Bill to Prevent VA Union “Bribes”

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By on October 1, 2019 in Human Resources with 0 Comments
Congressman Neal Dunn (R-FL)
Congressman Neal Dunn (R-FL)

Purpose of the Bill

Congressman Neal Dunn (R-FL) has introduced the VA Workplace Integrity Act (H.R. 4503). Its purpose, according to the Congressman, is to “combat the use of financial incentives to pressure federal employees into joining unions” at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Congressman Dunn writes that the legislation is necessary because new employees in the Department of Veterans Affairs are often quickly approached by representatives from the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) and offered $100 dollars to immediately join the union.

According to the Congressman: “Manipulating new federal employees at the VA to join a union with a $100 bribe as they walk in the door is unethical. Federal employees should have the freedom to choose whether or not they join a union and participate in union activities on their own accord. The undue pressure and financial commitment associated with joining a union is something that should not be taken lightly. This legislation will prohibit the practice of using financial incentives to secure new memberships, allowing employees at the VA the time and space to make an independent decision on their individual union participation.”

Restrictions Canceling Union Dues Payments

As is the case in many federal sector collective bargaining agreements, employees are only allowed to opt-out of paying union dues once a year. In this case, the period for dropping union membership is during a specific 10-calendar day period.

Issue Before the FLRA

Coincidentally, On July 12, the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) issued a Press Release addressing the publication of a “Notice of Opportunity to Comment on a Request for a General Statement of Policy or Guidance on Revoking Union-Dues Assignments” in the Federal Register

According to the Notice, the Office of Personnel Management asked tghe FLRA to rethink its precedents on when a bargaining unit employee who is a union member may make a dues revocation decision and when the revocation becomes effective.

OPM is asking the FLRA to revisit any existing precedents that stand in the way of a dues revocation upon submission of the form to the agency. The issue before the FLRA is whether current restrictions on revoking union dues payments are permissible in view of a U.S. Supreme Court decision in Janus v. AFSCME, Council 31, 138 S. Ct. 2448 (2018)

The apparent question before the FLRA is, consistent with Janus, upon receiving an employee’s request to revoke a previously authorized union-dues assignment, an agency should process the request as soon as administratively feasible, if at least one year has passed since the employee initially authorized union-dues assignment from the employee’s pay. 

While the new bill proposed by Congressman Dunn is not directly related to the issue before the FLRA, there is an indirect link in that the Congressman is concerned about the difficulty some federal employees may have in canceling their automatic dues payment to a federal employee union.

Summary

While we do not know what the decision of the FLRA will be on the issue of restricting cancellation policies for automatic dues withholding, there is a low chance of Congressman Dunn’s bill passing into law orpassing in the House of Representatives. Democrats are generally in favor of giving unions considerable leeway in their activities and the House leadership is unlikely to ever bring this bill to a vote.


© 2019 Ralph R. Smith. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Ralph R. Smith.

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About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47

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