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Help For 9/11 Responders and Survivors

by Clyde Weiss  |  September 12, 2014

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 cdc.gov/wtc 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

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

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.

Long Lines Lead to Child Care Organizing Opportunity

by David Patterson  |  September 10, 2014

MILWAUKEE – In the face of anti-union legislation that has left working people reeling from Gov. Scott Walker’s political agenda, family child care providers in Milwaukee and across Wisconsin have fought back and begun organizing with AFSCME/Child Care Providers Together Wisconsin.

The breaking point came when the state forced providers working in Milwaukee County to deliver their timesheets in person downtown at the Milwaukee Early Care Administration (MECA) offices in order to get paid in a timely manner. The result was hours-long lines extending out the building and down the block from the early morning through the afternoon –  time those providers could have used caring for children.

“This was a blatant slap in the face to the providers in Milwaukee,” said Glenda Haynes, a child care provider who was forced to wait in line for hours. “No provider in any other county was forced to do this.”

Those lines, however, resulted in an opportunity for AFSCME/CCPT organizers who visited providers in line to talk union and bring water to ensure none lost their place in line. Soon, activists inside and outside the building created the pressure needed to get a meeting with MECA leaders and the in-person requirement was lifted.

The time-sheet resolution – along with new accreditation courses offered at no cost to AFSCME/CCPT members – has spurred a growth in the local, tripling membership in just two months.

“The word is getting out about the resources and the unity the union can provide,” said Anneliese Sheahan, president of the AFSCME/CCPT local. “For just $25 a month for membership, the union provides so many resources that benefit all providers.”

Secretary-Treasurer Reyes Takes ALS Bucket Splash

September 09, 2014

Challenged by AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders, Sec.-Treas. Laura Reyes took the plunge last week, taking a bucket of ice water on her head to benefit ALS research.

“As a union woman and proud AFSCME member, I accept the challenge,” she said. In turn, she challenged “my sisters at the Women’s Leadership Academy,” as well as Kathryn Lybarger of AFSCME Local 3299 in California, an AFSCME International vice president.

Secretary-Treasurer Reyes pledged to make a personal donation, added to the $1,000 already pledged by AFSCME for research to fight the neurodegenerative disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The “ice bucket challenges” helped raise nearly $100 million for ALS research since the end of July.

Chicago Taxi Drivers Demand Due Process

by David Kreisman  |  September 05, 2014

CHICAGO – Frustrated by an unjust system that denies due process to taxi cab drivers cited for code violations, more than 400 members of Cab Drivers United (CDU)-AFSCME demonstrated this week outside the Chicago Department of Administrative Hearings (DOAH).

For Chicago’s drivers, a hearing date at DOAH is the last step in a process that efficiently and effectively strips drivers of their rights and hard-earned income.

According to a study released by Cab Drivers United-AFSCME in June, drivers pay thousands of dollars each month to lease their cab or finance a medallion, and work 12 hours a day, six or seven days a week. And yet they find their modest income in serious jeopardy over the slightest infraction, regardless of guilt, and typically without the opportunity to present evidence to an impartial judge.

“The system here at 400 West Superior is set up to prevent drivers from ever having our day in court,” said taxi driver and CDU member Maxwell Akenten. “The enormous fines and penalties are used by the city as leverage to pressure us into settling and paying a fine without ever making our case. It’s coercion. We are automatically guilty; there is no due process for taxi drivers.”

CDU drivers already met with Business Affairs and Consumer Protection Commissioner Maria Guerra Lapacek twice to highlight the areas her office can act on immediately to alleviate the impossible position drivers are in.

“We are asking for common-sense solutions to the problem facing taxi drivers,” said taxi driver and CDU member David Adenekan. “These are issues the commissioner could act on today.  She could work to create a fair system where drivers have the same expectation of justice and due process as the rest of Chicago.”

Quick Action Rescues Phoenix from Flooding

by Kevin Brown  |  September 05, 2014

Torrential flooding posed major problems for Phoenix in August, but public service workers rose to the challenge and saved the day.

Dennis Martinez, a fire emergency dispatcher and AFSCME Local 2960 member, reported 18 swift water rescue assignments in just a 12-hour period at their call center. Swift water rescues are very intense and can require up to 15 to 20 fire apparatuses and specially trained technical firefighters.

During a rescue, captured by Fox 10, one of Martinez’s team members remained on the phone with the survivors for more than 45 minutes, providing vital information for a successful rescue. The home moved more than 20-feet from its original address and the flooding forced firefighters to use a helicopter to land on the roof.

“We handled more than 6,000 calls during the hours of the flood, dispatching units to multiple emergency situations,” Martinez said. “Every second is a matter of life and death, we are grateful to have been prepared to play a huge role to ensure the safety of our residents. It was a great combined effort of city employees.”

Arizona is known for its monsoon season, which lasts from June to September and carries a severe threat of mudslides and aggressive flash floods. Improvised evacuations and rescue missions are common during this time period. The desert around Phoenix sees very little rain most of the year, so that in the event of an intense storm the water has nowhere to go.

For city employees at the Union Hills Water Treatment Plant, the first task was to close the intakes before the plant could be contaminated with unsanitary water spilling over the banks of the Skunk Creek Wash.  Their courageous efforts protected the health of many Phoenix residents and the infrastructure of the plant. The intakes remained shut down for nearly 15 minutes to let the mud flow by, safely out of the path of clean drinking water.

“We have a good response team at Union Hills. As soon as we realized the threat of the flooding, we took to the problem and closed off the intakes and relied on the other four water plants to supply clean water to our residents,” said Julian Marquez, AFSCME Local 2384 member and a building maintenance worker.

The Union Hills Water Treatment Plant intakes were reopened and no deaths or major injuries were reported due to the flooding; however, heroic stories of public servants and neighbors banding together to ensure the safety of their communities continue to surface.

Indiana City Workers Fight Back, Secure Contract

by Carli Stevenson  |  September 05, 2014

The hard-working members of Local 2487, which represents city workers in Bloomington, Indiana, have a history of working cooperatively with city management for the benefit of both workers and city services. When they negotiated their last contract, which went into effect on Jan. 1, 2014, they had no reason to believe things would be different.

But five months later, on June 1, the city revised its personnel policy, limiting compensatory time and mandating that members use 10 days of compensatory time before using their sick time or paid time off. This change was made unilaterally without negotiating with the local.

AFSCME members knew that if they did not fight back, the integrity of the contract would be seriously eroded. If the city didn’t think it had to bargain with members on this, then they could start to make other policies outside the contract.

Local 2487 Pres. Rick Albright filed a grievance and met with management. But more importantly, he worked with Dave Robertson, his staff representative at AFSCME Indiana-Kentucky Organizing Committee 962, to organize his co-workers. Under the banner “Hands Off Our Contract,” more than 80 members signed up to take action during a City Council meeting on Aug. 21.

Having gotten wind of the members’ plan, the city called the local for a meeting and agreed to back off the changes to the personnel policy.

“They knew we had a lot of help coming, and they got scared,” Albright said. “Because we organized, we were able to move things forward.”

 

 

Missourians Back $11 an Hour for Home Care Attendants

by Joe Lawrence  |  September 04, 2014

Missourians from St. Louis to Independence to Joplin called on Gov. Jay Nixon to set the home care attendant minimum wage at $11 an hour. In news events in seven cities and through videos on social media, home care attendants, their consumers, and political and community leaders said poverty wages for such valuable work isn’t right.

The state’s Medicaid-funded Consumer Directed Services (CDS) program enables a better life for 30,000 Missourians who are elderly or with disabilities, and who cannot remain in their own homes and communities without assistance. CDS attendants provide that care and make the program work. Earning an average wage of $8.56 and working spotty hours, attendants themselves cannot make ends meet, leading to a high turnover rate that leaves consumers with uncertainty about their future.

Governor Nixon can raise the program’s minimum wage to $11 with the current state allocation. Home care agencies are given $15.56 for each hour of attendant service. On average nearly half of that is taken up in administrative costs.

The call for a raise was backed by lawmakers and community leaders.

“We all know someone who needs in-home care,’” Missouri Rep. Kevin McManus said. “’You know how important it is that that person is able to remain in their homes and stay connected to communities and to their family. I don’t think it’s too much to ask to give them a wage that provides them with the same level of dignity they provide consumers.’”

The Missouri Home Care Union bargaining team will resume contract negotiations on Sept. 17.

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