by Kate Childs Graham | February 14, 2013
On the heels of a State of the Union address by Pres. Barack Obama that focused on rebuilding the middle class and growing the economy, AFSCME members from across the country went to Capitol Hill Wednesday and lobbied their legislators to do just that.
At more than 75 meetings with members of the Senate and the House of Representatives, they discussed several major issues: building an economy that works for all, protecting vital public services and passing comprehensive immigration reform. The visits were part of AFSCME’s 2013 Legislative Conference.
A large group of AFSCME members from New York gathered in a private room in the Capitol Visitors’ Center for a meeting with Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.). Some hurried in from meetings with their representatives.
Patty Kaufman, a member of CSEA Local 1000, had just returned from a meeting with Rep. Paul Tonko (N.Y.-20) along with six of her sisters and brothers from CSEA and District Council 37.
“The meeting went very well,” Kaufman said, “He is very supportive of our issues – Medicare and Social Security as well as immigration reform. He doesn’t want families to be separated.”
Schumer stressed his commitment to economic growth. On preserving programs like Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security, Schumer said, “Instead of cutting these programs with a meat axe, we need to close the loopholes for all these fat cat corporations and individuals.”
Several members asked about immigration reform. Senator Schumer said he is optimistic that comprehensive immigration reform will pass this year. “We are going to fight on immigration,” he said, adding his gratitude for AFSCME’s leadership on the issue.
Eddie Rodriguez, AFSCME international vice president and president of DC 37, brought up privatization. He said, “We have to make sure we don’t lose jobs in public sector. When they create jobs in the private sector, we are losing them in the public sector. They are contracting out our jobs. That’s not job creation.”
Senator Schumer replied definitively, “I am against privatization.”
Before he was whisked away for another meeting, Senator Schumer talked a bit about the crucial role of unions and public workers, “We have this beautiful lady in our harbor, the Statue of Liberty. She is holding a torch. Whether you came here or your parents or your grandparents or your great grandparents came here, they came for that torch. That torch is the American Dream…The fight against unions is going to make the American Dream more and more remote. We have to fight for you, because you represent that statue. “
G.L. Tyler, political director for DC 1707, reflected on the meeting. “The senator listened to the issues. He has proven himself to be an advocate for working families.”