Officers & Stewards
Doug Massey, Esq.President
Doug Massey has served employees as a steward, Vice President, and President of AFGE Local 17 for over 10 years. Doug’s knowledge, commitment, and advocacy skills have helped many employees obtain favorable results. His success includes winning multiple arbitrations, including reinstatement of an employee with full back pay, securing full-time telework for a disabled employee, successfully challenging Trump’s union-busting executive order, and a ruling that the VA had committed an unfair labor practice in changing performance standards. His greatest accomplishment with First Vice President Calanit Kedem is building an outstanding team of dedicated stewards who are compassionate, well trained, and highly motivated to improve working conditions for thousands of employees. Doug holds a Bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and a Juris Doctor from the University of Maine School of Law.
JR Cummings, Esq.Sergeant At Arms
JR Cummings has served as a steward since 2018 and was recently elected as Local 17’s Sergeant at Arms. Since becoming a steward, JR has, among other things, secured job-saving proration for Board of Veterans’ Appeals attorneys involved in the 2018 “Tiger Team,” organized and provided trainings on the Hatch Act and Time & Leave provisions of the Master Agreement, successfully persuaded the change of multiple employees’ evaluations to guarantee bonuses, co-created and co-wrote the Local’s newsletter “The Advocate,” negotiated multiple employee’s performance standards to ensure their job duties align with the work they actually do, secured multiple details for an employee who was being harassed by her home office supervisor, and created the Board’s “Hallway Experience” mentorship compensate for the disadvantages of the pandemic. JR has a Bachelor’s degree in political science and music performance from Providence College and a juris doctor from Syracuse University College of Law.
Gillian Slovick, Esq.2nd Vice President
Gillian Slovick has worked as an attorney at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals for over 12 years and a steward for over six years. Gillian served as Local 17’s Third Vice President from 2018 to 2021 before recently being elected as Second Vice President. She was selected by the National VA Council to train stewards throughout the country on the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017. Recently, Gillian testified before a House VA Subcommittee in July, 2021 on behalf of Local 17 to discuss challenges at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. Gillian has a Bachelor’s degree in English from Rutgers University and a juris doctor from New England Law in Boston.
William Wetmore, EsqTreasurer
Bill Wetmore is a retired attorney and is currently Local 17’s Treasurer and Third Executive Vice President of the National VA Council, where his duties include serving as chair of the NVAC Grievance and Arbitration Committee. Bill has been a steward, Secretary, First Vice president and President within Local 17, but his greatest accomplishment was successfully negotiating our Master Agreement and currently assisting the chief negotiator Alma Lee in negotiating the current Master Agreement. Bill has a Bachelor’s degree from Lafayette College and a juris doctor from the Washington College of Law, American University.
Calanit Kedem, Esq.1st Vice President
Calanit Kedem, Local 17’s recently re-elected 1st Vice President, has prevented numerous employees from being terminated by navigating the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act. Calanit is one of Local 17’s best negotiators, legal writers, and advocates, with a wealth of experience in labor law and our Master Agreement. One of Calanit’s most astonishing accomplishments was successfully negotiating promotions for a number of Board employees’ from a GS-9 to a GS-11. She is a valuable member of Local 17’s team and highly respected as a leader among the National VA Council. Calanit holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland and a juris doctor from American University, Washington College of Law.
Nicholas Keogh, Esq.3rd Vice President
Nick Keogh is an attorney at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals and a National Representative to the National VA Council. Nick previously served as Local 17’s Secretary. As a union representative, Nick has negotiated performance standards, represented VA employees facing investigations and discipline, prepared grievances and Unfair Labor Practice charges, and drafted legislation. Nick has successfully represented Local 17 during arbitration and before the Federal Labor Relations Authority. He holds a Bachelor’s degree from Brown University and a Juris Doctor from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
Vanessa Watts began her career with the federal government in 1998 under an upward mobility internship. Her strong work ethic and commitment to VA’s mission allowed her to advance her career at VA Central Office. Vanessa has been a loyal member of Local 17 for eight years, and she was recently elected as Local 17’s Secretary. Since becoming a steward in 2018, Vanessa attended EEO training at AFGE’s Human Rights Conference in August 2019, which she uses fighting for employees at Local 17, and was instrumental in organizing our 2021 holiday party and organizing the delivery of Local 17’s umbrellas to members. Vanessa is a firm believer that VA employees best serve our nation’s Veterans when employees are treated with dignity, fairness, and respect.
Denise Adams Hill, Esq.
Denise Adams Hill became a union steward in FY 2022 after observing the valuable work that Local 17 has accomplished in her two years with the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. As a former health care administrator and civil defense litigator defending primarily medical malpractice lawsuits but also addressing medical administrative, contractual and employment matters, she looks forward to assisting union members in understanding and insuring fairness in workplace matters. Denise holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Saint Louis University and a Juris Doctor from Catholic University.
James Dyer is the Training Manager for the Veterans Benefits Administration, responsible to the Director for providing accessible, timely, cost-effective, and customer focused training services. Prior to his assignment to Central Office, James spent 7 years as a Veteran Service Representative and two years in management as an Assistant Coach at the Los Angeles Regional Office. James has been a steward for Local 17 for twelve years, including a term as Sergeant at Arms from 2018 to 2021. James prides himself on bringing swift and efficient resolution to disputes and is a well-known AFGE figure with managers and employees alike. James holds a Bachelor’s degree from Oakland City University and a Master’s Degree in Education from Cappella University. James is a 10 year Veteran of the US Navy.
Benton Komins, Esq.
Benton Komins began his tenure as a steward in April 2021. Since that time, he has guided a number of employees successfully through performance improvement plans PIPs and ADAAA reasonable accommodations. He has also worked on committees with senior management officials, which has resulted in attorney moves, an enhanced bonus program, reclassification of employees into the bargaining unit, and constructive joint endeavors. Benton brings to the union years of professional experience in negotiations; alternative dispute resolution (ADR); and expertise in mentorship and university teaching. Benton holds a Bachelor’s degree from Columbia University; a doctorate (PhD, comparative literature) from Harvard University Graduate School of Arts & Sciences: and a juris doctor from Tulane University Law School. Benton has published widely in the fields of veterans law, cultural studies, and comparative literature.
Alfreda Smith is an experienced steward for Local 17, who previously held positions as Secretary and 2nd Vice President. In early 2017 as a new Local 17 Steward, Alfreda managed to successfully prosecute an unfair labor practice (ULP) charge against a high-level official in HR. She has prevailed in several grievances and continues to be a strong advocate for all members of the bargaining unit. Alfreda holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration (Management Information Systems), from the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee.
MB Viccellio has been a steward with Local 17 since April 2021. Prior to coming to the Board, she was a public defender in rural Alaska and northwestern Virginia for over a decade. In her time as a steward, she has successfully had an admonishment removed from a personnel file, had a proposed reprimand reduced to an admonishment, and helped reclassify 27 positions to return them to the bargaining unit, and is the Local’s resident 50/50 ticket facilitator. She is looking forward to bringing her extensive litigation experience to more cases and arbitrations. As a Spanish speaking steward, she is excited about increasing outreach to Spanish speaking bargaining unit employees. MB holds a Bachelor’s degree from Agnes Scott College and a Juris Doctor from William and Mary School of Law.
Sikenah Baxter joined the Union in April 2022 and the Board in November 2016. She is currently involved in employment engagement with her mini team and a member of the Diversity & Inclusion committee. Prior to joining the Board she was a family law attorney. She would like to create a welcoming environment in which other’s perspectives are appreciated.
Stephen Eckerman, Esq.Chief Steward
Gregory Thompson, Jr. joined the Canteen in 2015 and has been a steward for Local 17 since 2017. Gregory has a passion for helping people and thought becoming a steward would be a good place to start in helping those who need it and learning more about the government and how it operates. Gregory has a Bachelor’s degree in Audio Engineering and Film from Full Sail University and the Art Institute of Washington, and he enjoys playing the trumpet.
Marla Woodarek, Esq.
Marla Woodarek has been a Steward of Local 17 since March 2017 after onboarding at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals in January 2017. She has been involved in dozens of successful grievances and two recent successful arbitrations, covering various matters from re-evaluation of performance assessments to preventing employees from being fired for perceived misconduct. Marla has not only been instrumental in planning Local 17’s annual holiday party but also multiple training conferences, to include How to Bargain Effectively Training hosted by Local 17 in Baltimore, Maryland in June 2021 which brought thousands of dollars for the Local. She also works pro bono with John Rigby of McInroy & Rigby LLC, on various EEO cases before the EEOC. More recently, Marla was elected by the Executive Board to become Chair of Local 17’s Grievance and Arbitration Committee. Marla holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Delaware and a juris doctor from Syracuse University College of Law.