by Pablo Ros and Kevin Brown | May 21, 2013
LOS ANGELES – Thousands of University of California patient care workers went on strike today in five locations throughout the state, chanting: “What’s this about? Patient care!” and “All day, all night – safe staffing is our fight.”
The members of AFSCME Local 3299 – the nurses, surgical and X-ray technicians, custodians, servers, cooks and others that keep one of the largest medical systems in the country running – began a two-day strike to demand from hospital executives that they put patients before profits.
“This strike is about standing up for students, patients and taxpayers the UC Medical System was intended to serve,” said Local 3299 Pres. Kathryn Lybarger, also an AFSCME International vice president. “UC’s increasingly unsafe staffing practices and growing culture of executive entitlement are undermining patient care quality and unnecessarily putting lives at risk.”
Executive compensation at UC Medical is up by $100 million since 2009 and executives are taking lifetime pensions of up to $300,000 a year, all while compromising on safe staffing levels. They are forcing workers to do more with less and placing the burden of sacrifice on those who make less than $30,000 a year.
This has led to unsanitary operating tables, broken equipment, chronic understaffing and deteriorating hospital conditions that put patients in harm’s way.
For nearly a year, the University of California medical system has refused to negotiate reasonable safe staffing, retirement security and fair wage proposals. In spite of hundreds of millions in annual profits, administrators want to cut pensions and slash retiree health care.
AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders, who joined the strike rally, reminded the patient care workers that “we all stand in solidarity” with them. “This is no way to run one of the best university health systems in the nation,” Saunders said. “This is no way to treat patients. And this is no way to treat you!”
He also called on UC to “bargain in good faith with its workers,” adding, “We call on UC to make patients Number 1. We call on UC to respect the people who keep the doors open and to respect the patients who come through those doors!”
Since Local 3299 began negotiations more than 10 months ago, UC administrators have been unwilling to come to the table with a workable proposal. Today’s actions follow a nearly unanimous vote, in which 97 percent of members supported going on strike. Before the walkout, Local 3299 took measures to ensure that patient care needs will be met.
Please help our sisters and brothers in the UC medical system and show solidarity by signing this petition. After you sign the petition, call the CEOs of UC Medical Centers and tell them you support AFSCME members out on strike. Tell them: “It’s time to curb exorbitant UC executive entitlements, and put patients before profits.”
The chief executive officers are:
- Mark Laret, UC San Francisco Medical Center – (415) 353-2733
- David Feinberg, UCLA Medical Center – (310) 267-9315
- Terry Belmont, UC Irvine Medical Center – (714) 456-6240
- Ann Madden Rice, UC Davis Medical Center – (916) 734-0751
- Paul Viviano, UC San Diego Medical Center – (619) 543-6654
by Kate Childs Graham | May 20, 2013
The Senate is now considering a comprehensive immigration reform bill that includes a path to citizenship for aspiring Americans – as well as accelerated paths for farmworkers and college students known as DREAMers – but lawmakers are filing a slew of amendments that threaten to clutter or entirely block that path.
That’s why this week, AFSCME joined hundreds of unions and community organizations in urging members of the Senate Judiciary Committee not only protect, but expand the path to citizenship proposed in the bill. A path to citizenship would add at least $832 billion to our economy over 10 years, according to the Center for American Progress. It would stabilize our workforce and strengthen our national security.
There are some positive amendments proposed for the bipartisan Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 (S. 744). They allow for:
- The youngest DREAMers, who are still in college, to apply for Lawful Permanent Resident status under the same rules as someone who has already graduated from college
- Individuals to pay required fees for citizenship on an installment basis
- Changing some important timelines, helping more recent immigrants access the path to citizenship
But troubling amendments do the following:
- Bar any formerly-undocumented immigrant from obtaining U.S. citizenship
- Bar people with very minor criminal offenses from obtaining citizenship
- Require anyone on the path to citizenship to maintain an income four times over the poverty line ($90,000 for a family of four) for the entire 10 years that they’re on the path. It’s a ridiculously high bar that few if any would stand a chance of meeting.
The stronger and more expansive that path is, the stronger our country will be. Learn more about recent May Day actions AFSCME members nationwide participated in, calling for comprehensive immigration reform.
by Clyde Weiss | May 20, 2013
Approximately 11,000 family child care providers in Minnesota today won a historic legislative victory in their years-long campaign to win collective bargaining rights when the House voted to approve landmark legislation allowing them to have their own union.
The House action followed last week’s Senate vote for the bill. Gov. Mark Dayton vowed to sign the legislation if it reached his desk.
St. Paul child care provider Lisa Thompson, president of Child Care Providers Together, a unit of AFSCME Council 5, applauded the lawmakers who supported the bill. “A union is something our profession needs,” she said. “We are businesswomen who know that a union will give us many benefits, such as access to training, the ability to collectively bargain for better reimbursement rates and a legal voice at the table.”
The bill gives licensed and unlicensed in-home child care providers (who care for children who receive state subsidies) the right to be represented by a union. These providers – who receive state subsidies to care for children from low-income families – want to organize with AFSCME’s Child Care Providers Together, but an election is required before the union can act on their behalf.
The bill also would also allow personal care attendants who work directly for a person they care for, such as an elderly or disabled relative, to organize a union, under the same requirements set for child care providers. The attendants are seeking representation through the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Together, 21,000 workers in Minnesota can gain representation through a union.
Minnesota’s child care providers have been organizing with AFSCME Council 5 since 2011. That year, more than 4,300 licensed, in-home child care providers won the right to gain union representation when Governor Dayton signed an executive order. But two days before they would have begun to cast their votes to unionize, a St. Paul judge issued a temporary restraining order blocking the election. This year, Sen. Sandra Pappas and Rep. Michael Nelson introduced the new collective bargaining bill approved by the Senate this week.
“Everyone wins when we come together and work together to improve our lives and profession,” said Lynn Barten, a child care provider in Alexandria, Minn., who is also hoping to form a union with Child Care Providers Together. “It’s time to help Minnesota’s family child care providers do the same. Providers already do a great job taking care of our children, but a union will give us access to more training so we can do our jobs even better.”
by Kate Childs Graham | May 17, 2013
Philadelphia, Pa., has joined a growing group of cities – including Portland, Ore., San Francisco, Calif., and Seattle, Wash. – to provide inclusive health care coverage for transgender city workers, thanks to the advocacy of DC 47 member Kathy Padilla.
Padilla, a city worker herself, has been advocating for transgender health care coverage for nearly a decade. She had countless conversations with legislators. She garnered community support. She did hours of research. She asked political candidates to respond to the issue.
In 2002, she and others successfully passed the Fair Practices Ordinance that banned discrimination based on gender identity. But still transgender employees didn’t have equal access to health care and were denied services ranging from mammograms to gender reassignment surgery.
“Having an exclusion in health care is discrimination of a protected class,” Padilla noted.
Last week, Padilla’s work paid off, when City Councilman Jim Kenney’s LGBT Equality Bill was signed into law. The bill offers tax credits to support life partner and transgender health benefits in the private sector and removes anti-transgender discrimination from the city employee health plan, making Philadelphia the largest city to remove transgender health care discrimination from its work force.
“As a city employee, I’m relieved to no longer have to worry over being denied care for necessary services like mammograms or, God forbid, treatment for breast cancer that are routinely denied to trans people,” Padilla said.
Padilla, 56, has not had a mammogram in 16 years.
She continued, “The city loses money when transgender people are denied mammograms or pelvic exams and early treatment doesn’t occur.”
A 2012 report from AFSCME and Center for American Progress also found that cities – and subsequently, taxpayers – lose money when discrimination in the workplace or in health care boosts costly turnover and increases the likelihood of expensive lawsuits.
Padilla is working with her union leaders, who supported the legislation, to ensure that insurance carriers in Philadelphia include this coverage on a non-discriminatory basis for every city worker in Philadelphia.
by Kate Childs Graham | May 16, 2013
One in five Californians speak English less than “very well.” During the next five years, with the implementation of health care reform, more than 3 million Californians will require language assistance in health care. By state and federal law, these Californians must have access to translating services. And yet, the state does not yet have a clear plan for how a rapidly growing number of patients will access the care to which they are entitled and need.
To help and encourage legislators to develop that plan, AFSCME leaders have organized a new group called Interpreting for California. Members are pushing for a larger, well-trained interpreter work force. They are also working with Assembly Speaker John Perez to pass a bill, which requires the state Department of Health Care Services to apply for federal matching funds to create a state-certified pool of interpreters.
“Quality, in-person medical interpretation saves lives. We are leading the way with interpreters and the community to make sure all Californians can communicate with their doctor and get the care they need,” says Doug Moore, Executive Director of UDW Homecare Providers/AFSCME Local 3930 and an AFSCME International vice president.
Interpreting for California has also held community forums, like the one seen in this video, where local community members can share their personal stories.
Lack of proper interpretation in a health care setting can have dire, even fatal consequences. AFSCME interpreters in California, Washington and across the country are working hard to make sure that their communities speak the language of care.
by Clyde Weiss | May 14, 2013
Why would a conservative AFSCME member contribute to the union’s political action committee (PAC) if he opposes Pres. Barack Obama and some of his signature legislation backed by the union?
Dan Petruso, chairman of the Conservative Caucus of Washington Federation of State Employees/AFSCME Council 28, explains the causes we support through our PAC, known as PEOPLE, have less to do with party labels than with particular issues affecting workers.
As a result, he said, PEOPLE contributions have “opened the doorway to legislators – Republicans primarily – who ordinarily wouldn’t even talk to us. So it’s changed the whole political landscape, not only on Capitol Hill and the Legislature, but within our union. The Conservative Caucus in Washington has changed the tenor of the thinking of the whole Council.”
So much so, in fact, that Council 28’s Conservative Caucus has a nearly 100-percent participation rate in PEOPLE (Public Employees Organized to Promote Legislative Equality). That’s why Petruso, an enforcement officer for the state of Washington’s Division of Child Support, is a PEOPLE MVP. That means he contributes at least $100 per year to the union’s political action committee.
Petruso, also vice president of Spokane Local 1221 and co-chair of his union’s Legislative and Political Action Committee, adds that conservatives contribute to AFSCME PEOPLE because through it, they can voluntarily financially support the union’s political activities.
Conservatism is a family tradition for Republican Sheralynn Kern, vice president of Local 4041. Kern, a licensing technician for the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles in Carson City, is also a PEOPLE MVP. She explains: “One group of my family came from mining, the other came from agriculture. That’s a pretty conservative group of people.”
As Northern Nevada co-chair of her union’s Law and Legislative Committee, Kern understands the importance that money plays in politics. As a conservative, she also knows that her PEOPLE contributions can sway politicians to support causes that she supports.
“When things were going wrong in Wisconsin and other states – including Nevada – the PEOPLE program put up funding to help us to make the difference,” Kern said. Those who run the program from the national union “don’t just go off on their own,” she added. “They stay in contact with Nevada. They asked us whether we agreed with them or not, and I think that’s great.”
Kern may not support all the candidates that PEOPLE supports, but she says it’s important to contribute. “It’s a necessary program,” she said. “In the long run, it benefits every one of us.”
by Joe Lawrence | May 14, 2013
ST. LOUIS, Mo. – Following actions in New York and Chicago, this city last week became the nation’s third major metro area to see a wave of walkouts and demonstrations at fast food restaurants. Within days, similar actions took place in Detroit and Milwaukee.
The unrest is fueled by industry-wide poverty level pay, largely non-existent benefits and disrespect for workers by management. Workers are demanding a raise to a living wage and the right to form unions without retaliation.
Workers at 30 restaurants took part in the St. Louis strike, which is part of a larger campaign: “St. Louis Can’t Survive on $7.35.” Supporters from the labor movement, faith-based groups and the community are standing with them, even as the actions slowed service at area food joints.
Jimmy Russell, a local reverend, was headed into a McDonald’s to have a cup of coffee as he prepared his Sunday sermon. Seeing the activity out front, he approached and offered to speak.
“I worked at UPS for 35 years; we had each other’s back,” the retired Teamster told the crowd. “Get yourself a union,” he encouraged the workers.
But as huge as the fast food industry is – growing at twice the rate of the U.S. economy – and as dire the conditions its workers face, the struggle extends far beyond the local McDonald’s or Burger King. As a St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial last week noted, the strikes were “an opening gambit in a long game,” beginning with “drawing attention to the plight of the American worker in a time of record income inequality.”
It was those very reasons home care attendant Ella Giles showed up to support the strikers. “My grandson works fast food, and he deserves respect,” Giles said. A member of the Missouri Home Care Union she pointed out that “when their pay goes up, we all get better pay.”
by Helen Cox | May 14, 2013
OKLAHOMA CITY – When the corporate-backed, radical right-wing group American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) convened here last week for its annual summit, attendees got a less friendly welcome than they might have imagined in the conservative state.
Outnumbering conference attendees, more than 700 Oklahomans showed up for a “Rally for the Middle Class.” AFSCME members stood shoulder-to-shoulder with community allies and members of the International Association of Fire Fighters and the Teamsters.
The 40-year-old ALEC promotes corporate-friendly legislation. They’ve supported right-to-work (for less), prison privatization, and education privatization. Were it not for AFSCME members, its conference attendees might have had a warmer greeting in the state where Gov. Mary Fallin was named ALEC’s Legislator of the Year in 2009.
"I've never been more proud of AFSCME,” said William Bryles, president of Local 2406. “Even with a record-breaking wind chill, we came out to fight. Workers' comp, retirement security and quality public services are too important to just hand over. Now, ALEC knows that anywhere they go, AFSCME will go too."
ALEC tried to silence protestors by taking away their previously reserved conference room for their rally and successfully blocking journalists from attending sessions even though they were registered. ALEC also put a disclaimer on all sample legislation and agendas which says, "ALEC believes it is not subject to disclosure under any state Freedom of Information or Public Records Act." In a laughable disconnect, ALEC recently told the press “we really believe in transparency.”
Despite ALEC’s best efforts, protestors are continuing to speak out and be heard. AFSCME members at nearly every local in the state attended educational seminars on ALEC’s work to dismantle the middle class. Oklahoma AFSCME members are more ready than ever before to fight privatization efforts and attacks on their well-being.
by Pablo Ros | May 14, 2013
In a major victory for democracy, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper recently signed a bill into law that will make it easier for more residents to cast their votes on Election Day.
The law will redefine how elections in Colorado are held by allowing same-day voter registration and the mailing of ballots to all registered voters. Through its implementation, every registered voter can expect to receive a ballot by mail while still having the option of voting in person at any of the vote centers established by the bill.
The bill will also eliminate the “inactive” voter category that applies to residents who skip one election cycle and imposes restrictions on them to receive ballots by mail.
All Democrats in the state Legislature voted for the bill, while not a single Republican did, citing concerns about “voter fraud,” which is largely non-existent and used by the right as an excuse for restricting the ability of Democratic-leaning voters, especially minorities, to vote.
AFSCME was part of a coalition that joined forces to get this bill passed. Among them were Colorado county clerks and commissioners, as well as national progressive groups Common Cause and the League of Women Voters.
This is a clear victory for democracy, especially at a time when extremist groups like the tea party and the American Legislative Exchange Council continue plotting to restrict voting by minorities and obstruct the electoral process as much as they can. In New Jersey this week, Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a bill that would have made voting more accessible – the need for which was starkly demonstrated when Super-Storm Sandy impeded citizens’ access to polling places in his own state.
by Clyde Weiss | May 13, 2013
AFSCME members are known for their political activism, but the members of Local 903 (AFSCME Wisconsin Council 24) have good reason to be proud of theirs – actually, four good reasons: Their president, vice president and two other members have each won seats on their Common Council or County Board of Supervisors.
This story begins in 2011 when the newly formed Southwest Coalition – a group comprised of AFSCME, other local unions, farmers, teachers and non-profit groups – launched a drive to support progressive candidates for local office.
“Through the coalition, we found out that some local employees were meeting resistance from their bosses, so we decided maybe we should run for office and see if we can make a difference,” said Ken Fleshner, a sergeant at the medium-security Prairie du Chien Correctional Institution.
Fleshner, also a steward and member of Local 903’s executive board, thought that by running for a Common Council seat, he could bring a worker’s perspective to the council. Especially at a time of budget cutting, he said, “It’s not a bad thing to let workers have rights and give them a fair shake.”
Mark Thein, a fellow corrections sergeant, also entered the Common Council race, “to become more active in the political process, and try to be more influential as a union person,” said Thein, vice president of Local 903.
At the time, Gov. Scott Walker was about to launch his campaign to strip public service employees of their collective bargaining rights.
“We didn’t know how hard he was going to come down on us,” said Thein. “We needed to stand up and participate to make sure the real information was getting out” about union members, who Walker was falsely smearing.
Their fellow corrections officer, Mike Jones, also decided to enter the Common Council contest. All three ran as write-in candidates in the small town race, and all won, and were re-elected last month. Later – in April 2012 – corrections sergeant Adam Sutter, president of Local 903, won a two-year seat on the Crawford County Board of Supervisors.
Today, Fleshner sometimes finds himself sitting on the other side of the table from workers facing disciplinary actions, and other issues. But his union background keeps him grounded in the rights of workers.
“I think we have a unique perspective in that we can put ourselves more in the employee’s shoes,” he explained. “When talking about benefits, pay, discipline, the human factor – I always have that in the back of my mind when I make decisions.”
With these four members of AFSCME Local 903, it’s not just a matter of balancing work, family and union. It’s also getting active in the needs of an entire community.