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Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski joins VA Nurse picket for adequate staffing and fair wages

American Federation of Government Employees Local 1699 picketed Friday to bring attention to their struggle for fairness at the Wilkes-Barre VA facility. Janet Oborski, President of AFGE Local 1699, said the local facility has one of the lowest-paid VA nursing staffs in the country and that the nurses are understaffed and overworked.

“The overall hostility and lack of respect for our employees coming from the (executive leadership team) is pretty disgusting,” Oborski said.

According to the union, local management has refused to grant locality pay adjustments or to adequately staff the facility — especially when it comes to nurses — and the inaction has made it “needlessly more difficult” to provide the care veterans deserve.

Don Drewett, legislative and political organizer for District 3 of the American Federation of Government Employees, said the hospital has been holding fairly steady at about 275 vacancies since before the pandemic and that the rally Friday was intended to raise public awareness.

“When you’re down that many people, it affects the quality of care and that most valuable work that needs to get done for the vets,” Drewett said. “Our conversations with the agency have gotten to the point where we need to have more folks being aware of it instead of being in a bubble or insulated here.”

He noted that the federal government is operating under what’s known as a “continuing resolution” to avoid a shutdown, resulting in funding that remains unchanged from the previous fiscal year.

“When you fund an agency like this at last year’s numbers, they’re going to eventually get into a deficit because they’re going to run out of money,” Drewett said. “We’re now in a position where agencies are operating under the idea that they have to protect the mission and keep the operation running, but ultimately without the proper funding then services are affected.”

While speaking, Pashinski pointed out that the VA staff is only “asking for...fair working conditions, fair salary so they can...serve our veterans at the level they deserve.“

Read more at the Citizens Voice.



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