Richard Fleming served 12 years in the U.S. Army and has worked for the past 20 years at the Veterans Health Administration’s (VHA's) Temple Texas hospital. He began with an entry-level job in the kitchen and, with training and education, became a surgical technician. He also is one of the thousands of modestly paid VHA workers whose jobs have been arbitrarily downgraded.
Nobody talked to me about it. I found out I was downgraded through a memo….I was downgraded by people who do not ever see what I do on a day-to-day basis. What have I done and what have my co-workers done to deserve this? No one gave me my GS-5 [job classification]. I earned it.
Fleming was one of several hundred AFGE members and supporters from other unions who rallied today in Lafayette Park, across from the White House and near Veterans Affairs (VA) headquarters, to urge the VA to put a moratorium on the downgrades.
The workers include patient support assistants, medical record clerks, transportation assistants and others providing vital support services within the agency. Many of the downgraded workers are veterans, disabled veterans, women and minorities. By VHA’s own admission, medical center directors have been ordered to impose downgrades across the board on different positions, sometimes, as Fleming attested, without speaking with any of the impacted employees.
AFGE Vice President Augusta Thomas called the downgrades “unfair, illegal and greedy.”
They are cutting people’s paychecks—some of the VA’s lowest-paid workers—the bone.
As Fleming summed it up:
When I counted it up to see what it would be, that’s $4,500 taken out of my pay.