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Gov. Rauner Solicits Retirees To Be Strikebreakers

by David Kreisman  |  July 31, 2015

Gov. Rauner Solicits Retirees To Be Strikebreakers Retired Illinois state workers rally in support of AFSCME Council 31’s efforts to gain a fair contract.

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Echoing his campaign threats to strip public service workers of their rights and drive down their middle-class standard of living, Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration is asking retired state employees to report to work as strikebreakers in the event of a possible work stoppage.

The governor also failed to deny reports that he is considering calling on the Illinois National Guard to replace state workers in the event of a lockout or strike – even though there’s never been a work stoppage in the more than 40 years of state employee collective bargaining in Illinois.

According to a report by the State Journal-Register, AFSCME retiree David Scheina of rural Sangamon County received a call from the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, asking him to work in the event of a strike.

“I was somewhat appalled by it,” he said. “I feel it was wrong, an employee on state time trying to line up retirees to cross a potential picket line that I didn’t see being suggested. I thought it wasn’t bargaining in good faith.”

Following a 25-year career working for the state of Illinois, Scheina retired three years ago.

“I think it’s important that the retirees also understand that these negotiations have an impact on their future also,” Scheina added. “Our medical and dental and vision care benefits could still be on the table.”

The possibility of using Illinois National Guard soldiers in place of locked-out or striking state workers got a negative review from former National Guard Adjutant General and current state Rep. David Harris, a Republican.

"It's a terribly impractical and, in my opinion, inadvisable idea," said Harris. "You're going to replace [state public service workers] with people who carry M-16s and .45 pistols?”

After more than five months of negotiations over a new union contract, AFSCME’s current agreement that covers more than 35,000 Illinois state employees expired on June 30. AFSCME Council 31 and Governor Rauner’s administration agreed to a two-month contract extension on July 29. Soon after, however, Rauner vetoed legislation that would have offered state employees the option of binding arbitration to resolve contract differences and avoid a strike or lockout.

The veto is a further sign that the governor may be seeking to provoke a needless crisis. AFSCME will join with all unions that represent Illinois state employees in seeking to override the veto.

Check out this video to learn more about what is at stake.

AFSCME Texas Corrections Mourn Fallen Officer

by Namita Waghray  |  July 31, 2015

AFSCME Texas Corrections Mourn Fallen Officer Corrections Officers came from all over the country to pay their respects to fallen Officer Timothy Davison.

TELFORD, Texas – Corrections Officer Timothy Davison, the victim of an attack by a prisoner at the prison unit here in Bowie County, was laid to rest July 25 amid an outpouring of support for the Davison family from his Corrections family. 

Officer Davison, 47, succumbed July 15 to injuries suffered when a prisoner serving a life sentence for robbery and aggravated assault attacked him with an iron bar. Davison is survived by his two daughters.

“It’s hard for us to know that Officer Davison put on his uniform in the morning and did not come home; it’s even harder for his family,” said Cathe Wilson, president of the AFSCME Gatesville local. “As a Corrections Officer, I believe we come in together and we leave together; it’s always hard when that doesn’t happen. I wish the family strength and peace during this time. We are here to support them in any way we can.”

The services included Corrections Officers from all over the country, from as far away as California. Condolences and donations for his family can be left at the Officers Down Memorial Page. Words of comfort and prayer may be sent to afscme.texas.corrections@gmail.org.

The details surrounding the fatal incident are currently under review by the state of Texas, but many believe that short staffing played a role. Texas Corrections has nearly 3,000 vacancies it is trying to fill throughout the state.

Walker’s No Harley Guy

by Omar Tewfik  |  July 30, 2015

Walker’s No Harley Guy The Definition of Irony: Scott Walker, the anti-union governor from Wisconsin, has made the union-made Harley-Davidson motorcycle a centerpiece of the first tour of his presidential campaign.

Scott Walker, the anti-union governor from Wisconsin, has made the union-made Harley-Davidson motorcycle a centerpiece of the first tour of his presidential campaign.

How ironic is that? Walker, whose entire presidential campaign is based on touting his attacks on collective bargaining for tens of thousands of Wisconsinites, is campaigning with an iconic piece of American machinery adorned with a label that reads "Union made in the USA."

Like many politicians before him, Walker apparently wants to show that he’s a regular Harley guy, a rider of the All-American motorcycle. But he is the last person who should be burnishing his patriotic credentials riding a Harley.

In fact, Walker’s political record indicates that he has no regard for the story of the iconic American machine and the hardworking union men and women who build them. Instead of praising union workers for turning out some of the best motorcycles in the world, Walker recently compared union workers and their families to ISIS terrorists.

What Walker fails to note, as Reuters reports, is that Harley-Davidson’s relationship with its union employees – certainly not without tribulation at times – has been hailed as a model of workplace cohesion that facilitates better production quality and output. He also fails to acknowledge the hardworking and skilled members of the Machinists (IAM) and United Steelworkers (USW) who helped prevent the company from going under during the Great Recession.

Union workers are calling Walker on his cynical use of the Harley as a campaign prop.  A politician who attacks union workers and other working Americans should not be using the fruits of their labor to score political points. The only reason Walker can ride his Harley in the first place is because they built it. 

Harley’s unionized workforce is among the most skilled in the industry, and their craftsmanship is central part the production of a motorcycle that is synonymous with American quality. Watch the video.

AFSCME Strong Bus Driver on Board

by Pablo Ros  |  July 30, 2015

AFSCME Strong Bus Driver on Board Corey Upchurch, left, president of AFSCME Local 1959 (Council 20), and Aaron Dixon, of AFSCME Local 1772 (Council 3), during AFSCME Strong training in Maryland.

Corey Upchurch and his family came up in transportation.

His father was a manager at the Department of Transportation of the Washington, DC, Office of the State Superintendent of Education. He worked there for 32 years. His mother started out as a bus attendant, moved to dispatch, and then worked as routing and scheduling manager. She, too, had a long career in transportation.

His brother, Andrew Washington, started his career in transportation back in 1992. Now he is the executive director of AFSCME Council 20.

“Transportation came home to our dinner table every night, as I was coming up,” Upchurch says.

Upchurch, 36, is a school bus driver in Washington, DC, his hometown. He started his career in 1999, and became active with his union, AFSCME Local 1959, as an organizer. He’s also a Volunteer Member Organizer. Local 1959 is composed of bus drivers and attendants in DC Public Schools. Upchurch moved up to shop steward, chief shop steward, vice president, and recently became president of his local. He’s also AFSCME Strong.

After taking the AFSCME Strong training in Maryland in April, Upchurch has been busy. He says he’s used the summer months, when most kids are on vacation, to talk to his coworkers and apply AFSCME Strong in the workplace. He found a positive response. In three days, he signed up 49 individuals as PEOPLE contributors and got 94 to sign AFSCME Strong cards.

“I basically used the opportunity, with the help of shop stewards, to have conversations with my coworkers,” Upchurch says. “When the drivers are sitting around waiting to bid on their routes, I talked to them about what we need to do to make our union stronger.”

Upchurch says his biggest challenge is educating his coworkers about the vicious attacks they’re facing together as a union.

“My strategy is to try to educate them, try to get them to understand what we’re about, what AFSCME is about,” he says. “And what’s going on in other states, with the Koch brothers, with Scott Walker, and all the billionaires trying to downsize unions. I tell them about the Supreme Court, and the case involving union dues (Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association). They’re trying to weaken our union.”

Upchurch says the AFSCME Strong strategy is working.

“I’m extremely happy with the response,” he says. “It’s been a huge response. I mean, we’re a rowdy local as it is, but when it’s time to stand up they’re willing to do that. They’re not scared to stand up for what’s best for unions overall.”

Upchurch, who lives in DC with his three children, says he’s always wanted to be a voice and make a difference in his workplace.

“I have a very strong passion in what I do,” he says. “I’m still learning, but I feel as though I am making a difference in my workplace, in my local. It’s all about the membership.”

Kentucky COs Earn Raises, Respect

by David Patterson  |  July 29, 2015

Kentucky COs Earn Raises, Respect Kentucky corrections officers earned hefty pay increases and bonuses from an administration concerned about retaining and attracting good employees willing to perform the dangerous work.

Kentucky corrections officers earned hefty pay increases and bonuses from an administration concerned about retaining and attracting good employees willing to perform the dangerous work.

Faced with turnover rates as high as 67 percent, Gov. Steve Beshear approved a plan to stabilize the workforce that raises pay for security staff; provides 40-hour workweeks for institutional hazardous duty, non-security staff; and implements a monthly stipend for members of the correctional emergency response teams, or CERT.

AFSCME pushed hard for the increased pay, which put Kentucky more in line with surrounding states’ compensation rates.

“This increase is nice, but it’s still not enough. Corrections officers in Kentucky risk their lives every day, but the state ranks 49th in pay for the work they do,” said Debbie Garcia, executive director of the Indiana/Kentucky Organizing Committee Council 962. “But for many COs this is too little too late. Many veteran COs haven’t had a raise in six years and workplace shortages remain an epidemic.”

Under the new wage structure, the starting salary for corrections officers will be increased by 13.1 percent, raising the entrance pay from $23,346 to $26,400, with higher increases for sergeants, lieutenants and captains.

The new structure also sets across-the-board salary increases for existing staff, and will affect security staff at the Kentucky Correctional Psychiatric Center near LaGrange, which is run by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

The 40-hour workweek for all institutional hazardous duty, non-security staff moves them from their current 37.5-hour schedule – the equivalent of a 6.7 percent increase in compensation.

CERT members, who respond to incidents, riots, cell extractions, mass searches or disturbances in prisons, will receive a $50 monthly maintenance stipend.

“Our corrections staff work under stressful, dangerous conditions, and as our economy improves, it's understandable that many seek opportunities in less hazardous environments,” Governor Beshear said.

Hopefully, these raises will help stem the tide of such high turnover and provide Kentucky’s COs with a new level of respect on the job.

AFSCME’s Enemies Look to the Supreme Court

July 16, 2015

AFSCME’s Enemies Look to the Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear Friedrichs v California Teachers Association, a case with the potential to make “right-to-work” the law of the land in the public sector and undermine workers’ right to collectively bargain over wages, benefits and working conditions.

If you've got questions about the case, we've got answers:

Q: What is this case about?

A:  This case is about making Right to Work the law of the land in the entire public sector. If the extremists are successful our right to collectively bargain over wages, benefits and working conditions would be greatly damaged. Since the Supreme Court first spoke on this subject more than 35 years ago, nurses, librarians, corrections officers and other public service workers have been able to work together for better public services and vibrant communities. In other words, Friedrichs is really about reneging on a fundamental promise of America — that if you work hard and play by the rules you should be able to provide for your family and live a better life – and that those rules shouldn’t just change.

Q: How would our Councils and Locals be affected?

A:  If the Supreme Court overturns the unanimous 1977 Supreme Court decision called Abood v Detroit Board of Education, which upheld the payment of “fair share fees” by nonmembers for their share of the cost of their representation, it would mean that every state in the country would be a “right-to-work” state for all public service employees. But don’t be fooled. This is not really a case about union dues. It’s a case meant to bust the ability of unions to bargain effectively for the workers they represent.

Q. How would workers be affected?

A: The ability of nurses, librarians, emergency first responders and other public service workers to negotiate effectively with their employer would be harmed. On average, workers in Right-to-Work states earn nearly $6,000 less than what workers in strong union states earn.

Q: What happens if the Court rules against us?

A:  This could lead to a severely weakened union and, in turn, lower pay and benefits for workers. That’s why our AFSCME Strong activists are working hard to sign up fair share payers to be full-fledged members.

Q: When is the decision likely to be issued?

A: Legal briefs will be filed through the Fall, and we expect the Court to hear the case by the end of 2015 or early next year. A decision could come as early as March or April and as late as June 2016, during the primary election season. It will be a political issue for our enemies, to be sure.

Q: What do we do in the meantime?

A. We step up our AFSCME Strong program to strengthen our union. The AFSCME Strong team created a program for our leadership and entire membership to follow to build our union. We should start by holding one-on-one conversations with members, fee payers and nonmembers across the country and engaging them in fights around issues they care about.

You can start by attending an AFSCME Strong activist training where you will gain organizing skills and develop a plan of action to help your local meet the following goals:

  • Recruit 5 percent of the membership to become fellow AFSCME Strong activists.
  • Engage 80 percent of your membership in one-on-one conversations on what is at stake, and involve them in the fights and activities.
  • Help your local achieve 90 percent union membership in fair share units, 70 percent membership in right-to-work units with collective bargaining, and majority membership in right-to-work units without collective bargaining.
  • Become a PEOPLE MVP contributor and help recruit 10 percent of your local’s membership to contribute.

For more information on getting involved, please contact your council or affiliate and ask for the AFSCME Strong Coordinator or contact Sabeela Ally (sally@afscme.org (202 429-1013), who can direct you to the right person.

Atlanta Workers Speak Up, Win Raises

by Namita Waghray  |  July 27, 2015

Atlanta Workers Speak Up, Win Raises AFSCME Local 1644 members were active in City Council speak-ins, and direct conversations with Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, reminding them of the vital services that city employees provide.

ATLANTA – The City Council voted overwhelmingly July 21 to approve a 3.5 percent pay increase for approximately 3,000 Atlanta city workers in public works, corrections, and parks and recreation, among other city services.

AFSCME Local 1644 members were active in City Council speak-ins, and direct conversations with Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, reminding them of the vital services that city employees provide.

“We make the city of Atlanta work, ensuring that the city is a clean, safe and enjoyable place to work and live in,” Local 1644 member Tracy Thornhill told the Council. “We deserve a pay raise that lets us know that the city and our community recognize our work.” 

Mayor Reed spoke up in favor of the pay raise. “The city of Atlanta is in the strongest financial position in more than a decade,” he said. “Because of this financial stability, our hard-working employees will take home a paycheck that reflects their contributions and accomplishments.”

The pay raise is retroactive to July 1, and members should receive the increase in their August paychecks.  The last significant pay raise occurred several years ago.

 

Jeb Bush: ‘Phase Out Medicare’

by Mark McCullough  |  July 27, 2015

Jeb Bush: ‘Phase Out Medicare’ AFSCME retiree Dave Jacobsen with Florida Congresswoman Gwen Graham.

As Medicare celebrates its 50th anniversary July 30, the popular program continues to provide quality, affordable health care to seniors. It also is in its strongest fiscal shape in years thanks to the Affordable Care Act.

So why does Republican Presidential candidate JEB! Bush want to “phase out this program?” That’s what he proposed July 23 at an event sponsored by the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity in Manchester, New Hampshire, where he praised proposals by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to turn Medicare into a voucher program.

Watch the video for yourself!

Retirees like Dave Jacobsen, president of the Northwest Florida AFSCME Retiree Subchapter 43, are scratching their heads trying to figure out what Bush is talking about.

“Costs are going up on almost everything, but we know that things would be much worse if we didn’t have Medicare to keep us healthy,” said Jacobsen, a former employee of Florida’s Department of Health. “Medicare is one of the most successfully run health programs in the history of the world and I appreciate President Johnson for signing the legislation 50 years ago.”

The former Florida governor appears to be completely out of touch – from saying people “need to work longer hours” if they want to earn enough to get by to misrepresenting President Obama’s proposals to expand overtime pay so severely that leading economists said he “should be embarrassed.” And this new Medicare statement only underscores his confusion.

“Medicare is a right earned by every American for a lifetime of hard work and I will organize every senior in north Florida to educate them on Bush’s Medicare proposals,” said Jacobsen. “We here remember too well how he ran our state into the ground as governor and we all know what his brother did to our country so we can’t let it happen again.”

 

 

Survey: Pope’s Economic Message Resonates Here

by Pablo Ros  |  July 24, 2015

Survey: Pope’s Economic Message Resonates Here An overwhelming majority of religiously affiliated U.S. voters agree with Pope Francis’s message on equality and economic justice, and that we must make changes so that “everyone benefits from the fruits of the Earth.”

An overwhelming majority of religiously affiliated U.S. voters agree with Pope Francis’s message on equality and economic justice, including the Pope’s view that our economy is out of balance because of inequality and injustice, and that we must make changes so that “everyone benefits from the fruits of the Earth.”

This finding is part of a recent survey among voters who describe themselves as religious that was conducted by Lake Research Partners ahead of Pope Francis’s visit to the United States. The nationwide survey among likely 2016 voters, conducted on behalf of a coalition of labor unions and faith organizations, reveals that the Pope’s message of togetherness, community, inclusion and equality resonates with the American electorate.

“The Pope’s strong voice on these issues will likely prove catalytic to the conversation regarding a broader values debate and a family-friendly economic agenda,” wrote Celinda Lake and Joshua Ulibarri, of Lake Research Partners. “At a time when Americans are having incredibly important conversations around strengthening families, making the economy work for our families, and racism, among other issues, the Pope’s message rejects division and instead calls on Americans to embrace the values of inclusion, community and the Golden Rule (do unto others as we would have them do unto us).”

Religiously affiliated voters reject the prevailing economic view that “we are in this alone,” the survey found. Instead, these voters embrace the notion that “millions of struggling workers, seniors, the sick and the weak are NOT alone.” Furthermore, they agree with the Pope that “we must act in terms of community,” and they support an agenda that creates a family-friendly economy.

More specifically, 87 percent of survey respondents support guaranteeing earned paid sick time for recovery from injury or illness, or to help a family member recover; 80 percent support making major investments in children and poverty that include early education and child health care, even if it means increasing their taxes; and 62 percent support raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour to help workers sustain their families.

A full 84 percent agreed with this message: “Our economy is tough on our families, from wages, to hours, to discrimination…. We need to fight for work, and for dignified work. If people work hard, they ought to earn enough to sustain their families. We can change our community for the better so that the economic system values people over profits.”

And 79 percent agreed with this: “There is so much inequality and injustice that our economy is out of balance. Too few people benefit from the wealth in our society…. We need to change our economy so that everyone benefits from the fruits of the Earth and we promote fairness and dignity for everyone.”

The Pope’s visit to the United States is likely to focus attention on many of these issues, which are part of a long overdue national conversation.

Act 10 Creates Corrections Crisis in Wisconsin

by David Patterson  |  July 24, 2015

Act 10 Creates Corrections Crisis in Wisconsin In 2010, Wisconsin’s Dept. of Corrections boasted near full employment with well-trained, experienced corrections officers who considered the job a career and earned a fair wage with good benefits. Act 10 changed everything.

In 2010, Wisconsin’s Department of Corrections (DOC) boasted near full employment with well-trained, experienced corrections officers who considered the job a career and earned a fair wage with good benefits.

Then came Governor Walker’s Act 10. The law stripped COs and all state employees of the ability to bargain with management over wages and benefits.

Today, Wisconsin’s DOC is desperate. It faces record retirements, more than 400 vacancies to fill, forced overtime, record overtime costs of $9.3 million and nearly $12 million in sick time costs. As a result, Wisconsin communities are less safe today.

“For the DOC and for COs, the situation is bad and getting worse,” said Mike Fox, interim executive director of AFSCME Council 32, which represents corrections officers. “Vacancies are growing, and the state can't hire replacements fast enough to keep up.”

Before passage of Act 10, having a strong voice on the job kept morale and professional pride high. An employee survey conducted by the DOC last year found 82 percent cited ‘staff morale’ as the most pressing issue. Some 52 percent raised a red flag about staff retention and 45 percent cited staff safety and wellness as a most pressing issue.

Pay for state COs has fallen sharply and employee costs for benefits keep going up. Neighboring states and many county jails are paying better than the state of Wisconsin.

Iowa’s starting wage is $18.02. In Illinois, the trainee salary is $20.57 an hour. COs in both states have a union contract. In Wisconsin, a CO’s starting pay is $15.34 an hour. Starting pay in Wisconsin’s Brown County jail is $19.11 and $21.18 an hour in Outagamie County.

In 2010, there were only 88 CO vacancies across 21 adult correction facilities in Wisconsin. Now there’s five times that number. These jobs are no longer considered careers for well-trained corrections professionals and are treated as a stepping-stone job until they can find something better, according to Fox.

“Low salaries, dangerously short-staffed prisons, fewer experienced correctional officers, more inexperienced recruits, short-staffing, low morale and mandatory overtime are not the ingredients to attract and sustain a qualified workforce,” said Fox. “Or for a safe and effective prison system that protects Wisconsin’s communities.”

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