Nuns on the Bus Rolling Out Again

by David Card II  |  September 19, 2014

Nuns on the Bus Rolling Out Again

The nuns of NETWORK, a Catholic social justice lobby, are hitting the road this fall to educate voters about the destructive influence of unlimited spending on campaigns. The bus tour, titled “We the People. We the Voters,” kicked off in Des Moines on Wednesday.

On hand to send off the sisters were Vice Pres. Joe Biden and AFSCME Council 61 Pres. Danny Homan. The nuns will travel through 10 battleground states and 36 cities, holding voter registration drives and encouraging Americans to get active this election season.

With the gold dome of Iowa’s Statehouse in the background, Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK, said, “Money doesn’t convey truth. Everyone should be able to use their voice. Everybody should be able to come to the table. But you can’t buy the table — sorry, it’s wrong.”

Pres. Danny Homan, who is also an AFSCME International vice president, reminded the audience of AFSCME’s long history advocating on social justice issues, and condemned today’s vast disparity between the very wealthy and working Americans. He called on lawmakers in Iowa and Washington, DC, to increase the minimum wage.

“Nobody who works hard every day should have to live in poverty. Nobody who works hard every day should have to struggle to put food on the table,” said Homan. “But that’s the reality for the 7.5 million Americans earning minimum wage.”

This is the sisters’ third tour. The first, in 2012, raised awareness of Rep. Paul Ryan’s devastating federal budget proposal that would have turned Medicare and Medicaid into a voucher program, privatized Social Security and cut programs like Head Start and food stamps. Last year, the tour focused on immigration reform.

Vice President Biden praised the sisters for their activism, saying “I know no group of people who bring a greater sense of justice and passion to what they do.”

Senator Warren, Koch Sisters Lead Rally to Protect Social Security, Medicare

September 18, 2014

Senator Warren, Koch Sisters Lead Rally to Protect Social Security, Medicare AFSCME members at the "Hands Off" rally on September 18.

Vowing that she and other Democrats “will not stand by and let Social Security be cut or allow Medicare to be gutted,” U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren rallied some 300 activists on Capitol Hill Thursday. She was joined by the anti-Koch brothers “Koch Sisters” and several other members of Congress who promised to stand strong against tea-party attacks on the social safety net.

“They are trying to create a crisis so they can cut Social Security and Medicare, but there is no crisis,” Warren said. “There may be a health care crisis in this country, but it’s Medicare – with the improvements brought by the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare – that is fixing our problem. Medicare is lowering health care costs not only for seniors, but for every American.”

The Koch Sisters, in Washington to work with the AFL-CIO on the campaign to support worker-friendly candidates this fall, said they received lots of support for calling out the billionaire Koch brothers, who support tea-party candidates nationally and at the state and local levels. “We’ve got a message for politicians who want to mess with Social Security,” said Joyce Koch. “Don’t even try it!”

Also addressing the boisterous rally was Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa), who is running to fill Sen. Tom Harkin’s open Senate seat. “I have voted against raising the retirement age several times, and I will never agree to it,” he said. “What we need to do is raise the minimum wage, which will add another $55 billion to the Social Security coffers.”

The rally was sponsored by Americans United for Change, the AFL-CIO and a dozen unions, including AFSCME. Senator Warren was introduced by Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. “We need more leaders like Elizabeth Warren who will stand with us to defend Social Security and Medicare,” she said. “Those are the leaders we will stand with on Election Day.”

Warren said she was happy to recite the numbers on Social Security “because the numbers are on our side. We have built a system that will last another 20 years before we have to make any changes. But this is about values, how we live and what we do together,” she said. “Our Social Security system says something about the dignity of human beings, that when you work a lifetime you deserve the dignity of a decent retirement.”

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage, Supporting Latinos

by Erick Sanchez  |  September 18, 2014

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage, Supporting Latinos

During National Hispanic Heritage Month, AFSCME is proud to recognize the contributions of the nearly 53 million Hispanics living in the United States and to highlight the issues facing our Hispanic sisters and brothers.

Hispanic Americans have a profound and positive influence on our country through their strong commitment to family, faith, hard work and service. They enhance and shape our national character with centuries-old traditions that reflect the multi-ethnic and multi-cultural customs of their communities.

This is a time of many accomplishments for the Hispanic community. The past decade saw a rise in Latino leadership and political representation, and today we have a Latino serving as the Secretary of Labor, Tom Perez, who succeeded the first Latina to serve as the Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis.

But while there is much to celebrate, Latinos still face tough problems. The recession hit all workers hard, but Latino workers were particularly hard hit. The unemployment rate among Latinos last month was 7.5 percent, compared with 6.2 percent for the nation as a whole – and Latinos who are working disproportionately work in low-paying jobs.

Studies show Latinos also have the highest high school dropout rate, the highest percentage of people without health insurance, the highest occurrence of wage theft and are the most in danger of being killed on the job.

Today, millions of Latino workers are restricted to working in the shadows, subject to exploitation and abuse. We cannot restore job quality and the quality of life for all workers, without addressing the status of millions of Latino immigrants in the United States. We cannot accomplish this without real, comprehensive immigration reform.

AFSCME is committed to finding a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. Our immigration system is broken and this hurts all workers.

In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month, take a moment to send a letter to Congress asking them to pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform. It’s the right thing to do – and the time is now.

Private Prison Operator Sued by Texas Inmate for Allowing Sexual Abuse

by Eli Magaña  |  September 16, 2014

Last week, a civil rights lawsuit was filed in a Texas federal court by a former prisoner against Corrections Corporation of America, one of the nation’s largest private, for-profit prison operators, and two of its employees for allegedly allowing the defendant to be sexually assaulted by other inmates at a facility in Bartlett, Texas.

The incident occurred during a sexual hazing ritual in which inmates are routinely forcibly stripped of their clothing by other prisoners and slammed against a protective glass window, exposing the victims’ naked bodies to prison staff on the other side.

According to court documents, CCA and the facility’s warden were aware of the hazing practice, but did nothing to stop it. After the defendant reported the incident, CCA subsequently put him in solitary confinement, which according to the lawsuit, is a common practice by CCA officials in responding to rape survivors’ outcries.

“It’s well known now that these private facilities lack the oversight capacity, training programs and staffing to protect inmates and correctional employees,” stated Lance Lowry, president of AFSCME Local 3807. “With the ever-growing list of scandals and lawsuits, states are now starting to rethink the whole idea of contracting out prison operations to private enterprises.”

Officers Honored for Saving an Inmate’s Life

by Kevin Zapf Hanes  |  September 16, 2014

Officers Honored for Saving an Inmate’s Life This month, the Kiwanis Club of Ithaca-Cayuga presented the Frank G. Hammer Officer of the Month Award to (left to right) Officers Robert Butcher, Mark Miller, John Talcott, and James Barrett.

TOMPKINS, N.Y. – Four corrections officers from the Tompkins County Corrections Facility were honored by the local Kiwanis Club as Officers of the Month.

The quick response and professional actions of Officers James Barrett, Robert Butcher, Mark Miller and John Talcott, members of AFSCME Local 2062, saved the life of an inmate who went into cardiac arrest during his intake. The officers each played a vital role in administering CPR and AED care to resuscitate the inmate and then took him to the hospital.

“These guys did what they do every day – provide exemplary service to our community,” said Matt Haney, president of AFSCME Local 2062. “Their quick response, effective use of their training and commitment to doing a good job saved a man’s life. They should be commended for their bravery and professionalism in a crisis situation.”

“We have corrections officers across the state who walk in jails and prisons never knowing if they will come out alive,” added James Lyman, executive director of AFSCME Council 82. “These dedicated women and men should be honored and recognized. These officers are prime examples of the high level of service our members provide to communities across the state.”

Wisconsin Governor’s Report Card Shows Failing Grade

by Dave Kreisman  |  September 16, 2014

MADISON, Wis. – Gov. Scott Walker is known for setting records, just not the kind his parents could be proud of.

Between 2011and 2013, the Wisconsin governor cut public school funding by more per student than any other governor in the nation. His cuts totaled $1.6 billion during two years, reducing the revenue limit per student by 5.5 percent, the first time revenue caps were ever decreased.

With these massive cuts, 25 percent of Wisconsin’s schools reported increasing their kindergarten, first-, second- and third-grade class sizes, while 33 percent of schools increased class sizes for children in fourth through sixth grades.

But it doesn’t end there.  Twenty-six percent of school districts cut special education staff, 27 percent of districts cut library and media center staff and 16 percent cut drug and alcohol abuse staff.

We already reported that despite Walker’s promise to create 250,000 new jobs, Wisconsin is dead-last in job creation in the Midwest. Now his disturbing cuts in education. And somehow he managed to find money for a tax deduction of up to $10,000 that benefits millionaires who send their kids to elite private schools.

Watch this video to learn more.

Help For 9/11 Responders and Survivors

by Clyde Weiss  |  September 12, 2014

Help For 9/11 Responders and Survivors

Were you a responder or survivor in New York, Washington, DC, or Shanksville, Pennsylvania, after the terrorists struck on Sept. 11, 2001? If so, you may be eligible for free medical monitoring and treatment through a federal program that AFSCME helped create.

The World Trade Center Health Program is open to all workers, including but not limited to emergency health workers, fire or police responders (active or retired)  and others who assisted in the rescue, recovery, clean-up and support following the attacks in those three locations.

In addition, it also provides treatment for those who lived, worked or went to school in the New York City disaster area, or attended daycare or adult daycare, or performed cleanup or maintenance, or were exposed to the dust cloud on that fearful day.

AFSCME DC 37 in New York, working with AFSCME’s Federal Government Affairs Department in Washington, helped develop and lobby Congress for the passage of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010.

DC 37 received a federal grant to register responders and survivors for the health program, and created a website to inform members about it.

For information on the World Trade Center Program, go to or call (888) 982-4748.

Learn more at WTC Health Program, District Council 37 Facebook.

Michigan Lets Aramark Off the Hook

by Pablo Ros  |  September 12, 2014

Michigan Lets Aramark Off the Hook

Ignoring a pattern of inappropriate and unsafe handling of prison food, the director of the Michigan Department of Corrections withdrew a $98,000 fine against Aramark, telling Gov. Rick Snyder’s chief of staff, Dennis Muchmore, in an email: “Our corrective action was too harsh.”

The fine was imposed for unauthorized meal substitutions, not preparing sufficient meals for the inmates and employing workers who fraternized with prisoners.

“That’s outrageous,” Nick Ciaramitaro, legislative director for AFSCME Council 25, told the Detroit Free Press. “Things only got worse after the first fine.”

Aramark, the food service outsourcer that operates in a number of corrections facilities, was fined at least three times this year in two states for ongoing violations. These violations included maggots in prison kitchens, short staffing, unauthorized meal substitutions, failing to prepare sufficient meals for inmates, and employing workers who smuggled contraband and engaged in sex acts with prisoners.

Although the fines add up to nearly $400,000 to concerned citizens, the corporation’s ongoing violations were never about the money. The outrage is about the fact that privateers like Aramark will always look out for their own interests and those of their stakeholders before they do what’s in the best interests of taxpayers and the communities where they operate.

After all, Aramark has a three-year, $145-million contract with the state of Michigan alone. The fines levied against it this year represent one fourth of 1 percent of the value of just one of its contracts.

If public officials, including Governor Snyder, wish to do what’s right, they should begin by holding Aramark accountable for its ongoing violations. One way to do that would be to cancel its contract with the state and return public jobs where they belong – in public hands.

We Remember

September 11, 2014

“I just had to go after those who would come after me,” recalled one New York City police officer who was digging in the rubble of the World Trade Center with his bare hands in the days after the terrorist attack on our nation. In this video, the frantic search for survivors that evolved into a somber search for victims is recalled by AFSCME-represented officers, paramedics, dispatchers and other public service workers on the anniversary of 9/11.

Video produced in 2011 on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

It was a profoundly emotional few days, and the wounds from that tragic event will haunt our nation for years to come. The workers at Ground Zero recall how they approached their jobs that day, when we all came together in the face of a national tragedy. We will never forget.

Mo’ne’s Coach: ‘I Have the Greatest Job in the World’

by Kevin Hanes  |  September 11, 2014

Mo’ne’s Coach: ‘I Have the Greatest Job in the World’ Coach Bandura, his son Scott, and Mo'ne Davis (Photo by Ray Tamarra/GC Images)

PHILADELPHIA – The world was watching Aug. 22 when Mo’ne Davis, a pitcher for the Taney Dragons, became the first girl to pitch a shutout in the 67-year history of the Little League World Series. Although the team would eventually fall short of its ultimate goal of winning the LLWS title, Mo’ne won the hearts of America and became an instant role model for countless young girls around the world.

Little was known about the man behind the superstar, her coach Steve Bandura, a Philadelphia city worker and member of AFSCME Local 2187, who works at the Marian Anderson Recreation Center in South Philly. Bandura began as a volunteer at the local recreation center in 1989, later to leave a marketing job to pursue a career with the Philadelphia Parks & Recreation Department, where he established a baseball, basketball and soccer league for inner-city Philadelphia kids.

“I took a pay cut, but I have the greatest job in the world,” said Bandura. “I look forward to going to work every day because I get to help kids. I am passionate about this – and when you follow your passion, you can make a difference in the lives of others.”

Throughout Philadelphia, members of Local 2187 work with children to develop skills in sports and life. They provide a safe haven to children who might not otherwise have a place to go after school or during the summer. Bandura even put his baseball team on the road to give them more experience.

“We open doors of opportunity. When we give kids opportunity – they excel,” continued Bandura. “Tax dollars are well spent on Recreation Centers. It’s a worthwhile investment, resulting in quality kids with outstanding character.”

Bandura discovered Mo’ne’s athletic abilities in 2008 when he saw her playing football at the recreation center. Mo’ne and her teammates play sports year-round, including soccer and basketball. She and her teammates have competed together for years.

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