Innovators: Tapping into Public Employee Potential

by Deirdre O'Neill-Wedig, OCSEA/AFSCME Local 11  |  October 25, 2016

Innovators: Tapping into Public Employee Potential ODOT District 4 mechanics from Ashtabula County, Tim Wood (left) and Tim Rogers, are innovators who thought outside the box to develop a snow- and ice-free truck step that has virtually eliminated slips and falls for ODOT snowplow drivers in their county.

Public employees are proud of the services they provide. They want to do their jobs and do them well. They want to improve their work and processes, bring safety to their jobs, and have a voice and integrity in the workplace – all union values.

Team Up ODOT, a 20-year labor and management tradition, is a prime example. When the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association (OCSEA) and management work together great things happen. Workers are safer, public work is more efficient and taxpayers win. The annual event spotlights innovation and process improvement and awards employees for giving back and working hard.

When Ohio Department of Transportation mechanics (and OCSEA members) Tim Wood and Tim Rodgers from Ashtabula County faced an ice hazard during the harsh winter months, they thought outside the box. They created a heated truck cab step to help improve safety for drivers exiting and entering the trucks. A buildup of snow and ice while plowing had resulted in numerous slips and falls.

What was the simple solution to this dangerous problem? The mechanics added a heat exchanger to the bottom of the step using coolant from the engine as a heat source. With the support of their manager, they worked to make the innovation a reality for just over $300 per truck, a drop in the government bucket. With no more snow and ice build up, the slip hazard has virtually been eliminated in the county.

“It’s innovators like these men who are proof that public employees do it well and they do it best,” said OCSEA President Christopher Mabe, also an AFSCME International vice president. “We must build upon the connection that public employee values ARE union values. It is this common thread that will mean the preservation of good jobs, the middle class and the American dream.” 

All Talk: Trump Tower Filled with Foreign Goods

by United Steelworkers  |  October 24, 2016

All Talk: Trump Tower Filled with Foreign Goods

Donald Trump likes to talk a tough game on trade, but when it comes to putting his money where his mouth is, Trump has shown that his talk is just that – talk.

Trump’s own products, including his branded shirts, ties, suits and cuff links, are manufactured in at least a dozen other countries, among them Bangladesh, China, India and Mexico. Trump vodka is distilled in the Netherlands. His crystal barware comes from Slovenia.

Trump also stocks his luxurious hotels with foreign-made goods. A Steelworker with a camera checked out the pricey Trump International Hotel and Tower in New York City and found many products in just one room that could have been purchased domestically but were instead sourced by Trump from overseas.

“I don’t see a future if Trump is elected,” said Terra Samuel, a steelworker with Local 1010, who works for ArcelorMittal in Indiana. “Hillary has credibility for working with labor unions and looking out for young people. I love her ideas for investing in infrastructure. Because she will require American-made products that will support American manufacturing and create American jobs.”

If Trump wanted to rebuild America like he says, he could have started by buying American-made products.

Watch a USW-produced video on the foreign-made products used in Trump hotel rooms:

Reprinted with permission from the Fall 2016 issue of USW@Work.

Running to Represent Workers

by Connecticut Council 4  |  October 21, 2016

Running to Represent Workers Sean Ronan, left, and Michael DiMassa

Being an active and concerned union member is a great way to transform your workplace. Fighting for your community in legislative chambers is another way. Here’s a look at three Council 4 members running for state representative:

West Haven: Mike DiMassa and Sean Ronan

This election season, color the city of West Haven AFSCME Green.

It’s here you’ll find not one but two Council 4 members seeking election as state representatives: Mike DiMassa and Sean Ronan.

DiMassa, a member of Local 681 (West Haven DPW/City Hall) is running in the 116th District (West Haven and New Haven). Ronan, 48, a member of Local 1159 (Bridgeport Police), hopes to represent the 117th District (West Haven, Milford and Orange).

Both candidates share a strong belief in unions and the need to ensure the Connecticut Legislature is more worker-friendly.

“Unions have done so much to improve people’s lives,” DiMassa said. “We need to support collective bargaining and create livable wage jobs. That’s good for workers and good for businesses.”

Ronan shares that sentiment. The longtime Bridgeport police detective and Army veteran comes from a strong union family (including a brother who is a state corrections officer and a sister who is a town dispatcher).

“Unions built America. I’m running as a working man’s candidate,” he said, noting that his opponent, incumbent Republican Charles Ferraro, wants to slash workers’ pay and benefits, and curtail bargaining rights.

DiMassa, 25, is a newcomer to politics. The City Council clerk upset veteran incumbent Lou Esposito by 22 votes in the August Democratic primary. Council 4 endorsed DiMassa in the primary, and helped his effort with get-out-the-vote phone calls and an in-district mailing.

Ronan, 48, has already been fighting for his fellow West Haven residents as a four-term member of the West Haven City Council.

“I want to help my constituents have a voice in Hartford. We need more economic development and good stable jobs so our communities can flourish,” he said.

“Sean and I are not looking to be career politicians,” DiMassa reflected. “We want to bring a fresh perspective. We want to have a positive impact.”

Ronan added, “It’s noble to be in politics and want to help your constituents.”

Jim Tedford Jim Tedford

Vernon: Jim Tedford

A sunny Friday in September recently found Jim Tedford of AFSCME Local 1471 (Vernon Public Works, Parks and Recreation, Water Pollution Control) at the XL Center in Hartford, where he spent a vacation day helping the Connecticut Mission of Mercy provide free dental care to more than 1,300 citizens in need.

“It’s about improving the human condition and paying it forward,” Tedford said during a break from his duties at the Mission of Mercy’s dental clinic, where he has volunteered for three years.

The 35-year town employee is taking the same approach to his candidacy for the 56th House District (Vernon and Rockville): “I see a lot of things that need improvement. I want to make my part of the state better.”

Tedford, a Republican, is currently serving his first term as a town councilman and garnered the highest number of votes in last year’s municipal election. As a past president of his local, and a current member of Council 4’s Delegate Assembly, he hopes to bring a fresh perspective to the Legislature if he’s elected.

 “I believe in unions. I’ve also seen what it’s like to lack the rights and dignity that come with having a union to protect you. I’d like to work with organized labor to advance legislation that helps everyone in the public and private sectors.”

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.”

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