Big Labor's big friends at the VA
While the Department of Veterans Affairs lets people languish on waiting lists for years, it is much more attentive to the needs of union officials. Kimberly Strassel of the Wall Street Journal describes just how lavish is the assistance and subsidy offered to unions.
Federal labor unions are generally weak by comparison to state public-sector unions, though the VA might be an exception. The VA boasts one of the largest federal workforces and VA Secretary Eric Shinseki bragged in 2010 that two-thirds of it is unionized. That's a whopping 200,000 union members, represented by the likes of the American Federation of Government Employees and the Service Employees International Union. And this is government-run health care—something unions know a lot about from organizing health workers in the private sector. Compared with most D.C. unions (which organize for better parking spots) the VA houses a serious union shop. (snip)
Manhattan Institute scholar Diana Furchtgott-Roth recently detailed Office of Personnel Management numbers obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by Rep. Phil Gingrey (R., Ga.). On May 25, Ms. Furchtgott-Roth reported on MarketWatch that the VA in 2012 paid 258 employees to be 100% "full-time," receiving full pay and benefits to do only union work. Seventeen had six-figure salaries, up to $132,000. According to the Office of Personnel Management, the VA paid for 988,000 hours of "official" time in fiscal 2011, a 23% increase from 2010.
Wait minute! Don’t unions deduct dues from the paychecks of members in order to pay for the expenses of representing them? Oh, that’s right. They want to spend dues money on political donations to the Democrats.
As for patient-case backlogs, the unions have helped in their creation. Contract-negotiated work rules over job classifications and duties and seniorities are central to the "bureaucracy" that fails veterans. More damaging has been the union hostility to any VA attempt to give veterans access to alternative sources of care—which the unions consider a direct job threat. The American Federation of Government Employees puts out regular press releases blasting any "outsourcing" of VA work to non-VA-union members.
The House voted overwhelmingly to allowi this “outsourcing” (aka, getting Vets the care they need). Needless to say, Harry Reid’s Senate has not and will not vote on this measure.
This ought to be a GOP crusade, to put the needs of veterans ahead of those of union bosses.