The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) claims it provides strong support to whistleblowers, but one high-ranking union official in an email obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation slams Department of Veterans Affairs whistleblowers for being uninformed and not coordinating with the union.
J. Ward Morrow, assistant general counsel for AFGE, wrote an email to other union officials shortly after whistleblowers appeared before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs in late September in which he trashes Republicans and whistleblowers. (RELATED: Whistleblowers: The VA Is Clever In Finding Ways To Retaliate Against Us)
“Brandon Coleman said some rather unhelpful things…Shea was unimpressive,” Morrow writes in his analysis of the hearing to other union officials regarding two of the whistleblowers. “His situation sounds typically horrible, but its clear he either does not support or fails to understand the full range of things going on and how the republicans are using this to take away union rights, which to me has been the lynchpin of pulling this all together.”
The only person whose testimony receives the Morrow stamp of approval is by Sean Kirkpatrick, a non-VA employee.
“Worse they will use his testimony to support the testimony of Coleman that the VA should contract out/privatize VA care,” Morrow adds.
“They have cherry picked witnesses in manner to exclude the importance of unions, MSPB rights, arbitration, progressive discipline, due process as part of the equation,” Morrow continues.
Morrow bemoans the fact that the whistleblowers didn’t work more closely with the union and completely fail to understand its apparent importance.
“Too bad those who testified did not coordinate with us and are not those who understand the need for all of these rights.”
But a couple of the whistleblowers mentioned in the email have some serious responses to Morrow’s remarks and a different understanding of the way AFGE operates. In particular, Brandon Coleman, a whistleblower out of Phoenix, finds Morrow’s email embarrassing and in poor taste and recounts how the union not only totally failed to protect him when he reported his concerns, but bad-mouthed him.
“I was raised by a pro union family,” Brandon Coleman told TheDCNF. “I joined the union with the VA with my first paycheck and have been a union member ever since. When everything started to go south in my case in Dec 2014 I turned to local union representation. When the union failed to act I went to the OSC and media to protect myself. Upon going to the media the local union president called me “foolish,” to a steward I know well.”
“If not for my contacts in Congress, the media and the brave employees at the OSC, I’d have long ago been fired, all while my union representation sat back, collected their paychecks, kept their mouths shut and watched,” Coleman adds. “Maybe if the union did what it was supposed and protected employees like me, the OSC would not be currently overwhelmed?
Ryan Honl, a whistleblower based out of Tomah, told TheDCNF Morrow’s tactless email makes him seem like “another bureaucrat who says no to disabled veterans on having the choice to get care outside a corrupt, inefficient, one-payer bureaucracy. If the care is so exceptional, as people like this senior union official say it is, why would anyone go to private care given the option?”
The email comes at a time of major conflict between Republicans and AFGE. When Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal blocked a motion to send the VA Accountability Act to an up-or-down vote, AFGE applauded Blumenthal’s move and even told members in advance to contact senators and protest the vote. (RELATED: Whistleblower To Sen. Blumenthal: Quit Standing Up For Unions Over Veterans)
When asked to comment on the leaked email, AFGE notes in a statement to TheDCNF that “From Day One of the VA waitlist scandal, some members of Congress have used the waitlist crisis as an opportunity to undermine the rights of all VA workers, as opposed to holding accountable the managers and executives who created the crisis in the first place. The system for protecting whistleblowers from retaliation clearly is inadequate, as evidenced by the testimony from employees whose jobs were targeted after blowing the whistle on management abuse.”