by David Patterson | April 20, 2015
APPLETON, Wis.— ln a historic decision to combine strengths and resources, and focus on rebuilding union membership, AFSCME Councils 24, 40 and 48 officially unified to become AFSCME Wisconsin Council 32, in honor of the year AFSCME was born in the state in 1932.
With intense and determined attitudes, delegates to the founding convention quickly got down to serious business at the outset of the three-day event, April 17-19. They adopted a constitution, elected new officers and a new executive board.
“We have come together as unified activists and both the newly elected officers and board members know that job one is rebuilding our union,” said Paul Spink, newly elected president of Council 32. “This new council and its members will be bold, determined and action-driven to improve the lives of our members and all working people. The real work starts now.”
Members, local union leaders and council leadership from each of the three former councils worked for more than a year on a plan to form the new council. They were careful to draft a constitution that ensures representation and a voice for members in all work sectors and geographic sections of the state. The new unified Wisconsin council membership includes state, county and municipal employees, as well as school employees and private-sector workers.
“Everything you’ve done is a model of dedication, and you show all of AFSCME what it means to be committed to our fight. And this moment marks a new start,” AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders told delegates. “It is both a point of liberation from the past and a catalyst for the future.”
by Pablo Ros | April 20, 2015
Arnold is a former Enron executive and Texas hedge fund billionaire who is trying to destroy public pensions across the nation. Feeling secure about his own retirement at 41, he seems determined to make retirement security an elite club for the ultra-rich. From a personal fortune estimated at $2.6 billion dollars, Arnold has spent up to $50 million attacking public workers and the benefits they earn.
Among other things, Arnold has given PBS $3.5 million to produce attacks against public worker pensions and $4.5 million to The Pew Charitable Trusts to fund anti-pension research.
Check out this Simpsons-themed video describing Arnold's pension-slashing plans.
by Pablo Ros | April 17, 2015
The “Fight for 15” movement, led by fast food workers to raise our country’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, may seem ambitious to some, since it seeks to more than double the current minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. But it’s catching on across the country. And if you look at the issue from the perspective of Dan Price, $15 an hour is way too little.
The founder and CEO of a credit-card payment processing company based in Seattle, Price announced this week that the new minimum wage at his company is to be $70,000 a year. If you do the math, that’s nearly five times the current minimum wage and more than double the goal of the Fight for 15 campaign. AFSCME is a strong proponent of raising the federal minimum wage. To us, it’s a civil rights issue.
Price said his inspiration came partly from a study on happiness by two prominent social scientists. The study found that an individual’s emotional well-being increases with income up to approximately $75,000/year. After that, money doesn’t buy you happiness, but if you make significantly less you’ll tend to have low emotional well-being.
The current average salary of the 120-person staff at Gravity Payments is $48,000. To be able to raise his company’s minimum wage to $70,000 during the next three years, Price is lowering his own salary of nearly $1 million to the new minimum and using much of the company’s anticipated profits this year.
It’s unrealistic to hope that other CEOs will drastically raise their employee’s wages out of concern for their emotional well-being. But at least the Price is right in Seattle.
by Pablo Ros | April 17, 2015
Supporters of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act are urging Congress to make the law permanent. Since 2011, it has helped thousands of individuals and their families cope with the aftermath of the terrorist attacks.
“Nearly 14 years ago, we relied on our first responders to lead the rescue and recovery work at Ground Zero, in Shanksville (Pennsylvania) and at the Pentagon,” said U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) at a Washington, DC, press conference. “We cannot turn our back now that they need us most.”
Gillibrand was joined by fellow members of Congress, as well as first responders and labor union representatives, in urging the full House and Senate to renew the legislation. Guillermina Mejia, director of AFSCME DC 37’s Safety and Health Department, was among those present.
The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act established the World Trade Center (WTC) Health Program and the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. Together, these have helped tens of thousands of individuals who responded to the attacks, or lived or worked near the attack sites, seek medical help for respiratory problems, cancer and other illnesses caused from exposure to toxic chemicals, dust and fumes.
Thousands have died from their exposure to the attack sites and more than 30,000 have an illness or injury directly related to it. They include many AFSCME members.
For several years after the Sept. 11 attacks, AFSCME affiliates in New York mobilized activists, testified at hearings and lobbied Congress to pass the 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. The fight to renew it and make it permanent began this week.
by Justin Lee | April 17, 2015
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Yolanda Matos-McClintock, an EMS dispatcher and AFSCME shop steward, comes to the rescue on a daily basis. Her story, recently featured in the Sacramento Business Journal, highlights the importance of emergency response and how being in a union provides strength.
“As a dispatcher, I am trained and accustomed to guiding people during their time of crisis,” she told the newspaper. “What may seem like a regular day for me is often the worst day of their life.”
Matos-McClintock is the first line of contact for people facing medical emergencies. She offers life-saving guidance and comfort until paramedics and EMTs arrive on the scene. These trained EMS professionals undergo a great deal of stress and know much about sacrifice – having a voice in their job is critical.
“My (labor) union brings an incredible amount of kinship,” she told the newspaper. “We know that these are not normal occurrences to be exposed to every day but doing so together makes me realize we have the strength to not only do it, but do it well.”
Matos-McClintock, the mother of four children, is an advocate for her community. After attending an AFSCME leadership conference in 2014, she founded the nonprofit, Equipped Students Inc., to provide disadvantaged students with the resources to be successful. It is a cause she and her husband, Officer Kris McClintock, know much about. She worked as a pre-school teacher for seven years; he works as a resource officer for a local school district.
“We have schools that are burdened with crime and drugs,” said Matos-McClintock. “I just decided that these kids need some type of resource they can access on their own since the adults in their lives have failed them.”
Matos-McClintock, who works for American Medical Response, is a member of United EMS Workers-AFSCME Local 4911. Members are leading the charge to ensure EMS professionals always have the best tools for the job, a livable wage, health insurance and respect for the work they do.
by Mike Lee | April 16, 2015
After intensive negotiations, AFSCME District Council 37 and the New York City mayor's office agreed to provide a living wage for thousands of DC 37 members who make less than $10 an hour.
The mayor's office and the union signed a memorandum of understanding that raises the floor for three low-wage job titles to $11.50 an hour.
DC 37 Exec. Dir. Henry Garrido announced the agreement during the DC 37 delegates’ monthly meeting. He informed the delegates that up to 4,500 members will be "getting a raise immediately."
Effective April 1, new workers in three titles — school crossing guard, job training participant and city seasonal aide — are hired at $11.50 an hour.
The union's unprecedented victory is part of a major push for a living wage for all workers in New York City. The raise is above the state minimum wage of $8.75. "This is the start — only just the beginning of the fight for a living wage for all," said Shaun D. Francois I, president of Board of Education Employees Local 372, which represents the school crossing guards.
"We have been fighting for this for 10 years, through three local presidents. I want to praise Henry Garrido for working with us and the other locals. This proves that unity works, and it is what got this moving," Francois said. More than 350 school crossing guards are affected by this agreement.
The largest group benefiting will be 2,500 job training participants (JTPs). Many JTPs are struggling to rise from poverty while working hard to gain the experience to move into full-time civil service jobs through the JTP program.
The impact of the new $11.50 standard is a step up for these low-paid workers but also a step forward toward achieving the goal of a $15-an-hour living wage.
The historic agreement came at a critical time for working-class public employees. The high cost of living in New York makes it difficult for working and middle-class New Yorkers to live comfortably. The number of affordable neighborhoods is shrinking daily. Basic transportation and utility costs are rising.
Posted In: Economic Security, Labor Movement, Legislation, State & Local Budgets, Workers' Rights
by Dave Kreisman | April 16, 2015
CHICAGO – Chicago taxicab drivers were among thousands of underpaid workers marching through the streets here April 15 making the case for raising the minimum wage to $15 – in Chicago and in 230 cities across the country. As members of Cab Drivers United/AFSCME Council 31 took their places among the protesters, solidarity was very much on their minds.
“Our struggle as cab drivers is no different than the struggle facing a low-wage worker at a fast food chain, or a janitor working late into the night to provide for their family, arriving home while their family is sound asleep, and leaving before they wake up,” said cab driver David Adenekan. “Workers across the spectrum and from coast to coast are standing united today, to stand up and demand a living wage.”
Protesting in major cities and in small towns across the nation, workers marching under the “Fight for 15” banner on Tax Day, made the case not only for raises that would help them feed their families, but also for a society that works to alleviate income inequality, a major political issue in the country today. Recent research shows that raising the minimum wage would benefit everyone.
Members of Cab Drivers United/AFSCME Council 31, earning less than minimum wage because of their expenses, now face a major new challenge that undermines their ability to earn a living wage, said Adenekan.
“With so-called ‘rideshare’ operators arriving by the thousands without any of the safety standards, regulations or costs we face just to operate, drivers are working longer and longer hours just to pay our overhead, and feed our families,” he said.
“Driving a cab used to be a way to a good middle-class life,” Adenekan continued. “We are ambassadors for the city, but like so many other workers we aren’t treated with the respect we deserve. We’re stuck between the City of Chicago squeezing every penny they can out of us, and billion-dollar companies that came in through the backdoor.
“We’re struggling, and we’re here to make our voices heard loud and clear,” he said.
by Clyde Weiss | April 16, 2015
Lawmakers in America hand out tax breaks to giant corporations with more than $80 billion each year, gifts intended to make their states and cities more attractive to companies. It’s a practice that has helped keep Illinois up to its neck in debt.
In a 2014 study, Subsidizing the Corporate One Percent, the nonprofit, nonpartisan research center Good Jobs First reported that three quarters of all such corporate tax breaks awarded and disclosed by state and local governments went to just 965 large corporations, most of them Fortune 500 companies. We examined this issue in further detail in the current edition of AFSCME WORKS.
The loss of revenue from such handouts often ends up hurting taxpayers where they live – in the loss of services, in closed libraries, in cutbacks to public service workers’ wages and benefits. In Illinois, Gov. Bruce Rauner decided that $100 million in business tax breaks promised to corporations by a previous governor must be honored. Meanwhile, taxpayers will get the shaft.
The governor agreed to suspend more than $200 million in grants for social services and parks to help make up the difference in his corporate giveaways. News reports, quoting the governor’s spokesperson, said the tax breaks were green-lighted “because they have no impact” on current-year spending.
No impact? That would be funny if it didn’t hurt so much. In every practical way, robbing the state coffers of much-needed revenue means that someone else has to make up the difference – or something has to be cut. So, out with $26 million in health and social services grant awards. Out with $180 million in parks grants – and the state still is running a multi-billion-dollar deficit next year.
“Since entering office,” says AFSCME Council 31, “Rauner has used the state’s fiscal woes as justification for his extreme agenda, which has focused on weakening union rights, gutting programs that help struggling families and slashing vital public services.”
When he refused to close the tax loopholes for eBay, CapitalOne and other corporations, Governor Rauner lost any chance of claiming cuts to public services was necessary.
“The governor’s willingness to put corporate welfare over people’s welfare is a matter of grave concern,” said AFSCME Council 31 Exec. Dir. Roberta Lynch, also an AFSCME International vice president. “His twisted priorities aren’t shared by the rest of Illinois. That’s why our union is working for a budget plan that is fair to all citizens of our state.”
by Carli Stevenson | April 16, 2015
Thanks to a new city ordinance championed by AFSCME, union members in one Indianapolis AFSCME local has already signed up more than 300 new PEOPLE MVPs.
The bipartisan Indianapolis City-County Council voted 22-7 last month to allow city employees to voluntarily donate money from their paychecks to their union’s political action committee.
Members of Local 725, who work in Indianapolis’ Department of Public Works, wasted no time in organizing their co-workers to contribute to AFSCME PEOPLE, AFSCME’s political action committee. Only AFSCME members and their families may contribute to AFSCME PEOPLE.
“The men and women of our local have seen the attacks on unions coming from across the country, so they know we need to fight back and protect our jobs, retirement, and communities,” Steve Quick, president of Local 725 and an AFSCME International vice president said.
The 300-plus PEOPLE contributors signed up by Local 725 are just the beginning. AFSCME members at Indianapolis’ libraries, fleet services and other locals representing city workers are fast at work signing up new PEOPLE MVPs.
by Anders Lindall and Clyde Weiss | April 15, 2015
Under an agreement reached last week, Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration will immediately begin sending “fair-share” fees to unions pending resolution of a lawsuit by AFSCME, the Illinois AFL-CIO and 26 other unions.
Fair-share fees are authorized by state law to ensure that bargaining unit employees, who choose not to join the union, pay a proportional share of the costs of the union representation from which they benefit.
The unions’ lawsuit, filed in March in St. Clair County Circuit Court, asserts that Governor Rauner violated state law and multiple collective bargaining agreements when he issued an executive order on Feb. 9, barring unions from collecting “fair-share fees” from state workers.
Questioning the order’s constitutionality, State Comptroller Leslie Munger refused to carry out the order, affecting approximately 6,500 workers’ paychecks to the unions representing public service workers. But Governor Rauner then directed state departments under his control to hold onto the deductions but not to spend the money until the issue is resolved in court.
On April 10, Associate Judge Christopher Kolker of St. Clair County Circuit Court issued an agreed order directing the Rauner administration to immediately resume sending the fees to the unions while the case works its way through the legal process. Unions also will receive previously withheld fees.
“We’re glad the fee confiscation has been halted,” said AFSCME Council 31 Exec. Dir. Roberta Lynch, also an AFSCME International vice president. “But we’re even more pleased that more than 1,000 state employees didn’t wait for the court to act. Since the governor issued his executive order they’ve signed up to be full dues-paying union members – and more fee-payers are doing so every day.” Read Lynch’s full statement here.