Federal employees serving veterans at the Veterans Affairs (VA ) have been vocal about needing more COVID-19 guidelines, protections and pay for working in a potentially dangerous environment. They finally believe help is on the way.
American Federation of Government Employees Local 31 President Darryll Bell said elected officials are beginning to pay attention when he appeared on America’s Work Force Union Podcast. He also discussed the need to strengthen labor law and more.
Protecting workers during the COVID-19 pandemic
Bell said a pay increase should have happened at the beginning of the pandemic, but ultimately did not. The bill passed the House of Representatives but was not brought for a vote in the Republican controlled Senate.
The workers would have been able to use the extra pay to afford child care for those out of school and other essential needs, Bell added.
In terms of physical safety, Bell said the situation has improved. Citing more consistent guidelines, increased safety precautions and increased remote work opportunities, Bell was confident in saying the situation has improved.
Strengthening labor law
Bell strongly advocated for labor law reforms and other measures to level the playing field between workers and employers. The most notable labor law change Bell would like to see is the passage of the PRO Act, which would greatly strengthen workers rights.
President Biden has been signing executive orders to roll back President Trump’s anti-worker orders. Although these orders are signed, they have very little power. Bell said the PRO Act is needed to solidify what is in the executive orders.
Contracting in the federal government and filling positions
Finally, Bell discussed the contracting process and hiring more people in various governmental agencies. While he said there are some instances where contracting is helpful, many of the jobs can be handled internally by those who are already federal employees.
He ended by giving an update on the many vacancies within the VA. These positions are slowly being filled, giving promise to those who have been overworked for some time.