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America Has Gone Seven Years Without a Raise

by Olivia Sandbothe  |  July 26, 2016

America Has Gone Seven Years Without a Raise

It’s now been seven years since the federal hourly minimum wage was raised to $7.25. Since 2009, the cost of living has risen by 11 percent—but many workers are stuck with the same paltry paycheck.

Last year, 2.6 million hourly workers earned wages at or below the $7.25 minimum. More than half were older than 25. For minimum wage workers, even basics like housing are out of reach. If the minimum wage were raised by just 10 percent, the number of people living in poverty in the United States would be reduced by 2.4 percent.

In fact, the minimum wage would need to rise by nearly 25 percent to match the purchasing power of the 1960s wage. During that same period, CEO salaries have increased by more than 700 percent.

If you work, you should make enough to make ends meet. Nobody can support themselves or a family on only $170 a week. The Coalition of Labor Union Women and allied organizations are drawing attention to the outdated minimum wage with the hashtag #RaiseItDamnIt. Please take the opportunity to contact your elected representatives and demand a raise for America’s low-wage workers.

Reyes Reelected Secretary-Treasurer

July 22, 2016

Reyes Reelected Secretary-Treasurer Secretary-Treasurer Laura Reyes celebrates with delegates after the announcement that she was re-elected at the 2016 AFSCME Vegas Convention Thursday, July 21. (Photo by Tessa Berg)

AFSCME Sec.-Treas. Laura Reyes was reelected to a second term on Thursday with 912,547 votes. "I’m humbled by this honor, and I look forward to working with President Saunders to continue the progress we've made over the last four years," Reyes said.

Secretary-Treasurer Reyes is the first woman to serve as AFSCME’s secretary-treasurer.

Delegates Pass Racial Justice and Public Safety Resolution

July 22, 2016

AFSCME delegates on Thursday passed a resolution that affirms our commitment to fighting and winning racial and economic justice, and honors the work of public safety officers who serve and protect the public without regard to race, color and creed.

The resolution reflects Monday’s keynote remarks by President Saunders, who said that we can achieve both law and order and racial justice "if we embrace our common humanity and listen to our better angels."

International Contested Elections

July 22, 2016

International Secretary-Treasurer
John Frazier: 77,426
Laura Reyes: 912,547
 
California District
D’Jean DeVolle: 13,191
Kathryn Lybarger: 58,404
Alan Shanahan: 63,518
 
CSEA District
Danny Donohue: 155,469
Kathy Garrison: 44,947
Nick LaMorte: 144,182
Bob Pyjas: 20,440
Mary Sullivan: 155,470
 
Eastern District
Sherryl Gordon: 13,498
Mattie Harrell: 13,542
 
New York State District
Victoria Mitchell: 18,766
Kim Medina: 5,908

Northwestern District
Stacy Chamberlain: 61,704
Greg Devereux: 56,112
James Robinson: 15,947
 
Southeastern District
CeeCee Brown: 8,636
Janice Chalmers-Priest: 3,186

Southwestern District
Connie Derr: 15,840
Carol Guthrie: 8,005
Betty Jo Aragon-Freeman: 433

International Vice Presidents Elected

July 22, 2016

California District: Alan Shanahan, Kathryn Lybarger
Capital District: Glenard S. Middleton Sr.
Central District: Steven Quick
CSEA District: Danny Donohue, Nick LaMorte, Mary Sullivan
Eastern District: Mattie Harrell
Hawaii District: Randy Perreira
Illinois District: Roberta Lynch, Michael Newman
Michigan District: Lawrence A. Roehrig
Midwestern District: Danny J. Homan
New York City District: Henry Garrido, Anthony Wells
New York State District: Victoria Mitchell
North Central District: Eliot Seide
No. New England District: Frank Moroney
Northwestern District: Stacy Chamberlain, Greg Devereux
NUHHCE District: Denise Duncan, Henry Nicholas
OAPSE District: Joseph P. Rugola
OCSEA District: Chris Mabe
Ohio District: John A. Lyall
Pennsylvania District: Richard Caponi, David Fillman
Puerto Rico District: Braulio Torres
So. New England District: Salvatore Luciano
Southeastern District: CeeCee Brown
Southwestern District: Connie Derr
UDW District: Doug Moore, Johanna Puno Hester
Wisconsin District: Paul Spink

Never Quit Awards

July 22, 2016

Never Quit Awards Rachel Cooper accepts an award during the "Never Quit Service Awards Program" at the 2016 AFSCME Vegas Convention Thursday, July 21. (Photo by Tessa Berg)

Honored for their public service, activism and innovation, 12 AFSCME members received the first ever Never Quit awards.

The Service awardees are:

  • Rachel Cooper (Georgia)
  • Stephanie Croft (Kentucky)
  • Niall O’Shaughnessy (New York City)
  • Anne Sears (Alaska)

The Activism awardees are:

  • Ann Marie Mathurine (Maryland)
  • Carolyn Park (Cincinnati)
  • Percy Winters (Oregon).

The Innovation awardees are:

  • Barbara Cooper (Pennsylvania)
  • Terry Magnant (Wisconsin)
  • Melvin Puu (Hawaii)
  • Eric Wisner (Missouri).

Pictured above is Atlanta school cafeteria manager Rachel Cooper. "My job is to make sure that every child that enters that building has a hot meal, even if they don’t want anything but a hug," said Cooper.

Watch this moving video of Rachel Cooper receiving her award.

"No Justice, No Peace!" They Shouted

July 22, 2016

Christine Weinard (IA Local 183) at the AFSCME in Action Breakout Sessions during the 2016 AFSCME Vegas Convention Monday, July 18. (Photo by Tessa Berg)

More than 2,000 members attending AFSCME in Action breakouts played out various scenarios aimed at learning how to handle real-world problems in the workplace.

"The more you practice something like this, you become more familiar with it. That way you can implement it effectively for positive change," said Carissa Stearns, president of Local 469 (Pennsylvania Council 13).

Resources from the workshops are available here.

Rachel Cooper – Never Quit Service Award Recipient

July 21, 2016

Rachel Cooper – Never Quit Service Award Recipient Rachel Cooper, flanked by her colleagues from the Atlanta Public School System, as she receives the AFSCME “Never Quit” Service Award. “When you feed a child, you nourish their souls,” she said. (Photo by Namita Waghray)

As a cafeteria manager with an elementary school and an intermediate school Rachel Cooper (Ms. Cooper to her students) does so much more than taking care of breakfast, lunch and snacks for her charges. She believes that her job means more than providing healthy, fulfilling meals. “When you feed a child, you nourish their souls.”

Ms. Cooper was honored for her commitment to public service with the AFSCME “Never Quit” Service Award at her intermediate school.  In the audience watching her accept the award were fellow staff, teachers, administrators and Atlanta Public school board members as well as hundreds of her students. It was a surprise event that the entire school community, her AFSCME Local 1644 family and the students had been planning for weeks.

Students made signs and recorded messages of thanks and support for Ms. Cooper weeks in advance. The principal of Miles Elementary School also held the surprise event in the gym, quieting more than three hundred students before Ms. Cooper’s entrance. 

“Ms. Cooper is the best cafeteria lady ever – she makes sure we have really tasty food to eat at breakfast and lunch. I love her,” Rosa Guiterrez shared on video when she was asked what Ms. Cooper means to her.

The AFSCME “Never Quit” Service Award celebrates members who demonstrate great pride and dedication in their work by going the extra mile in during the course of their daily duties.

As a public servant, Rachel Cooper does not believe her work as a cafeteria manager is a job, it is a calling.

And that is one reason why she was honored.

Delegates Rally at Trump Hotel

July 21, 2016

Delegates Rally at Trump Hotel AFSCME members rally at the Trump Hotel in support of his hotel workers during the 2016 AFSCME Vegas Convention Wednesday, July 20. (Photo by Tessa Berg)

More than 2,000 AFSCME delegates took it to the streets Wednesday, standing in solidarity with Culinary Workers demanding a fair contract at the Trump International Hotel.

Local 226 and Bartenders Local 165 members who work at the Trump International Hotel won their union elections last December, and the National Labor Relations Board certified their victory in March. Yet Trump International has refused to begin contract negotiations and has conducted an aggressive anti-union campaign, including firings and intimidation of union supporters.

Though several members experienced discomfort from the excessive heat, AFSCME delegates demonstrated that we won’t stop fighting for all workers’ rights – whether ours or our sisters and brothers from other unions.

“I’m so happy to see you guys,” said Geoconda Arguello Kline, who started out as a hotel worker and is the secretary-treasurer of Local 226.

Kline said of Trump “He doesn’t respect working people...who make him money every single day. These workers here, they had an election. They won. We’re going to fight and we’re never going to give up. He’s been refusing and denying the rights of the working people… Mr. Trump, you’re fighting against the immigrants... you’re fighting against this country. And right now, the country will fight against you too.”

IVP Kathryn Lybarger pledged AFSCME’s support. “It’s the heat we’re turning up on Donald Trump. 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.”

Rev. Dr. Barber: “I Came to AFSCME to Call Code!”

July 21, 2016

Rev. Dr. Barber: “I Came to  AFSCME to Call Code!”

The Rev. Dr. William Barber II challenged public workers and their labor unions to be part of the moral revival of our nation.
"I’m here with you today because we need a moral revolution of values to address the moral crisis at the heart of our democracy right now," he said.

That crisis is nothing new, Dr. Barber said, recalling the Civil Rights struggle led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. King knew that racial and economic injustice are intertwined, and he stood with AFSCME striking sanitation workers just a few days before he was killed.

But the achievements of the Civil Rights movement produced a backlash. Some people "developed code language to talk about race without talking about race," Dr. Barber added.

For nearly 50 years, the strategy was to blame minorities for our country’s problems, Dr. Barber said. And Donald Trump’s fearmongering continues that. So do steps taken by state legislatures, with the help of the U.S. Supreme Court, to suppress the minority vote.

They’re trying to suppress the vote "because they know the power of us coming together."

Referring to recent outbreaks of gun violence, Barber said, "We have to stand against violence and death, period."
If our moral crisis is like a heart problem, he concluded, we need to "call code," that is, revive the moral heart of our nation. And AFSCME can play a role in that.

"I came by AFSCME to call code!" Barber said. "It’s time for the labor movement and the Civil Rights movement … to realize we are the moral defibrillator of our time."

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