Kansas City area VA union members planning DC rally to address ongoing racism claims

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Trouble continues to brew at Kansas City and other nearby VA hospitals, according to staff.

VA union workers met for a virtual town hall Thursday evening along with other metro leaders and Rep. Emanuel Cleaver.

They say allegations of racial discrimination, retaliation and hazardous working conditions aren’t getting any better.

“What’s worse is the more we speak out and reach out to other people all across the nations, what we are finding is that this stuff is everywhere,” said AFGE Local 85 Vice President for the Leavenworth VA, Shaun Givens.

“I’ve worked my whole life, here and abroad and what I’m seeing is I’ve never seen a level of corruption this bad, or a lack of willing to do something about it.”

More than 50 people attended the virtual meeting to share their story or show their support. A member of KC Tenants also spoke out as an ally Thursday night.

“VA workers deserve fair, safe and equitable working conditions. Their work is essential and they deserve better,” said Jonathan Duncan, a leader with KC Tenants group.

FOX4 has been following the mounting allegations for more than a year, including lawsuits and complaints alleging harassment of Black workers, racial discrimination and unfair terminations at local VA hospitals.

More than 50 Black workers have come forward in the last year with similar claims.

‘’We are out here fighting for fair, that’s what we are fighting for. Imagine what’s going to happen when we start fighting for equity,” Givens said.

Union members say the next step is planning a protest in Washington D.C. in hopes of sparking change.

Cleaver said he’s committed to helping bring attention to the issue in the Capitol.

Below is the Congressman’s formal statement sent to FOX4:

“For years, dedicated workers from the VA have shared their concerns with me regarding hostile work conditions with which they are expected to provide vital care and services to veterans. And each time I have brought these concerns to leadership within the VA to act swiftly to mitigate racism and discrimination experienced by employees, only to be met with a lack of response by those in positions of power that have the ability to foster systemic change. 

“Nevertheless, I remain steadfast in my commitment to identify and work towards solutions for the issues so commonly experienced by many of the federal employees at the KCVA and across the nation. In the year 2021, no American should be discriminated against for the color of their skin or retaliated against for standing up to this dehumanizing behavior.” 

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