VA employee union plans Saturday protest over safety

Friday, December 11, 2020

Local members of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) union are expected to protest outside the John J. Pershing VA Medical Center today over a variety of complaints.

According to a press releasing, a group will be out between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Participants are expected to be spaced six feet apart to comply with social distancing.

Members are demanding a “meeting with the VA workplace safety director, a fair union contract, adequate personal protective equipment (PPE), COVID-19 testing, hazardous duty pay, proper staffing and management accountability,” according to a press release.

Participants in a protest Saturday stand on Westwood Boulevard across from John J. Pershing VA Medical Center. Members of Local members of the American Federation of Government Employees union have said the VA has not addressed safety concerns, including mold in the building. The VA said federal agencies, including OSHA, have investigated and have not found evidence of the concerns cited.
DAR/Donna Farley

“AFGE’s comments lack credibility considering that during the pandemic, John J. Pershing VA Medical Center’s employees have monitored or provided life-saving care to more than 600 veterans seeking care related to COVID while adhering to safety practices that have limited its current COVID employee infection rate to 1.8%,” according to a statement from VA officials.

The union alleges members reported mold in the facility dating back to 2014, including running a mold test, but management did not take steps to correct the situation.

They also allege that three out of the four buildings now have mold in the walls and floors, including the closure of one room where it was found during renovations earlier this year.

“The John J. Pershing VA Medical Center takes all complaints seriously and has had each complaint promptly investigated by experts,” officials said. “As a result of those investigations, VHA regional and national safety and industrial hygiene experts, OSHA and the Office of Medical Inspectors have concluded employees are working in a safe environment.

“Mold is ubiquitous in this geographical region, and any time mold issues have been identified they are promptly mitigated.”

The union also alleges that at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, staff members “raised the alarm” about a PPE shortage, but that concern wasn’t listened to.

“There have been no negotiations with the local union on the issue of personal protective equipment (PPE) and it is important to note that the medical center has more than a 90-day supply of PPE to continually protect employees.

“Additionally, the John J. Pershing VA Medical Center has adequate staffing, capacity, PPE and supplies to meet current demand.”

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