by Dave Patterson | March 31, 2015
Milwaukee County’s Department of Health and Human Services Dir. Hector Colón just received a 39 percent raise in pay recently thanks to Milwaukee County Exec. Chris Abele. But for the other 4,000 county workers, Abele can’t find a dime to spare.
“Chris Abele says he wants to reward good work but he forgets about the hard-working county employees who keep our roads safe, maintain our parks, ensure our water is clean and care for our elderly and most vulnerable,” said Boyd McCamish, executive director of AFSCME Milwaukee Council 48. “Like so many politicians, he's preoccupied with rewarding his cronies."
Colón’s raise of $48,682 put him at $175,000 with the stroke of Abele’s pin. There are now nine county managers who are paid more than $129,000, according to 2015 salary figures, and many were given raises without public notice.
County Board Chairwoman Marina Dimitrijevic criticized Abele for giving these raises without informing the public. Dimitrijevic specifically questioned how Abele could justify a 39 percent boost to Colón’s pay just a few months after the administration and board debated cuts in funding to homeless shelters and indigent burials, and the closing of public pools.
“It seems out of balance when it comes to employees’ compensation,” said Dimitrijevic.
In the meantime, low wages for most county employees have hurt job recruitment for county positions and created more turnover, as employees moved to similar jobs in other counties that pay more.
by Michael Byrne | March 31, 2015
New federal rules designed to expedite private-sector union elections will stand, thanks to President Obama, who reversed congressional action with the stroke of his pen.
Obama said the changes, recently made by the National Labor Relations Board, are needed because they make it easier for workers to join a union. “One of the freedoms of folks here in the United States is that if they choose to join a union, they should be able to do so,” he said. “And we shouldn’t be making it impossible for that to happen.”
President Obama also praised unions for helping to establish fair labor standards, eliminating child labor and improving wages and benefits for all workers.
The GOP-led Congress in early March blocked the NLRB rules, which are opposed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups. On March 31, President Obama signed a “memorandum of disapproval” overturning the congressional decision.
The new rules are intended to “streamline Board procedures, increase transparency and uniformity across regions, eliminate or reduce unnecessary litigation, duplication and delay, and update the Board's rules on documents and communications in light of modern communications technology,” the NLRB said when it first proposed the rules in 2011.
The Senate voted to reverse the NLRB rules the same day that California RN Brenda Crawford, a UNAC/UHCP member, testified the rules are needed to keep employers from dragging their feet and foiling workers’ desire to organize for better pay, benefits and quality of life.
Obama also announced that the White House this fall will host a summit “on increasing the voice and the rights of workers here in the United States.” Pointing to a recovery that has benefited mostly the people at the top while the middle class struggles, the President said we should “give workers the capacity to have their voices heard, to have some influence in the workplace, to make sure that they’re partners in building up the U.S. economy, and that growth is broad-based …”
by Yanik Ruiz-Ramón | March 31, 2015
Congratulations to the 2015 winners of the AFSCME Family Scholarship!
Each year the AFSCME Family Scholarship Program provides ten $2,000 scholarships to high school seniors that will be renewed for $2,000 each year for a maximum of four years, provided the student remains enrolled in a full-time course of study. The scholarship may be used for any field of study.
The winners are:
- Taylor Chambers, California, Local 1902
- Jacob Chapman, Illinois, Council 31, Local 1048
- Elishiah David, Oregon, Council 75, Local 132
- Rachel Hay, Washington, Council 2, Local 1857
- Riley Magner, Massachusetts, Council 93, Local 3643
- Tyler S. Maurer, Pennsylvania, Council 86, Local 2151
- Bryan McCoy, District of Columbia, Council 26, Local 2910
- Parsa Najmaie, Minnesota, Council 5. Local 2474
- Daria Rose, New York, CSEA, Local 880
- Alejandro Trevino, Michigan, Council 25, Local 1390
by Michael Byrne | March 31, 2015
Nearly 1,000 Minnesota workers – members of AFSCME Council 5 – and retirees blitzed the state Capitol in St. Paul on March 25 in their annual Day on the Hill. Before meeting with their legislators, the activists started with a news conference at a downtown hotel. They pushed an agenda for change that includes:
- new revenue for roads, bridges and transit options;
- increased staffing at state-run prisons and mental health facilities;
- reinvestment in public services;
- protecting retirement security and traditional pensions; and
- helping working families gain paycheck stability with the Working Parents Act.
March 30, 2015
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence on March 26 signed into law a bill that legalizes discrimination, allowing businesses to refuse service to customers simply because they are gay or lesbian. Further, since Governor Pence claims disingenuously that it is about religious freedom, his law protects any business owner who refuses to hire someone of a different religion from their own.
This un-American law sets Indiana and our nation back decades in the struggle for civil rights. It is an embarrassment and cannot be tolerated. As such, AFSCME will move our 2015 Women’s Conference in October from Indianapolis to another state. Additional details about the conference’s new location and any necessary date change will be announced as they become available.
The 1.6 million members of AFSCME cannot in good conscience make such a sizeable financial investment in Indiana knowing that women and men in that state are deliberately targeted for discrimination.
Throughout our proud history, our union has stood up whenever injustice has occurred – be it for striking sanitation workers in Memphis in 1968, or for the victims of apartheid in South Africa in the 1980s. Governor Pence’s law, motivated by ultra-right-wing zealots, is an affront to the vast majority of those in our nation who believe that every American deserves equal treatment under the law, no matter whom they love or where they worship.
AFSCME is pulling our Women’s Conference out of Indiana this fall as a sign of our disgust and disappointment with Governor Pence’s discriminatory law. We stand with the ever-growing number of corporations and associations who are taking similar action this week, and demanding fairness for all in the state of Indiana.
by Dave Kreisman | March 30, 2015
CHICAGO – With more than 1,000 young union members from across the nation in town, Cab Drivers United/AFSCME Council 31 member Ezz Abdelmagid was proud to lead activists in a virtual action aimed at educating them and enlisting their support. The drivers are working to reform the separate and unequal system Mayor Rahm Emanuel created when his administration licensed so-called “rideshare” operators Uber and Lyft.
“Cab drivers in Chicago are the motor that keep our great city moving throughout the year. Yet despite being an integral part of Chicago’s transportation system, we’re treated like second-class citizens,” said Abdelmagid.
“We attend school to become a cab driver. We undergo drug and physical tests. Our cabs are highly visible and under constant scrutiny by city inspectors and the police department. Yet when Mayor Emanuel and the city gave Uber a license to operate, they did so based on a promise, creating a two-tiered system,” continued Abdelmagid.
Abdelmagid led attendees in a virtual action, encouraging young union members to take a “selfie” with their cab drivers and to send that photo in a tweet or post it to Facebook during their time in Chicago.
Abdelmagid also asked those in the audience to send tweets to Mayor Emanuel, Alderman Emma Mitts and Alderman Anthony Beale, the chairs of the Licensing and Transportation Committees respectively, asking them to begin to fix the two-tiered system by holding a hearing so the public could comment.
“We’re asking these leaders to take a stand, to protect public safety, to protect our livelihoods, to take action on rideshare today. Send a tweet right now using the hashtag Cab Drivers United and send a message to the city that we won’t stand idly by while a billion-dollar corporation destroys our livelihood,” Abdelmagid said.
by David Patterson | March 27, 2015
An arbitrator empowered to determine a contract impasse between the State of Iowa and its 19,000 state and judicial branch employees represented by AFSCME Iowa Council 61 ruled in favor of the workers when it accepted the union’s health insurance proposal requiring the overwhelming majority of the state and judicial branch employees to pay a $20 monthly healthcare premium. The move saves most state employees thousands of dollars per year.
The health insurance issue was a major sticking point in reaching a new two-year collective bargaining pact, with Governor Branstad’s negotiators unsuccessfully seeking a 10 percent employee premium payment for AFSCME members in 2016 and 15 percent in 2017. Talks that started in November failed to reach a voluntary agreement by the mid-February deadline.
“We are pleased that the arbitrator found in our favor on health insurance,” said AFSCME Iowa Council 61 President Danny Homan. “We believe the process worked in such a way as to appropriately balance the interests of state employees and state government. The arbitration award shows that Iowa’s current collective bargaining process works.”
Governor Branstad has long been at odds with state employees and has been pushing for state employees to pay large health insurance premium payments since he returned to office in 2011 for his fifth term. The latest contract calls for pay raises of about 6 percent over two years, but Branstad won’t propose a bill to fund the raises, saying that the costs must come from each agency’s budget. Most state employees have not had a raise in three years.
“With this fair decision, AFSCME members are pleased that we will be able to look forward and focus on providing public services to Iowans,” added Homan.
by Justin Lee | March 27, 2015
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Emergency medical service (EMS) professionals working in 13 counties across California voted to ratify a new three-year agreement with the ambulance company, American Medical Response. The deal will improve safety by limiting the number of consecutive work shifts, providing pay increases and protecting health care for the nation’s largest collective bargaining unit of private EMS personnel.
The new collective bargaining agreement improves work conditions for 1,800 EMTs, paramedics, dispatchers, registered nurses, mechanics, vehicle supply technicians and office support personnel employed at AMR in Contra Costa, Placer, Sacramento, San Benito, San Francisco, San Joaquin, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, Shasta, Stanislaus, Sonoma, Tulare and Yolo counties.
The victory is the result of two years of intense negotiations with a company that—despite growing corporate profits—proposed increasing workers’ health insurance premiums, deductibles, and out-of-pocket costs. Workers rejected the company’s backward proposals and stood united for a contract that advances their profession while improving EMS in their communities.
“Standing together in a union gives us strength to improve patient care and provide security for our families,” said Sami Abed, a 13-year paramedic in Santa Cruz county and president of United EMS Workers-AFSCME Local 4911. “Having that power is important for EMS professionals anywhere.”
by Omar Tewfik | March 27, 2015
ATLANTA – Employees of the Atlanta Public School System (APS) are taking the fight for school children directly to Atlanta’s Mayor Kasim Reed, calling him out for withholding millions of dollars owed to the school system by the city.
APS workers rallied outside police headquarters March 25th, holding “Wanted” posters with a picture of Mayor Reed and calling for the Atlanta police chief to investigate for the mayor’s theft of funds owed to APS.
“Mayor Reed is stealing from Atlanta’s children and we have had enough of it,” said Susan McCaskill, an APS bus operator and member of AFSCME Local 1644. “In cases of theft, it’s up to law enforcement to investigate. Just because Kasim Reed is the mayor doesn’t mean that he should get away with thievery. ”
The money in question is two years of delinquent annual payments from the city to APS, more than $13 million. The money is supposed to be paid to the system in exchange for APS’s portion of property tax revenue generated from a green space project called, the Beltline. In addition to Beltline money, the APS workers are also calling out the mayor to release deeds to 12 abandoned properties owned by APS that could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
“I don’t understand why the mayor would stop funding from going to our schools,” said Khalia Roberts-Harris, an honor student and senior from Grady High School in Atlanta, who took off school to attend the rally. “We are told if we work hard we can be something when we get older, but the mayor is taking resources from our schools that will help us succeed.”
At a rally two weeks earlier, APS workers were accompanied by local news cameras as they walked into City Hall and asked to speak with Mayor Reed. An aide told the workers that he was unavailable.
“This rally is about what is best for our kids,” said Quentin Hutchins, an APS bus operator. “They deserve a school system that is fully funded and a mayor that doesn’t bully his way into getting what he wants for the benefit of his corporate buddies.”
by Kevin Brown | March 26, 2015
The University of Washington was taught an important lesson by approximately 20 skilled trades workers who play a vital role in making the university a world-class facility. If you violate the collective bargaining agreement, undermining the importance of the skilled workers, you can expect to pay a huge price.
In 2013, heat and air conditioning specialists, plumbers, electricians and other skilled trades workers represented by AFSCME Local 1488 WFSE, blew the whistle when the UW improperly outsourced maintenance work for renovation of the landmark Husky Stadium.
In February of this year, the Public Employee Relations Board (PERB) sided with workers, ordering the university to pay $45,000, divided up among the workers.
“Every time the university contracts out, it costs the taxpayers more money and I’m a taxpayer and it also costs me more money,” said Paula Lukaszek, president of Local 1488 WFSE.
The agreement settles three unfair labor practice complaints filed by the union. Key provisions include:
- The UW will immediately return, to bargaining unit members, any work “historically and traditionally” done by the workers related to Husky Stadium, including the Don James Center and the Stadium Clinic.
- The UW agrees that, until Sept. 1, 2017, it will provide Local 1488 WFSE with timely copies of all work orders and contractor purchase orders for any repair or maintenance work in Husky Stadium.
- The UW will provide the orientation, training and tools appropriate and reasonably necessary for members to resume outsourced work now coming back to them.
- And, until Sept. 1, 2017, the union and university will use a mediation/arbitration process to resolve any disputes covered by the settlement.
Hear Local 1488 WFSE members talk about the settlement here.