AFGE Locals 96, 2192 protest systemic racism, discrimination at John Cochran VA Medical Center

JONAY McCALL, president of AFGE Local 96, says racism, discrimination and selective rule enforcement continue to plague the VA despite historic settlement. – Labor Tribune photo

Managing Editor

On the heels of a historic settlement between the American Federation of Government Employees (VA) National VA Council and the Department of Veterans Affairs to restore workplace rights and overturn anti-worker policies implemented by the Trump administration, members of AFGE Locals 96 and 2192 rallied outside the John Cochran VA Medical Center on N. Grand Blvd. Saturday, July 31, to demand an end to systemic racism and discrimination, including selective enforcement of rules and regulations against union employees and veterans, and retaliation against anyone who complains or turns to the union for help.

Jonay McCall, president of AFGE Local 96, which represents workers at the VA Medical Center, said management asked her not to hold the rally, claiming management is not discriminating against select employees at the medical center – a claim she quickly dismissed.

“Of course you are,” she said, citing the example of one 20-year employee who was recently terminated after complaining about mistreatment from his supervisor. “Of course they are, when we have individuals who are being terminated after being here for 20 years and he’s telling us that his supervisor is bullying. Instead of standing on the side of right, they’re standing on the side of wrong. When we have a member who’s been here for 20 years and doing everything right, trying to move up the ladder, and they keep kicking him down.”

Some other examples include:

  • Withholding Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) information from employees.
  • Withholding information about the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) from employees in need of counseling for issues in their personal lives or at work.
  • Punishing employees who raise concerns.
PROTESTING RACISM in the Veterans Administration about two dozen members of AFGE Locals 96 and 2192, and fellow union supporters and activists, gathered July 31 outside the John Cochran VA Medical Center on 915 N Grand Blvd, St. Louis. – Labor Tribune photo

“If they come to the union, that makes things worse,” McCall said. “If they come to the union, which is their sole representative, they’ll write them up and worse.

“This has been happening for years and they have not gotten rid of the management responsible for it, to stop it. When you’re not standing up to your management team to stop them from bullying us, you’re saying it’s okay,” she said.

At its most basic, McCall said the issue comes down to management’s selective enforcement of rules and regulations.

“They’re using their rules and regulations against us,” she said. “These rules that come down from Washington that we must follow, but the agency doesn’t follow those rules. They pick and choose who they want to apply the rules to.”

Jay Ozier, president of the St. Louis Chapter of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, compared the selective application of rules and regulations at the VA to the Black codes of the Jim Crow South, a set of rules and regulations that applied only to African Americans.

“We are still in that fight right here,” Ozier said.

McCall said Local 96 will continue to rally and protest until their concerns are addressed.


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