Union says VA official illegally recorded meeting

A federal employee union is accusing the Department Veterans Affairs of illegally recording union negotiators’ private conversations at a meeting in late August.

According to the National Federation of Federal Employees Veterans Affairs Council, on Aug. 30, NFFE members witnessed a top brass Veterans Affairs Medical Center employee in Atlanta leave a mobile phone on the conference table that was set in the record mode.

The Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute prohibits the use if any surveillance or recordings not mutually agreed to by all parties.    

“When I got up to throw away a piece of paper, I heard the vibrate buzzing sound from a silenced cell phone left on the table by one of the management officials during our caucus,” Vickie Charles, National Vice-President, NFFE VA Council, said, adding that upon further investigation, she and other NFEE members confirmed that the phone was indeed recording.

“It was extremely disheartening to see a management official engaging in such underhanded surveillance techniques, especially because the article we were negotiating stated that neither party would electronically record bargaining sessions,” Randy Erwin, NFFE National President, said. 

The management team was immediately notified. The phone’s owner said that she was not aware of the rules prohibiting recordings, contending that she often records meetings to assist with notetaking.

NFFE has filed a complaint with the VA Office of the Inspector General and three Unfair Labor Practices.

“This is an egregious, all-out affront to federal employees, especially at the VA,” Suzanne Summerlin, NFFE Associate General Counsel, said, adding, “There is no excuse good enough to justify the illegal recording of negotiations.”

Read the NFFE press release here.

Reader comments

Mon, Oct 1, 2018

if the recording is when both parties are in the room that is one thing, but leaving the device in the room recording when the agency left the room and the union was caucusing in the room where the recorded was intentionally left without notifying the union is illegal.

Fri, Sep 28, 2018

We must be able to record everything you say, whenever, wherever you say it. Because we are Management and we know what is best for all of you worthless little workers.

Fri, Sep 28, 2018

The article indicates: "The Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute prohibits the use if any surveillance or recordings not mutually agreed to by all parties." While I don't purport to be an expert on the Statute, I am curious where this is referenced in the Statute.

Fri, Sep 28, 2018

Not appropriate when it is management doing the recording, especially when they are not present.

Tue, Sep 11, 2018

If the union truly is working hard for its members, wouldn't they want the negotiations recorded and transparent?? So that they could then go back to the members, saying, "See, this is how hard we fight for you!!"

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Edward A. Zurndorfer Certified Financial Planner
Mike Causey Columnist
Tom Fox VP for Leadership and Innovation, Partnership for Public Service
Mathew B. Tully Legal Analyst

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