throughout this pandemic, nurses have courageously spoken up about unsafe staffing, insufficient supplies, and inappropriate nurse assignments despite being denied full collective bargaining rights, which left us open to retaliation. We look forward to this bill receiving swift consideration on the floor of the House of Representatives.”

The VA Employee Fairness Act of 2021, introduced by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA), passed the House committee today with a 17-11 vote.

Under the current law, Section 7422 of Title 38 restricts the collective bargaining rights of RNs and other clinical professionals over matters concerning professional conduct or competence, patient care, peer review, and compensation. The bill grants frontline nurses in the VA expanded collective bargaining rights, by repealing provisions from Section 7422.

Nurses say the passage of the VA Employee Fairness Act would improve recruitment and retention of experienced nurses in the VA and will help address the persistent high vacancy rate throughout the VA. Currently, the VA has nearly 7,000 vacant RN positions.

“Every nurse vacancy strains the system of care in the VA and adversely affects patients,” said Westmoreland. “We must do all we can to address the high turnover and vacancy rates at the VA in order to provide the highest quality of care to our veterans.”

Nurses note that President Biden’s Executive Order 14003 states that, “It is the policy of the United States to protect, empower, and rebuild the career Federal workforce. It is also the policy of the United States to encourage union organizing and collective bargaining. The Federal Government should serve as a model employer.”

Westmoreland adds, “The passage of the VA Employee Fairness Act is an important step towards President Bident’s vision of the federal government as a model employer. It is time that Congress rectify this unjust policy of denying full collective bargaining rights to nurses and other medical professionals who are dedicating themselves to the health and well-being of our veterans.”

National Nurses United is the largest and fastest-growing union and professional association of registered nurses in the United States with more than 170,000 members nationwide, including 12,000 RNs at 23 VA facilities across the country. NNU plays a leadership role in safeguarding the health and safety of RNs and their patients and has won landmark legislation in the areas of staffing, safe patient handling, infectious disease, and workplace violence prevention.