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Archive for the ‘veterans’ Category

News from Congress: VA Employees' Civil Service Protections Slashed

Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

On June 23, 2017, the President signed into law Pub.L. 115-41.  The new statute reduces civil service protections for employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA).

Pub.L. 115-41 renews the push to cut back VA civil service protections, after the prior attempt under the last Administration saw adverse actions reversed at the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) and portions of the statute struck down as unconstitutional.

Pub.L. 115-41 is more expansive than the prior statute.  Instead of just applying to Senior Executive Service (SES) employees at DVA, the statute applies to all DVA civil service employees, but different rules apply to different categories of employees.

SES employees and certain other individuals in executive or administrative positions can be removed, suspended, reprimanded, involuntarily reassigned or demoted by the Secretary, with notice and opportunity to respond to the proposal limited to 7 business days and the overall period from proposal to decision limited to 15 business days.  Affected DVA employees lose MSPB appeal rights.  Instead, adverse actions taken under this mechanism may solely be grieved to a new DVA internal grievance process, with a final decision due within 21 days.  Final decisions by DVA are then subject to judicial review.

Other DVA employees also suffer cuts to their civil service protections.  Under Pub.L. 115-41, affected employees may receive proposed adverse actions from the Secretary, with notice and opportunity to respond to the proposal limited to 7 business days and the overall period from proposal to decision limited to 15 business days.  MSPB appeal rights are retained, but the appeal deadline is cut to 10 business days.  The MSPB administrative judge must issue a final decision within 180 days.  The VA’s burden of proof to support its charges is cut to mere substantial evidence.  The MSPB may not mitigate to a lesser penalty (it must uphold the penalty or reverse entirely).

Pub.L. 115-41 moves into statute the DVA whistleblower office created by Executive Order 13,793.  The Secretary cannot remove, demote or suspend non-executive whistleblowers with active cases before the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) or the DVA whistleblower office without permission of the relevant whistleblower office.

Pub.L. 115-41 also allows the Secretary to disallow retirement service credit for DVA employees who are convicted of felonies.  Pub.L. 115-41 also allows the Secretary to claw back bonuses, awards and relocation expenses paid to DVA employees under certain circumstances.

This blog was originally published by The Attorneys of Passman & Kaplan, PC on July 7, 2017. Reprinted with permission.

About the Authors: Founded in 1990 by Edward H. Passman and Joseph V. Kaplan, Passman & Kaplan, P.C., Attorneys at Law, is focused on protecting the rights of federal employees and promoting workplace fairness.  The attorneys of Passman & Kaplan (Edward H. Passman, Joseph V. Kaplan, Adria S. Zeldin, Andrew J. Perlmutter, Johnathan P. Lloyd and Erik D. Snyder) represent federal employees before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), the Office of Special Counsel (OSC), the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and other federal administrative agencies, and also represent employees in U.S. District and Appeals Courts.

Construction Unions Help Wounded Veteran Renovate Virginia Home

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016
Kenneth Quinnell

Last weekend, Washington, D.C.-area construction unions worked with the Wounded Warrior Project torenovate the Virginia home of a veteran wounded while serving in the Iraq War. Marine Cpl. Brandon Burns was wounded by sniper fire in Al Falluja, Iraq, in 2004, and the left side of his body has been paralyzed since. Now the man who paid a big cost in service of his country is getting much-needed renovations to his home.

Watch the video or read more.

This blog originally appeared in aflcio.org on March 12, 2016. Reprinted with permission.

Kenneth Quinnell is a long time blogger, campaign staffer, and political activist.  Prior to joining AFL-CIO in 2012, he worked as a labor reporter for the blog Crooks and Liars.  He was the past Communications Director for Darcy Burner and New Media Director for Kendrick Meek.  He has over ten years as a college instructor teaching political science and American history.

This Veterans Day

Wednesday, November 11th, 2015

grace baehrenThis Veterans Day we’d like to take a moment to thank all veterans for their service and sacrifice for our country. In turn, we’d like to make sure that veterans are aware of their rights in the civilian workplace. At the federal level, the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA) is the main source of protections for veterans in the civilian workplace.

USERRA has two main goals:

  • To ensure that veterans seeking civilian employment can do so free from discrimination because of their service; and
  • That should a veteran need to take military leave — or is activated from reserve to active duty status – they can retain their civilian employment and benefits.

Generally, a veteran is eligible for USERRA benefits if they left a civilian job to perform military service and:

– Have given prior written or verbal notice of the military leave to their civilian employer;

– Have 5 years or less of cumulative service during the employment relationship with the civilian employer;

– Have been released from service under conditions other than dishonorable;

– And return to work, or apply for reemployment, at their civilian job in a timely manner after the completion of service.

For more information on veterans’ rights under USERRA and how to enforce these rights, see our page on military leave.

Additionally, it is important to know your state’s laws on military leave. While some state laws merely reinforce the USERRA benefits, others include additional benefits for veterans. To view the applicable laws for your state, see our State Laws on Military Leave page.

Finally, veterans should be aware of the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Act (VEVRAA), which provides additional protections to “protected veterans” who are employed by federal contractors. Protected veterans are defined to include disabled veterans and veterans who are recently separated (are within the initial 3 year period after discharge or release from active duty). VEVRAA makes it illegal for federal contractors to discriminate against protected veterans in employment decisions and further requires that federal contractors take affirmative action to recruit, hire, and promote protected veterans. For more information on VEVRAA see this fact sheet from the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contractor Compliance Programs.

About the Author: The author’s name is Grace Baehren. Grace Baehren is a student at The University of Hawaii’s William S. Richardson School of Law and an intern at Workplace Fairness.

Veterans working for government contractor forced to attend anti-union meetings at Fort Lewis

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

Mark E. AndersonYou survive two combat tours and you come home and find a job as a mechanic, refurbishing the Stryker combat vehicles that protected you while you were in a hostile land, with a government contractor that pays a decent wage. The workforce is about 50 percent veteran and 50 percent civilian. Your work place is on post at Fort Lewis, Washington.

You and your coworkers want to join Local 286 of the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE). Your employer, General Dynamics, does not want you to join a union.

Jason Croic, a Marine combat veteran, is one of those veterans:

We have had these meetings where they provided one side of the story. The message is we won’t be as employable to the Army as we are now because we won’t be as versatile. Being non-union, they say we are more attractive to the Army because we can be moved around easier. I think it’s bullshit the way they are talking to us,”says Croic. “You think when it’s prior military veterans who have done their part, they wouldn’t do this kind of thing to us.

The employees of General Dynamics Land Systems have scheduled a vote for union representation for June 29th. For the past month the employees have been forced to sit through anti-union meetings every day.

General Dynamics Land Systems President Mark C. Roualet [stated] “We believe it is important for our employees to have both sides of the story, and that is exactly what we have been trying to communicate during the meetings you describe. We have conducted these meetings in a non-threatening and non-coercive manner and in according with applicable laws. Meetings held since January 2012 have not been charged as training and have not been billed to our customer.”

By the way, the customer Mr. Roualet is talking about is the United States Army and by extension taxpayers; however, in a letter to General Dynamics Congressman Adam Smith (D-Wash) noted that General Dynamics has coded funds being used for union busting for reimbursement.

General Dynamics Land Systems spokeswoman Marie Remboulis stated.:

General Dynamics is a fair and equitable company that wants to take care of our employees. From that perspective we believe it’s important for our employees to have both sides of the information. We have conducted these meetings in the spirit of openness in a manner that is in everything way applicable with regulatory laws.

Yep General Dynamics is so fair and equitable that they let the union post meeting notices on the bulletin board; however have repeatedly blocked union organizers from holding meetings at Fort Lewis. They are so fair and equitable that they have lied to veterans by telling them that they are less valuable to the Army if they are union members.

General Dynamics is crying poverty to the employees while they fly corporate executives into Fort Lewis to make anti-union pitches. Which combined with the almost daily anti-union meetings is turning the employees towards the union.

As a veteran I feel it is disgraceful what General Dynamics is doing to these men and women. How much money has General Dynamics made off of making war machines over the years? How many billions or triilions of dollars? And when the men and women who used these war machines come home and work for General Dynamics they are told that joining a union will make them worth less to the Army. What a crock of shit. General Dynamics just wants to keep whatever profit they make off of the American taxpayer to fund their corporate jets and to pay big dividends to their investors and for their stock price to go up. They don’t give a rat’s ass about the men and women using the machines they build or the men and women who refurbish those same machines.

Solidarity to the employees of General Dynamics Land Systems. I hope you are soon represented by IUOE Local 286.

This blog originally appeared in Daily Kos Labor on June 27, 2012. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Mark Anderson, a Daily Kos Labor contributor, describes himself as a 44 year-old veteran, lifelong Progressive Democrat, Rabid Packer fan, Single Dad, Part-time Grad Student, and Full-time IS worker. You can learn more about him on his Facebook, “Kodiak54 (Mark Andersen)”

The Best Way to Support the Troops…

Monday, April 5th, 2010

Image: Bob RosnerSupport The Troops. Support The Troops. Support The Troops.

This is the newest “wallpaper” in the United States. You see it on bumper stickers, in commercials and hear it in conversations. Based on the number of times you see or hear the phrase, it’s hard to imagine that we could do anything more to show the troops that we’re behind them.

Think again.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly one-in-five veterans age 20 to 24 are unemployed. This is THREE times the national average. According to the government, approximately a quarter million veterans leave the military annually. So we’re talking about many thousands of soldiers who served their country and have returned to an unemployment line.

These unemployed former soldiers list a variety of reasons for the high unemployment rate, according to a poll by CareerBuilder—the lack of available jobs where they live, employers not understanding how the skills acquired in the military translate to the civilian world, the lack of a college degree and the inability of the soldiers themselves to adequately show what they learned in the military in interviews and resumes. Sure these veterans could probably do a better job of presenting themselves and their experience in the employment dance, but I believe that based on their sacrifice, it is incumbent for corporations to meet them more than half way.

A disclaimer: I have never served in the military. And it doesn’t take a lot of reading between the lines of my writing to see that I, like the majority of Americans, believe that enough people have died in Iraq and Afghanistan it’s time for us to get the heck out of there.

As much as I may disagree with our government’s staying in a place where we’re not wanted, I do think that our soldiers have tackled a really tough assignment and the vast majority have represented their uniform and country well. I’m not sure that I’d advocate that returning vets should get special treatment, but for the youngest of the returning soldiers to have three times the unemployment rate of non-vets is embarrassing. And wrong.

But it gets worse. According to the survey by CareerBuilder, eleven percent of veterans don’t identify themselves as veterans on their resume. While another seventeen percent do so selectively. Support the troops, NOT.

People who put themselves in harms way should be appreciated for their loyalty and sacrifice. To not appreciate their ability to work as part of a team, their disciplined approach to work, their problem solving skills, the ability to work under pressure, respect, integrity and leadership is overlooking the skills and talents that they’ve already proven on the battlefield. It’s time that employers looked beyond the limitations—the lack of a college degree, etc.—and to appreciate what these potentially talented and dedicated job candidates will bring to a corporation.

Support the troops by hiring them, it’s the least that we can all do.

About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, “The Boss’s Survival Guide.” If you have a question for Bob, contact him via bob@workplace911.com.

Military Veterans Deserve Jobs When They Return

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

While we take the time this Veterans Day to honor the courage and sacrifice shown by our veterans, we should also rededicate ourselves to making sure vets have a secure and stable life after they finish their service.

The U.S. Labor Department reports the unemployment rate among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans is 11.3 percent, significantly above the overall rate of 10.2 percent for the nation as a whole. Some 185,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are out of work. Many of these unemployed veterans are National Guard or Reserve troops who were called to duty but found when they came home that their old jobs were no longer there for them.

The AFL-CIO Union Veterans Council is calling on Congress to strengthen and enforce the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, which ensures veterans can claim their former jobs when they return from active duty.

In his Veterans Day message, Union Veterans Council Chairman Mark Ayers quotes President Franklin Roosevelt who signed the first GI Bill into law in 1944:

What our servicemen and women want, more than anything else, is the assurance of satisfactory employment upon their return to civil life.

“For today’s veterans, that same desire holds true,” Ayers says.

Click here to read Ayers’ message.

There is good news for vets on this holiday. President Obama signed on Nov. 9 a new executive order that underscores to federal agencies the importance of recruiting and training veterans, to increase the employment of veterans within the executive branch and to help recently hired veterans adjust to civilian life.

The executive order establishes a Veterans Employment Program office within most federal agencies, the White House said. These offices will be responsible for helping veterans identify employment opportunities within federal agencies, providing feedback to veterans about their employment application status, and helping veterans recently employed by agencies adjust to civilian life and a workplace culture often different than military service.

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and Veterans Affairs Secretary  will chair a high-level committee to oversee the program. Click here to read the executive order.

The Union Veterans Council also is calling for other federal programs, as well:

  • Expanding state and local programs for providing job training and employment counseling services.
  • Increasing coverage of the new post-9/11 GI Bill to include payments for apprenticeships and on-the-job training.
  • Continuing funding for the nationally recognized AFL-CIO “Helmets to Hardhats” program, which has placed tens of thousands of transitioning veterans into careers in the construction industry.

Ayers sums it up this way:

On this Veterans Day, we have the privilege of honoring these very special American men and women whose sacrifices and service are beyond most people’s comprehension. We owe them a great deal. First and foremost, we owe them our freedom. Secondly, we owe them our gratitude. And finally, we owe them the prospect of a secure and stable life upon the conclusion of their service.

This post originally appeared in AFL-CIO blog on November 10, 2009. Reprinted with permission from the author.

About the Author: James Parks had his first encounter with unions at Gannett’s newspaper in Cincinnati when his colleagues in the newsroom tried to organize a unit of The Newspaper Guild. He saw firsthand how companies pull out all the stops to prevent workers from forming a union. He is a journalist by trade, and worked for newspapers in five different states before joining the AFL-CIO staff in 1990. He has also been a seminary student, drug counselor, community organizer, event planner, adjunct college professor and county bureaucrat. His proudest career moment, though, was when he served, along with other union members and staff, as an official observer for South Africa’s first multiracial elections.

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