March 24, 2008 – Columbia, SC — The American
Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) today challenged the Department
of Veterans Affairs to remove Carl Hawkins, Jr., regional director at the
Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) in Columbia, S.C. amid allegations
of sexual harassment, age discrimination, and racial discrimination. Over
the last two years, the VBA regional director and his managers have been
named in dozens of discrimination suits including allegations of pay
disparity, retaliation and violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act
of 1964, resulting in civil and administrative settlements of over
$500,000. However, instead of being removed from his post, Hawkins received
$50,000 in bonuses over the same two-year time span. AFGE has called on the
National VA to launch an investigation to uncover Hawkins’ abuses of
authority since taking office.
“The tragedy here is not just that the VA has not held Mr. Hawkins
accountable for the $500,000 dollars he has cost the American tax-payers,
but that as a result of his despicable actions, the quality of service at
our facility is suffering,” said Dan Brockway, president of AFGE Local 520,
which represents 200 employees at the Columbia facility. “We are here
because we want to serve Veterans that have so courageously served this
nation. The harassment and discrimination perpetrated by Mr. Hawkins
tarnishes everything that the VA is supposed to be about.”
According to local union representatives, Mr. Hawkins continually
ignored directives from the National Department of Veterans Affairs aimed
at eliminating pay disparity among certain employees. “We have to be the
only facility in the country where GS-4s hold degrees,” added Ron Robinson,
executive vice-president at AFGE Local 520.
Mr. Hawkins has removed several bridge positions, denying employees
with college level education an opportunity to elevate their positions and
grade levels. The employees being denied are overwhelmingly
African-American. “Of the 34 management positions filled by Mr. Hawkins
since January 2002, none of them are African-American women and only three
are African-American men,” said Robinson.
AFGE Local 520 is working closely with AFGE National’s Women’s and Fair
Practices departments to continue to challenge the discriminatory workplace
conditions. The Women and Fair Practices department recently held a summit
at the location along with representatives from AFGE’s 5th District, to
educate employees on their rights to a hostile free workplace environment.
The American Federation of Government Employees is the largest federal
employee union, representing 600,000 workers in the federal government and
the government of the District of Columbia.