ST. LOUIS – In the shadow of the John Cochran Veterans Affairs Medical Center, union workers at the facility held a rally. The workers, members of the American Federation of Government Employees rallied Saturday to protest three executive orders signed by President Trump in March.
One order aimed to make it easier for federal offices to fire poor-performing employees. Fred McDuff, AFGE Legislative Political Organizer, said employers usually need a cause and process before terminating a union worker. He said the new order would end due process and seniority protections.
“Somebody can be out here for 20 years, make a minor mistake, and they can get removed.”
Members said a second order that allows for the review of existing union contracts cuts into the rights of unions to collectively bargain.
A third executive order aimed to reduce wasteful spending by cutting on-the-clock union work by shop stewards. Donald White, Chief AFGE Steward at Harry S. Truman VA Hospital in Columbia said he is losing much-needed time and opportunities to defend workers against on-the-job discrimination and retaliation.
“Now, it’s 10 hours in a two-week pay period. Before, it would have been 32 hours in a two-week pay period.”
Some union workplaces collect “fair use” fees from non-union workers in exchange for promoting favorable working conditions for all employees. AFGE leaders said they do not collect those fees. Instead, they negotiated office space and office hours. For instance, White does his shop steward work in Harry S. Truman Hospital on the clock. Now, he is worried about the executive order cutting those hours and closing those offices will affect everyone who works in that hospital.
Edgar Evans is a Chief AFGE Steward at St. Louis’ Cochran VA Medical Center. He is also a patient. He is worried that the executive orders will hurt patient care and will lead to privatizing patient care.
“I just recently had to get a special procedure done at BJC. It took me over two months to in at BJC.”
There was a lot of shouting, a lot of horn honking and a little hope on Grand Boulevard. Lawyers from several unions are suing to stop the executive orders. There is a hearing in U.S. District Court July 25th.