Press Release

RNs applaud the reintroduction of the VA Employee Fairness Act

VA nurses marching with signs "VA nurses deserve respect now"

The bill grants full collective bargaining rights for nurses and other clinicians 

National Nurses United (NNU) applauds Sen. Sherrod Brown’s (D-OH) reintroduction of the VA Employee Fairness Act this week. The bill, which grants full collective bargaining rights to registered nurses and other clinicians in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) by repealing Section 7422 of Title 38 of U.S. Code, is an essential part of ensuring that our nation’s heroes receive the highest quality care possible.

The VA Employee Fairness Act passed the House of Representatives during the last session in December with bipartisan support and received the support of the Biden administration. S.4046 was introduced with 14 original cosponsors in the U.S. Senate yesterday.

Section 7422 contains broad restrictions to collective-bargaining rights for RNs and other clinical professionals over matters concerning professional conduct or competence (including direct patient care and clinical competence), peer review, and compensation. It is of critical importance that registered nurses and other healthcare professionals have the ability to speak up over issues in the workplace to improve working conditions to have better clinician recruitment, retention, and quality patient care. All of these issues take on an even greater importance in the wake of the recent passage of the PACT Act, which is expected to bring an additional 3.5 million patients into the VA. Without the ability to include these issues as part of the bargaining agreement, the quality of patient care can deteriorate and serious problems in VHA facilities can go unaddressed.

“The VA Employee Fairness Act brings the collective bargaining rights of VA nurses in line with nurses in Department of Defense health care facilities, other unionized federal employees, and nurses in the private sector,” said Irma Westmoreland, RN, and chair of Veterans Affairs for NNU. “By granting VA nurses the ability to bargain collectively on issues related to patient care, the VA Employee Fairness Act would make the VA a safer place both for nurses and our veterans.”

“All VA health care workers should have a voice in the workplace and the freedom to advocate for their patients. It’s good for workers and it’s good for veterans,” said Sen. Brown. “This legislation will allow the VA to recruit the most talented staff, and allow these essential workers to advocate for patient safety and improved healthcare, which will ensure that the VA is doing its job serving those who sacrificed so much to serve us.”

The VA Employee Fairness Act is also endorsed by the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), the National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE), and the National Association of Government Employees (NAGE-SEIU).

NNU represents registered nurses at 23 VA facilities across the country, many of whom are veterans themselves.