Fighting for Better Patient Care and R-E-S-P-E-C-T in Connecticut

by Olivia Sandbothe  |  October 20, 2016

Fighting for Better Patient Care and R-E-S-P-E-C-T in Connecticut Jessica Ellul (center) with nursing assistants at Danbury Hospital show their solidarity in CHCA scrubs. (Photo by Patty George)

Despite aggressive opposition from hospital management, workers at two Connecticut hospitals can now proudly call themselves AFSCME members.

Custodians, maintenance workers, lab techs, nursing assistants and others employed at Danbury and New Milford Hospitals, both managed by the Western Connecticut Healthcare Network (WCHN), voted to join Connecticut Health Care Associates (CHCA/AFSCME) on September 1. They’re fighting for respect on the job — for their patients and themselves.

“The main thing we’re hoping to get in the contract is better staffing levels that would make things safer for us and the patients,” says Jessica Ellul, a patient care coordinator at Danbury. “I think people are excited to see a change. Now that they have a voice, people feel like they’re part of this hospital again. We’re hoping to build a better relationship with management.”

Management tried to spread misinformation and divide workers from one another in the lead-up to the election. But hospital workers didn’t waver from their convictions: safety and quality care must come ahead of profits.

“I want to work in a hospital that not only I, but our whole community can be proud of,” said Melissa Zipparo. Shirnette Noble says she voted for the union because “our work safety depends on it.”

Now that they’re officially standing together as a union, WCHN employees are ready to begin speaking up for better patient care and a fairer workplace.

Protecting Our Children

October 19, 2016

Each year nearly a million children are abducted or run away. Many are never returned to their families. That’s a staggering statistic and one that our union can help to reduce.

AFSCME is partnering with the National Child Identification Program and the American Football Coaches Association to make our children's lives safer. This month, AFSCME members will receive a child identification kit that can be used to collect and store a child’s fingerprints and DNA. Completed kits should be stored at home in a safe place and only turned over to authorities in the event of an emergency. No one will have access to your child’s fingerprints or DNA without your permission. 

The kits will arrive with the Fall issue of AFSCME WORKS magazine and include instructions for use. It’s so easy to gather the information, and it could make all the difference in the future.

There’s nothing more important to AFSCME than the members who help keep their communities running and our union strong. And there’s nothing more important to us as parents and grandparents than our children and grandchildren. Through the use of the child identification kit, a parent or guardian can dramatically increase the chances that a missing child will be located and safely returned.

The fingerprint kit, DNA sample collector and fact sheet are kept by the parent or guardian in their personal records, but if needed — will give law enforcement agencies up to 80 percent of the information they need to initiate an immediate search when time is of the essence.

In teaming up with the National Child Identification Program, AFSCME joins several unions and dozens of community, faith and athletic organizations to make our communities safer. In addition to receiving one free kit, AFSCME members will have the option of buying additional kits at the specially negotiated price of $4.95, half the usual cost.

Watch your mailbox for a free child identification kit in the Fall issue of AFSCME WORKS magazine. A missing child is a parent’s worst nightmare, and we sincerely hope that once AFSCME members complete the kit, they’ll never have to use it.

As public service workers, we take pride in making our communities safer. If we all take a few moments to protect our families, we can help bring every missing child home safely. 

For kit instructions en Español, visit

Support Our Fallen Brother

October 19, 2016

Support Our Fallen Brother Sgt. Allen Brandt (Photo courtesy City of Fairbanks, Alaska)

When shots rang out in downtown Fairbanks, Alaska, Sergeant Allen Brandt did just what you’d expect a trained law enforcement officer to do: He went toward the danger so he could protect others.

Sgt. Brandt put his life on the line, and was shot multiple times as he responded to the call. While the suspect fled the scene, Sgt. Brandt was rushed to the hospital and eventually flown to Anchorage to be treated.

It's moments like this where being an AFSCME member is most meaningful, because Sgt. Brandt has 1.6 million sisters and brothers behind him. Sgt. Brandt is a loving husband and father of four children, and an 11-year veteran of the Fairbanks police force.

He's also a member of PSEA Local 803, our brother, and that’s why AFSCME members are stepping up to support him.

Supporters have set up an online fundraising campaign to help Sgt. Brandt and his family through this difficult ordeal, and AFSCME members all over the country are stepping up to support a fallen hero and their brother in need.

You can join them by donating here.

Council 31 Members’ Message for Rauner: Come Back to the Table

by David Kreisman  |  October 18, 2016

Illinois state employees — AFSCME Council 31 members — are featured in a new union ad campaign pressing Governor Rauner to return to the bargaining table after breaking off negotiations in January.

Recently an Illinois Labor Relations Board hearing officer recommended that the full Board reject Rauner’s contention that the parties are at impasse on wages, health care and other key issues, and require the administration to resume negotiations with AFSCME. 

The latest ad features a correctional officer, Alanea, who was injured in a recent attack by prison inmates.

“We had taken some contraband from an inmate’s cell, and when my lieutenant was explaining to him what we took, he just hit her, and then all the other inmates joined in,” says Alanea. 

“Every day when I’m getting ready for work, I wonder how the shift is going to go.  If we’re going to have a good day, and make it home, or if it’s going to go bad,” continues Alanea. 

While AFSCME Council 31 members have agreed to limit pay raises and pay more for their health care, Governor Rauner is demanding a four-year wage freeze and doubling employee costs for health care. That would amount to a $10,000 pay cut for the average state worker.

“We want to keep our health insurance, we want to keep our right to negotiate, we just want to do our job,” concludes Alanea.

Two Hundred-Plus County Employees Join AFSCME in Indy

by David Patterson  |  October 17, 2016

Two Hundred-Plus County Employees Join AFSCME in Indy Workers in the county clerk's office show off their AFSCME green. (Photos by Myra Pugh)

Some 230 Marion County employees in Indianapolis joined the AFSCME ranks, this summer, after newly elected officials granted their employees the right to bargain collectively.

Employees from the Marion County Clerk’s, Auditor’s, Assessor’s and Surveyor’s offices had worked without collective bargaining rights or raises for far too long. In fact, many have gone at least eight years without a raise. With newly elected, pro-labor Mayor Joe Hogsett taking office in 2015, county employees decided the time was right to form their union with AFSCME Council 962. AFSCME Council 962 organizers helped workers in the process by meeting with employees in each of the offices; identifying  supporters; answering  questions and concerns over meetings after work, at lunches and over phone calls and emails; and training key leaders. The result has been a success. A majority of the employees signed membership cards and each of the county offices voluntarily recognized AFSCME.

George FarleyGeorge Farley helped lead the organizing drive in the county Tax Assessor's office.

“It was exciting to organize our offices,” said George Farley, an accounting coordinator in the Assessor’s office and a member of the AFSCME bargaining team. “It was satisfying convincing people to join together and signing union cards, knowing that we are standing together to make our jobs better.”

Currently, the bargaining team is training and preparing to negotiate a first contract with the county, and AFSCME members are looking forward to founding their own local union.

“We’re looking forward to bringing everyone together into the local,” said Farley, a former UAW member. “So many of my co-workers don’t realize what it means to have a union. And that we, as members, are in control of it. We determine our leaders, our issues and how we spend our dues dollars. That’s going to be exciting to see.”

Keeping Our Children Safe

by Pablo Ros  |  October 14, 2016

Rebekah Wright works for the Ohio State School for the Blind. She’s worn different hats there, including a job in the music department, which is home to the nation’s only blind marching band.  “Those kids are absolutely amazing!” she boasts.

Wright, a maintenance repair worker for the school and member of the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association (AFSCME Local 11), cares about the children she serves and does her best to improve her community one day at a time.

Rebekah WrightRebekah Wright (Courtesy photo)

As a mother of three children who is married to a police detective, community safety is also a top priority for her. When her children’s school several years ago invited parents to fill out kits from the National Child Identification Program, she didn’t hesitate. “I thought it was a great way to keep track of my children in the event of a crisis,” she says. 

AFSCME partnered with the National Child Identification Program (NCIP) and American Football Coaches Association to provide free ID kits to all members nationwide. AFSCME members will receive a free ID kit with the fall issue of AFSCME WORKS magazine. The kits come with easy-to-follow instructions for collecting your child’s personal information, fingerprints and DNA. The completed kit should be kept in a safe place at home.

Peace of Mind

Phyllis Zamarripa’s children are all grown up. But when she learned that AFSCME was sending free child ID kits to all members, she thought of her grandchildren.

“I would feel safer if my daughters did it for their children,” said Zamarripa, a retired social worker who is president of Colorado AFSCME Chapter 76. “It sounds like it would be easier to find them wherever they were.”

Zamarripa said knowing that her children are prepared for a worst-case scenario gives her peace of mind.

Phyllis ZamarripaPhyllis Zamarripa (Photo by Bryan Kelsen)

“Most likely nothing will ever happen,” she continued, “and I don’t think parents need to live in fear that their children will be abducted. But the fact is, many children do go missing every day in our country, and there’s nothing written in stone that it can’t happen to you. So, why not be prepared and have peace of mind? Especially since it’s so cheap and easy to do.”

Better to Be Prepared

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, more than 460,000 U.S. children went missing in 2015. Some children run away from home, while others are abducted by family members or even strangers. The child ID kits from the NCIP, first distributed in 1997, have helped law enforcement in their search for missing children. Since the program began, more than 26 million kits were distributed. 

“Unfortunately, in this day and age, it’s better to be prepared,” Wright says. “Hopefully there’s never a crisis, but in the event that there is, you have everything compiled in one place to expedite the process in case a child goes missing.”

A completed ID kit can help law enforcement locate a missing child by providing key pieces of personal information, such as fingerprints and DNA. The FBI encourages participation in the program by law enforcement agencies across the United States, and recognizes the child ID program as its preferred method of child identification.

AFSCME arranged a discounted rate for additional kits for members. For instructions en Español, visit

Boycott Trump

by UNITE HERE and Tiffanie Bright  |  October 13, 2016

Boycott Trump Protestors rally outside of Trump Old Post Office Hotel in Washington, DC. (Photo by LuAnn Molaski)

UNITE HERE, the hotel workers’ union, called for a national boycott of Donald Trump’s businesses. The Boycott Trump campaign urges customers not to eat, sleep, or play at Trump hotels and golf courses.

The Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas hired a “union avoidance” firm that is alleged to have intimidated workers who were attempting to organize with the Culinary Workers Union. Trump supervisors were alleged to have threatened and/or fired workers for wearing union buttons in the workplace. 

In February 2016, after the NLRB rejected Trump management’s election objections, the majority of workers at the hotel voted to join the Culinary Union, the largest affiliate of UNITE HERE. Yet hotel officials are stalling negotiations and have refused to recognize the union or negotiate a first contract.

The Department of Labor has cited Trump businesses around the country in dozens of cases for violations of wage and hour laws.

“Enough is enough,” said UNITE HERE President D. Taylor. “While Donald Trump waged an indefensible anti-worker and anti-immigrant Presidential campaign, the workers at his Las Vegas hotel fought for dignity and respect in their workplace. They voted to unionize, they won and now the law says Trump must negotiate.” 

Standing in solidarity with the Culinary Union, hundreds of community supporters, students and AFSCME and other union members picketed the Trump Old Post Office Hotel in Washington, DC, today.

AFSCME members also participated in a direct action at Trump Hotel Las Vegas last July in support of the hotel workers. “We are here and we are here to fight for them and we are AFSCME strong,” said Stephanie Wiley of Ohio OAPSE Local 4.

“At the hotel in the morning we chant ‘No Contract, No Peace! No Contract, No Peace!” said Eleuteria Blanco, a guestroom attendant at the Trump Hotel Las Vegas. Over 57,000 union workers in Las Vegas have fair wages, job security and good health benefits — in stark contrast to workers at Trump Hotel Las Vegas who pay up to $260 per month for their health insurance, and are paid approximately $3 less per hour in comparison to union workers on the Strip. “We’re not second class workers,” Blanco added.

“After a disgraceful anti-union campaign against their own workers, the hotel still refuses to negotiate with their employees,” said Geoconda Arguello-Kline, secretary-treasurer for the Culinary Union. “We call on allies and workers to stand in solidarity in a national boycott until Donald Trump, the ‘Great Negotiator,’ comes to the table.”

Kathryn Lybarger, International vice president promised AFSCME’s support. “AFSCME is proud to stand in solidarity with you,” she said. “As long as Trump continues to undermine basic fairness for working people, the 1.6 million members of AFSCME stand with the Culinary Union to urge Trump to treat his employees with respect and negotiate a fair contract.”

Gold Medal Parents

by Mike Lee, DC 37  |  October 13, 2016

Gold Medal Parents Olympic gold medalist Dalilah Muhammad with her AFSCME parents. (Photo by Clarence Elie-Rivera, DC 37)

During the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Dalilah Muhammad, a long-time New York resident, became the first American woman to win the 400-meter hurdles in a dramatic race, held during a driving rainstorm at Olympic Stadium. Dalilah led from the first hurdle and finished for the gold medal at 53.1 seconds.

Her victory came on the heels of a series of championship victories, several after coming back from an injury last year. Her determination is an inspiration for anyone with a wish and a goal in mind.

Upon her return home, Dalilah and three other Olympians were honored in a parade in Southeast Queens. In her acceptance speech for the award, Dalilah told the crowd, "After returning home, so many kids have come up to me, saying that they want to be like me. But my message is to strive to be 10 times better than me. That is how I won the gold medal. Don't have small dreams, set bigger goals to try to achieve."

But beyond the story of Dalilah Muhammad's rise to Olympic glory, there is a family as remarkable as she is — her own.

Dalilah's parents are committed public workers and members of DC 37, both having spent decades working for New York City in their respective roles, and are pivotal to the communities they serve.

Dalilah's mother, SSEU Local 371 member Nadriah Muhammad, has worked for 16 years at the Administration for Children's Services as a child protective specialist.

"My focus as a child protective specialist is following up and checking on families that have been through the system; I monitor to make sure the families are following the court mandates and that everything is going well."

As for the challenges she faces in her work, she explained, "While it is always difficult when working with families with children who sometimes do not always make the best decisions, for the most part the situations have been workable."

Building a Strong Spiritual Foundation

Dalilah’s father, Imam Askia Muhammad, is an administrative chaplain for Islamic Affairs for the Department of Corrections and a member of Local 299. A 26-year veteran of the department, he spoke of the importance of his vital prison work.

"My work involves supporting and monitoring all the Islamic programs at all the jails and Borough Houses in the Department of Corrections. I also work with adolescents and adults," he said. “We generally counsel, we teach, and instruct on religious matters with the inmates and that has had a very strong impact on the family."

Imam Muhammad explained the role of their Muslim faith in the upbringing of his and Nadriah’s family. " The children have been basically raised in the mosque, and have a very strong spiritual foundation,” he said. "We oriented our children and family — and the community — into really understanding Islam and how our faith works in our daily lives."

The family's firm commitment to public service continues. Another daughter, Jamilah, also serves in the Department of Corrections and her brother, Hassan, is a sergeant in the United States Army.

Before and After the Storm

by Namita Waghray  |  October 12, 2016

Before and After the Storm David Diaz and his crew, members of AFSCME Local 1584, inspected roadways during Hurricane Matthew.

By midday, the middle of last week, Miami-Dade County residents began boarding up their windows, shoring up their homes, and buying supplies of water, flashlights and shelf-stable food. The county was preparing for the onslaught of Hurricane Matthew, a category 4 storm.

Hurricane Matthew had already ravaged the Caribbean — devastating Haiti and leaving hundreds dead. This was no storm to take lightly, with Florida officials warning residents to evacuate, and for those remaining — to prepare for the worst. But rather than hunker down in the safety of their homes to protect their own families, AFSCME members like David Diaz and his crew prepared to battle the storm and protect his community. 

Armed in heavy rain gear, Local 1584 member Diaz and his co-workers — skilled trash collectors — spent all of Wednesday and Thursday inspecting roadways. They made sure that fallen trees and other large debris didn’t harm local residents. The area received up to four inches of rain with winds averaging 120 miles per hour.

“We’d been on alert since early Sunday,” said Diaz. “I started early in the week inspecting smaller debris drop-off sites. Then during the actual storm, I made sure any large debris that had fallen wasn’t blocking areas or able to damage property or any of our residents.” Hurricane Matthew was a strong storm that did not hit as hard as was expected. But that didn’t stop Diaz and his fellow public service workers from being part of the preparedness, immediate response and recovery.

“There were many Miami-Dade AFSCME members out cleaning up and helping with the recovery,” said Diaz. “Our storm preparedness process works so well because of all of us, and it’s what keeps Miami-Dade County working!”

Sharp Hearts, Sharp Cares, Sharp Nurses

by Tiffanie Bright and Jeff Rogers  |  October 11, 2016

Sharp Hearts, Sharp Cares, Sharp Nurses Sharp Healthcare nurses (members of UNAC/UHCP/AFSCME) rally for fair pay in front of the San Diego Convention Center. (Photo by Max Carbuccia, UNAC/UHCP)

SAN DIEGO — More than 300 nurses, health care professionals, clergy, students, union members and a lawmaker gathered last Thursday morning in solidarity with Sharp Healthcare nurses. Rallying in front of the San Diego Convention Center, the nurses drummed up community support for their attempts to improve worker retention in their workplace.

The nurses of UNAC/UHCP (affiliated with the National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees [NUHHCE]/AFSCME) are currently in negotiations with Sharp; however, those conversations are breaking down. Sharp nurses say worker turnover is high because their pay is significantly lower — by $8/hr to $15/hr — than what their peers at other area hospitals make. In just the first nine months of this year Sharp lost 509 nurses, reported ABC 10 News. Nurses don’t stay too long at Sharp, leaving behind demoralized and overextended co-workers.

Lorena GonzalezAssemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez proudly displays her support of Sharp Healthcare nurses.(Photo by Max Carbuccia, UNAC/UHCP)

“A 19-year Sharp nurse only makes what a two-year Kaiser nurse gets across town,” said Jackie Young, RN with 16 years at Sharp Memorial. “New grads come here just long enough to get the experience to move on. A lot of experienced nurses are pinning all our hopes on this contract. We love our patients and we love our co-workers, but at a certain point you have to make some tough decisions and think about you and your family’s future.”

Even Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (District 80) was on deck to lend her support. “I have been through this fight three times now with UNAC. There is nothing more important in this campaign than to ensure long-term union security,” said Gonzalez. “Because if not, I’m going to be back out here in three years fighting the same fight.”       

Sharp nurses aren’t rallying because their workplace is a bad environment — but because it is a good environment that could be great.

Says Jay O’Brien, RN, a seven-year employee of Sharp Memorial: “Sharp is a good place to work. We want it to stay a good place to work. All of us are really truly dedicated to Sharp.”

With profit margins at least double those of their largest local competitors, it makes sense for Sharp to invest in a plan to retain experienced, loyal employees.

“Everyone in San Diego sees the ads and infomercials for ‘The Sharp Experience,’” said Michelle Byers, RN, for Sharp Grossmont in the Cardiac Cath Lab. “We believe in Sharp’s ideals — but we wonder if Sharp’s executives do. Nurses know the reality at Sharp. We challenge Sharp executives to live up to Sharp’s own ideals.”

Sharp Nurses After rallying in front of the San Diego Convention Center, Sharp Healthcare nurses spread their message across the city skyline. (Photo by Russell Miller, UNAC/UHCP)

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