Bonham VA workers protest paycheck downgrades

By: Victoria Maranan Email
By: Victoria Maranan Email

BONHAM, TX-Local Veterans Affairs workers join thousands of others nationwide, protesting pay cuts for themselves and hundreds of their colleagues.
About 40 Bonham VA employees picketed in front of the Sam Rayburn Memorial Veterans Center all day Wednesday on behalf of 200 employees--including 30 of their own--whose paychecks have been downgraded. Those affected tell us if they don't stand up to the cuts now, it will not only hurt them, it will hurt the quality of service at VA hospitals.
Rafael Jubera had been working at the Bonham VA for 15 years. He said his paycheck has dropped by 20 percent.

"Shocked. I can maybe see one grade down but lowering to two grades is ridiculous. Cost of living is going up, not going down and gas is going up, but they're taking our pay," he said.

Another employee, Dale Joy, said the cuts could threaten the care they provide.

"We do what we're supposed to do. We do it well, we serve the veterans here,we keep them happy.That's what we're here to do, make them happy. But when you're not happy, it's hard to keep other people happy," he said.

American Federation of Government Employees president and VA employee, Roger Hooper, said the cuts could lead to some tough choices for staff members.

"People in the lower echelons of the pay, GS-8 and under, are having their pay reduced, their grade reduced. Sevens to fives and it can be 15 to 20 percent of your salary," he said.

Hooper said 200 VA employees in Texas have been downgraded and fears it won't end there.

"They're doing our VISN this way, 200 people in this VISN has been downgraded, 30 here. After they finish with this VISN, they're gonna take this model to other VISNs in the country and do the same thing," he said.

Jubera said morale is definitely taking a hit.

"It just demotivates me, I'm retired. I was thinking of extending myself for another 2-3 years, but with this grade going down, I'm retiring," he said.

Employees hope their protest will help get their voices heard.

"Let's hope to bring to light what's going on here and that maybe the government can figure out that they're stepping on some wrong toes here and go a different route," said Joy.

"You want to take money, take it out something else," said Jubera.

"We need people to know that we need their help because the veterans come here everyday, we're gonna take good care of them in Bonham because that's what we do...but we're worried about future hires and future care," said Hooper.

The Department of Veterans Affairs released a statement saying "the VA will continue to provide grade and pay retention to any impacted employees, so they can maintain their current salaries."

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  • by Joey Location: Denison on Jun 18, 2012 at 01:34 PM
    Isn't there enough hardship in this world already, without having to wish more of it on other people? You gotta realize that while there are folks who are expeiencing financial hardship for any number of reasons, there are those who are doing better than ever before. And how can that be with the economy the way it is and all? Most of you who have lost jobs during this recession didn't lose them because of any employee at a VA hospital. Chances are you lost your job while one or more above you ended up making even more money. The vast majority of Americans are in this thing together. Stop eating your own. Sit back, sigh with nostaglia, and wonder what all the rich people are doing.
    • reply
      by Logic on Jun 18, 2012 at 04:20 PM in reply to Joey
      There ARE those doing better than ever before. I am one. But I don't credit my prosperity to ANY politician..right or left. Obama didn't spend 6 hrs a day in college for me. Obama didn't post my resume on Obama didn't drive me to job interviews. And neither did Bush. And any person thinking its a politicians responsibility to get you skillsets to be employed is being too much dependence on the government. I suggest those that blame Obama for their unemployment vote Romney...see how your poor job skills and lack of training magically become no problem at all! We have to import techs in all fields. Engineers. Scientists. PLENTY of employment available for those willing to earn the skillsets..
      • reply
        by Joey on Jun 19, 2012 at 12:48 PM in reply to Logic
        I don't believe I suggested Obama did anything for you or to you. In fact, I didn't mention any politican at all. I've just grown sick of folks who wish hard times on others. And BTW, you may find there are plenty of folks with skillsets superior to yours who have also lost their jobs, and just because you have been fortunate enough to find one don't assume they aren't looking, and certainly don't assume they are looking for some politican to come to their rescue. Those currently at the top of the food chain of wealth are far better off than ever before. Corporate profits account for over 10% of GNP (It wasn't even 5% under Reagan). Those who have lost their jobs due to no fault of their own (you know, those with the skillsets, proven work ethic, and a track record of being a reliable employee) should be directing their wrath toward those in a silk suits who have actually benefited from these hard times, not some VA employee.
        • reply
          by Logic on Jun 19, 2012 at 05:14 PM in reply to Joey
          You didn't suggest that. I just added my own anecdote to your comment. Politicians do not hire people. Nor do they grant you skillsets for employment. Anyone who would blame a politician for their lack of work, or skills, is obviously dependent on the government just as bad as someone unwilling to work at all!
  • by Unbelievable Location: Doesn't Matter on Jun 15, 2012 at 10:25 PM
    I think the real concern here is the constant cutting of benefits for all by the government. For example, they have cut the medical beds, the ER and the ICU unit at the Bonham VA. Why are our veterans having to drive 100 miles for their medical care vs. receiving it all here? Why were these services cut? It certainly wasn't for a lack of need. So if services are cut, staff are cut and salaries are cut, hummm what happens to our community as Blue Cross, VA, General Cable, etc. are no longer existent? I guess the taxes in our city, school, etc. will continue to rise but who will be able to pay them? Or be here to pay them? These individuals will have to move to find jobs somewhere else. We need to put God back in office and get rid of crooked politicians from the local level to the top - always thinking of themselves vs. the working class be it private sector or government employees. Workers are what make the world go round and oh yeah who pay the taxes!! God be with us during these times.
    • reply
      by Logic on Jun 18, 2012 at 01:57 PM in reply to Unbelievable
      "I think the real concern here is the constant cutting of benefits for all by the government." That's a symptom. Vote for Romney. He'll bring his Mormon God (Jesus is 3rd in line of importance for a Mormon behind John Smith!)to office for you AND cut even MORE taxes so even MORE government gets cut...that is his "new" plan...same as the old one. Cut taxes. Cut spending. Cut benefits. In the end, the 1% will be richer and the rest have to deal with the cuts...
  • by Stephen Location: Collinsville on Jun 15, 2012 at 04:36 PM
    Doc - local banks also get very low rock bottom interest rates from the government and many are subsidiaries of larger international banks who got bailed out. If enough workers stood in solidarity against this austerity offensive by employers, wage and benefit cuts could be stopped. These VA employees do work for the government but they don't set policy like politicians do or have billions of dollars to lobby these politicians like corporations do. Workers should be sympathetic to other workers no matter where they work. Because as workers we are in the same boat. Workers in both the private and public sectors are being made to pay for this economic crisis.
    • reply
      by YourRight on Jul 2, 2012 at 02:01 PM in reply to Stephen
      Whenever someone loses a job or is forced to be ok with a cut like this we should all be sympathetic....and perhaps even a bit afraid. In my opinion with every job lost and with every salary cut we all get a step closer to slavery. Rather you are a college educated worker or a skilled laborer...doesn't really matter. If you are not SUPER RICH your job is expendable. If you weren't born into the Elite families then your employment is not guaranteed.
  • by Doc Location: Durant on Jun 15, 2012 at 10:35 AM
    More uninformed spouting at the mouth. Stephen, can you name one of the local banks that benefitted from some type of bail-out? Also, standing united against wage cuts, might possibly mean you have to be bold enough to walk out and find another job. I do believe these folks have earned their grade. However, if you are affiliated with our current government, you can fully expect sarcasm and spite when you complain about your job. Right...wrong...indifferent...people are fed up with our government. You won't find many who are sympathetic simply because you work for the government.
  • by Stephen Location: Collinsville on Jun 15, 2012 at 02:30 AM
    So the US government will spend trillions of our taxdollars to bail out banks and spend on wars to make oil companies and military contactors billions in profit, but when it comes to working class people taking care of veterans they have no money to spare and instead must cut? We are living in the age of austerity. As workers me must all stand together united against wage cuts wherever they are or we will all suffer. I support the Bonham VA workers and I would like to join them in their next picket/protest!
  • by Another VA emp on Jun 14, 2012 at 09:20 PM
    It amazes me the number of people who make remarks about something they know absolutely nothing about...especially the high income levels mentioned (extremely exaggerated) and the cash bonuses (non-existant). As for the taxpayers paying our salaries...HELLO...we pay taxes too, just like the rest of the country. And yes, we have good benefits, that we PAY for...nothing is given to us, nor is it cheap. As a matter of fact, while our incomes have been frozen the last 2 years, our insurance premiums continue to rise each year, therefore, we are bringing home even LESS money than we were 2 years ago. And our retirement is a TSP...meaning that our retirement depends on the status of the economy! You people with your hateful comments towards us are appalling...if it were YOUR job being downgraded, I find it hard to believe that ANYONE would just say "OK whatever" and not fight for what you have earned. Yes, we have EARNED our levels...they are not just assigned. These jobs are reviewed and classified depending on the complexity of the job and the responsibilities involved, and you must earn each level and work your way up the ladder. Most departments are understaffed and we work long hard hours (and that is NOT overtime pay) to keep up with the workloads and meet the expectations of our patients and our leadership. Many of us live paycheck to paycheck like the majority of you. Gas is ridiculously high, groceries are high, the economy stinks, so we cannot afford to lose our salary, just like any other hardworking American. So before any of you decide to run at the mouth about it and talk ugly about people you do not know...take a moment and put yourself in our shoes...and how would you react? Turn the other cheek? No...didn't think so. Thank you and God Bless.
  • by 2429019 Location: Florida on Jun 14, 2012 at 03:00 PM
    My guess is the VA want those empleeys too quit then they can farm the work out to shady private contractors who will inturn do what they want and pay large contract amounts too who then give kick backs under the table to the higher up VA employees who most likely initiated the pay cuts to gs8 and below to beging with ya think!!!! Semper Fi
  • by 2429019 Location: Florida on Jun 14, 2012 at 02:40 PM
    Lets see there were 3 VA employees includes 1 VA Director who were caught stealing 1.3 million dollars from disable veterans no crimanal charges were filed WTF? Those VA empolees were way above a GS8 paygrade so I say cut VA employees pay at the top not the bottom then it wont take as many empoleeys to achive the same $'s to reach the cut goal. from a Marine vet with common sense Semper Fi
  • by Sarge Location: Grayson on Jun 14, 2012 at 02:31 PM
    The real story here can be found in the statement "Let them cut somewhere else". The mantra of the left is just that....."let there be cuts but not here!" Our national economic crises is such that EVERYONE must be willing to take a smaller piece of pie. should start at the top, but we know that it won't. Those who make the pie will always keep a larger portion for themselves. And I am not talking about the free market system....I am talking about the career politicians from both sides of the aisle. As a retired service member I am very grateful to those who provide services for us but I am also aware that just as with me, they were not drafted, they volunteered. Until the very root problem of spending is addressed...that is spending the money of those who work on those who do not...cuts such as these will become the norm.
  • by Anonymous on Jun 14, 2012 at 02:00 PM
    Let's see, they take care of those who served, therefor they deserve more money than anyone else? Seems like they would accept less for the honor of caring for those that served instead of expecting more....hard to follow that line of reasoning. Regardless, it's time to stop the madness and pay only what is necessary to attract and retain competent people, and the VA pays far too much in today's environment and hires people for reasons that have little to do with competence.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Jun 14, 2012 at 02:50 PM in reply to
      Have you ever tried to get on at the VA. It is not easy to do. I dont believe it was said that more money was needed it was said don"t take what we have worked to earn. I am sure 12-14 an hour in pay is alot for people making minimum wage. The pay grades are earned not given. If you think you can qualify for a job at the VA give it a shot and see how much you have to do for what you make. Get a CLUE
      • reply
        by Anonymous on Jun 15, 2012 at 08:53 AM in reply to
        If the VA can't properly staff their facilities at the lower pay, then they will have to raise pay. It's that simple. When supply is high and demand is down, prices go down. Right now there are plenty of people looking to fill fewer jobs, so wages go down. In my construction business I am having to take much lower margins on the work I can find so I can compete with everyone else in that same boat. Why should government workers be immune to market conditions?
        • reply
          by Joey on Jun 20, 2012 at 10:10 PM in reply to
          Please. Market conditions? Really? Perhaps your construction business is like so many others. Market conditions compelled them to hire illegals, and put US citizens out of work. Market conditions forced them to use cheap materials. Market conditions forced then to cut corners on quality. Problem is, these things were going on when market conditions were good! Oh, and the audacity of Americans demanding a fair wage for a days work. How dare they ask for better pay to make a better life for their families? They needed a coat for their kid, but some market conditions kinda guy needed a pool, so so long Harry, hello Amigo. And what makes you think that government workers have ever been immune to market conditions? They have never been immune to layoffs, pay freezes, benefit cuts or anything else. Under our socialist president and do nothing Congress, 600,000 government employees have lost their jobs, and as a result the businesses they had supported with their paychecks laid off thousands as well. So you had to take lower margins. Maybe you should go work for the VA. Market conditions suggest they are looking for guys like you who are willing to work for less than their lower margins.
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