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Push on in Florida: Vote Early!

by Omar Tewfik  |  October 31, 2014

MIAMI – AFSCME members joined allies in a rally on Thursday in Miami Gardens to urge fellow Floridians to get to the polls early this election. The rally was held outside the North Dade Regional Library, one of many early voting locations throughout Miami-Dade County.

“Every Floridian has the right to raise their voice through their vote,” said Thomas Bott, a community member who attended the rally. “Early voting is important, and we want to demonstrate to Floridians, especially young people, that if you commit and plan your vote it’s easy, and you can make a difference.”

AFSCME members and our allies in Florida have been amplifying that message, encouraging Florida voters to move their friends and family to action by planning their vote and sharing it on social media using a new dynamic GOTV platform called Plan Your Vote Florida.  

With the gubernatorial race in a dead heat, turnout in counties like Miami-Dade and neighboring Broward will make all the difference. So far, turnout among voters likely to cast their ballots against anti-worker Gov. Rick Scott is higher this year than in 2010, when he was first elected.

“We can keep quiet and nothing will change,” said Melba White, president of AFSCME South Florida Retirees. “Or, we can vote to fund our schools, expand Medicaid, support retirement security and raise the minimum wage. We must vote, and we must tell the people we care about that they must, too.”

Court Rejects Mayor’s Illegal Offer

by Olivia Sandbothe  |  October 30, 2014

ALBUQUERQUE – City workers here prevailed in court this month in a case that could have repercussions for public worker bargaining units across the nation.  They were granted an injunction that prevents Mayor Richard Berry from imposing a contract offer that the union never agreed to. 

The mayor’s contract would have stripped city workers of hard-won rights, like promotion benefits and access to a union steward during work hours. But the court ordered the city to mediate with the union.

After 44 years of working in good faith with the members of AFSCME Council 18, the city turned to a more destructive approach.  Mayor Berry acted unilaterally instead of meeting the union in arbitration to resolve negotiations.

"What the mayor was trying to do undermines the entire foundation and integrity of the collective bargaining process,” Steve Griego, former president of Local 624, told city officials at an earlier meeting. “It’s like someone coming to your house and stealing your car, only as they're leaving your driveway, they roll down the window, throw a hundred dollar bill at you, and say, 'we just bought your car.' The problem is, our car was never for sale, and our rights were never for sale.’

The city of Albuquerque’s labor-management relations ordinance does not require that negotiations be settled by independent arbitration during an impasse, but that does not mean the mayor has authority to impose his own contract without reaching an agreement.  Workers hope this case sends a clear message that even in cities without arbitration clauses, officials must play by the rules.

Truth Is No Obstacle for Wisconsin Governor

by Clyde Weiss  |  October 30, 2014

Milwaukee, Wisconsin. – Gov. Scott Walker has a problem with the truth. When the facts don’t benefit him, he has no problem twisting them out of all reality. The latest lie-detector test, by PolitiFact Wisconsin, rates his assertion of a $535 million budget surplus as a “false claim.”

PolitiFact Wisconsin, an independent analyzer of political statements, working (in this case) with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, analyzed the governor’s claim, made during a recent debate with his challenger, Mary Burke, who said the state’s deficit is $1.8 billion – a huge difference.

PolitiFact Wisconsin reviewed the claims of both candidates and concluded that Walker’s “rosy number flies in the face of the official estimate that uses a long-established method used by members of both parties, and the governor’s budget office.” In reality, they said, Wisconsin has “a $1.76 billion deficit heading into the 2015-17 budget.” Read the report here.

Playing fast and loose with the facts is nothing new for Governor Walker. He also twisted the truth about job growth to claim “the best two-year job growth in a decade,” according to his campaign. In fact, the Badger State lags far behind the job growth of most other states, ranking 22nd among the states in terms of net employment change since Walker became governor, reports The Washington Post.

Moreover, during his 2010 campaign for governor, Walker promised 250,000 new jobs. Politifact Wisconsin reviewed the numbers and found that only 102,000 net jobs were created during that time – less than half of what candidate Walker promised.

Voting Early, Texans Push for Change

by Eli Magaña  |  October 30, 2014

Tomorrow – October 31 – is the last day of early voting in Texas.

AFSCME members across the state are going to the polls to vote for candidates who will protect retirement security and ensure a living wage for all working people.

And this year voters actually have a chance to send a pro-worker gubernatorial candidate to Austin.

“There is so much at stake in this election,” said Thomas Jones, a Texas state corrections officer and member of AFSCME Local 3807.  “We’re working to elect candidates who will fight for working families.”

For more info on how to early vote in Texas, please click here.

District 1199C Gets $4 Million to Train Unemployed

by Joye Barksdale  |  October 30, 2014

The U.S. Department of Labor awarded the District 1199C Training & Upgrading Fund a grant of nearly $4 million to train long-term unemployed residents for health care careers.

“As a labor management partnership, we are thrilled with the Department of Labor Ready to Work grant award that provides much needed resources to help the jobless gain access to career paths in health care,” said Henry Nicholas, president of District 1199C, the National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees, and an AFSCME International vice president.

“We are especially excited to jumpstart a new Community Health Worker Apprenticeship with local employers and expanded employment of nurses and health information staff at Temple University Health System, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, long-term care facilities and physician practices.”

In announcing the grant, which is part of the Ready to Work partnership, the White House joined the Labor Department in acknowledging the Training & Upgrading Fund, citing it as an example of a “winning partnership.”

“District 1199C…will add to its health care training program by establishing a new Community Health Worker Registered Apprenticeship with local employers including Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Nationwide Healthcare Services and several local nursing homes,” the White House fact sheet stated. “The new apprenticeship program will help to standardize the skills needed for community health care workers across a number of employers, making it clearer what individuals need to do to get these jobs.”

The District 1199C Training & Upgrading Fund was created 40 years ago and has brought together employers, union members and unemployed residents in the Philadelphia region to prepare workers for careers in health care. With the Department of Labor grant, it will focus on residents in several Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware counties.

“The Training Fund’s work is important to AFSCME’s membership in supporting workers to acquire the high-level skills and credentials needed in the 21st century workplace and in providing opportunities for the long-term unemployed to qualify for the growing number of high-skilled health care employment opportunities,” said AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders.

President Obama issued a call to action in January to employers and community organizations to help workers find jobs, especially those who are long-term unemployed. Workers are considered to be long-term unemployed if they have been out of work for more than six months.

Retirees, AFSCME President Talk Midterm Elections’ Importance

by Karen Gilgoff  |  October 27, 2014

Last week, thousands of retiree members across the country participated in an AFSCME Retirees teletown hall with AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders to discuss what’s at stake in the fall elections and commit to volunteer in the final days of the campaign.

Saunders talked with others on the call about how union-busting, anti-senior politicians are following a dangerous playbook. The first step, he said, “is to attack public-service workers, collective bargaining, Social Security and Medicare. Step two is to cut budgets and privatize services.” The final step is to give out corporate tax breaks, even at the expense of elderly pensioners and other vulnerable members of the community.

It’s a familiar bunch of politicians advancing this troubling agenda: Scott Walker in Wisconsin; Dan Sullivan in Alaska; Doug Ducey in Arizona; Cory Gardner and Bob Beauprez in Colorado; Rick Scott in Florida; Joni Ernst in Iowa; Bruce Rauner in Illinois; Paul LePage in Maine; Rick Snyder in Michigan; Jeff Johnson and Mike McFadden in Minnesota; Thom Tillis in North Carolina; Tom Corbett in Pennsylvania.

“In Wisconsin, our priority is to stop Gov. Scott Walker, not only to end his rampage of ruin, but to warn the Walker clones in other states that they can’t win on the backs of working people and retirees,” Saunders said. “We won’t let them.”

All the speakers warned that the only way bad governors win is if good citizens stay home on Election Day, Nov. 4. They urged the retirees not only to vote themselves, but to also make sure like-minded neighbors, friends and relatives vote, too. It’s the time when retirees and all AFSCME members must be talking about these elections everywhere from grocery stores to senior centers to church. Volunteering at union phone banks and participating in union activities is also key.

“AFSCME members win elections by working together and mobilizing,” said Gary Tavormina, chair of the AFSCME Retiree Council. Tavormina called it critical to the health and financial security of retirees and working families to elect the friends of workers and retirees everywhere.

By the end of Thursday night’s call, hundreds of AFSCME retiree activists had signed up to participate. 

Florida Retirees Make a Big Difference in Upcoming Election

by Helen Cox  |  October 24, 2014

MIAMI -- With so much on the line in this year’s midterm elections – from retirement security to voting rights -- AFSCME retirees in Miami-Dade County made more than 100,000 calls to Floridians in recent weeks, encouraging them to vote on or before Nov. 4.

One of the retirees turning people out to the polls is Melba White, a former procurement specialist for Jackson Memorial Hospital who retired three years ago. Rather than just relax, White seized the opportunity to devote herself more fully to civic engagement and become active with AFSCME Retirees Subchapter 45.  

“I stay active in local politics and I'm participating in this election because we need big changes in Florida,” White said. “Our current governor is not for all people, he's for special interest groups and the rich. It’s been on his watch that so many working families have been hurt. I’m a grandmother and a great-grandmother, I care deeply about making our communities better for future generations.”

White is enjoying staying active in her retirement.

“Now I have the time to go to more meetings, play close attention to how decisions get made and talk with more voters about making smart decisions,” White said.

She has a clear mission for the next two weeks, as early voting is now under way in Florida and Election Day looms on Nov. 4: Get people out to vote.

“Sometimes all it takes is one genuine conversation that makes the difference in getting someone to the polls,” White said. “And that’s a really good feeling to know you’ve made a difference.”

Learn more about what inspirational retirees are doing across the country by visiting http://www.afscme.org/union/retirees.

Fighting Back in Ohio

by Michael Byrne  |  October 24, 2014

Mansfield, Ohio, a town of 47,000 between Cleveland and Columbus, is the epicenter of Ohio’s midterm election campaign, where the war on public service workers perhaps is felt most personally. Every public employee here has felt the attacks on public services and budget cutbacks during the past four years.

Ohio Civil Service Employees Association (OCSEA) represents many of the workers there, from the corrections officers at the two local prisons to employees of the Department of Transportation, EPA and other state offices.

Ohio Association of Public School Employees (OAPSE) represents many of the school employees.

Council 8 also represents city workers. The Mansfield office is one of eight around Ohio where get-out-the-vote programs are in full swing.

In Mansfield, as elsewhere, the volunteers are driven to protect public services and their rights – thousands of jobs were lost and many more are threatened by cuts or privatization attempts.

“I worked at the Unemployment Department for 27 years, and they kept cutting and cutting,” said Joan Schonhardt, who retired three years ago and worries how she will make ends meet every day on a small pension and Social Security benefits that are diminished by Ohio regulations.

“They’ve been trying to privatize Ohio’s prison system for four years,” said Melvin Girtman, a corrections officer at the Mansfield Correctional Institution who was assembling folders of information for volunteers to distribute during their door-knocking efforts. “It’s food service, then it’s other services, they’re picking the prison system apart, really, selling it out to the highest bidder. And what they’re really after is to weaken the union, picking us off one section at a time.”

Girtman and Schonhardt were two of several volunteers who showed up on a gray October Wednesday to knock on doors and make phone calls on behalf of candidates willing to fight for working families. Many fear that Ohio will follow the mold of Michigan and Indiana right-to-work ruin.

“That’s what I fear the most,” said Emmagean Smith, another corrections officer at the Mansfield prison who signed up for the volunteer work. “I worry that right-to-work would mean a cut in our wages. It means I could lose my seniority. I’ve worked at ManCI for 21 years, and I don’t want to lose what I’ve worked so hard to earn.” 

Later that day, Smith door knocked with fellow Mansfield CO Debbie Davis and her daughter, an eighth-grader, at union members’ homes in nearby Mt. Vernon. Her daughter insisted on coming along, Davis said. “She knows how important this election is. It’s her future, you know.” 

So far, the AFSCME Ohio get-out-the-vote campaign made 350,000 phone calls to union members and knocked on 30,000 doors. That’s just the beginning, said OCSEA’s Jim Beverly, who runs the Mansfield office. “We’ve got nearly two weeks to go,” he said. “We’re not letting up.”

Two years ago, Ohio’s unions and supporters were able to gather 1.3 million signatures for a ballot initiative and rally overwhelming support to repeal a state law to eliminate collective bargaining for public workers, SB5. AFSCME activists wear buttons that say, “This Is the November We Remember.” They’re fighting back.

Missouri Home Care Workers Win Raise

by Olivia Sandbothe  |  October 23, 2014

After months of collecting signatures, rallying in cities across the state and meeting with local officials, Missouri home care providers and the people they care for were able to celebrate a big victory last week – a first contract!

The Missouri Home Care Union, an AFSCME/SEIU partnership, reached an agreement with the state that will raise hourly wages up to $10.15, guarantee premium pay on holidays, and make the home health care system more transparent and responsive.

Their hard work paid off big time for the home care workers, many of whom were making minimum wage or barely above it.  Their pay is among the lowest in the nation. It’s not enough to pay the bills, and it certainly doesn’t reflect the value of the work they do caring for seniors and people with disabilities.

That’s why Michael Richards of Moberly, along with his caregiver Karen Harlan, traveled to St. Louis last week to deliver more than 400 petition signatures to Gov. Jay Nixon.  Richards says he wouldn’t be able to leave the house without the help of Harlan, but the current system doesn’t value what she does.

“I got into the home health care system and it completely changed my life,” he says. “These workers are out working nine, 10, 11 hours a day and then they go home and live on food stamps at the poverty level.  People like them keep people like me alive and well and they deserve more than that.”

Sarah Auxier and her son Kyle, from St. James, also have been active in the union.  Kyle has muscular dystrophy, and Sarah works around the clock to care for him.  But she can’t support herself on the income she gets as a home care attendant, so Kyle has to hire someone else while Sarah works a second job. 

“His other attendant has four jobs and is barely making ends meet,” Auxier says. “It was so embarrassing to say to her, you have this huge responsibility, Kyle relies on you for everything, and you’re only worth $7.75 an hour.”

The contract is a big first step, and it will make life a little easier for Missourians like Richards and Auxier.  When home care workers and consumers work side by side to advocate for change, they can raise the standards for everybody. 

Leading the Way to Vote Early in Atlanta

by Helen Cox  |  October 23, 2014

ATLANTA – AFSCME Local 1644 members who work for Atlanta Public Schools and the City of Atlanta are encouraging their co-workers to vote early this election season. Last week they joined local teachers in voting early at South DeKalb Mall to launch early voting across the state. 

Although every election is important, close U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races have caused increased interest in this midterm election.

“My co-workers and I are voting early because on Election Day we’re going to help other people get to the polls,” said Local 1644 member Tracey Thornhill. “There are some big races happening and we can’t let any excuses stand in our way.”

“We’ll be driving folks to the polls and helping them make educated decisions,” she said. “Just like every election, we all need to stand up for ourselves and all working families.”

Thirty-three states and the District of Columbia offer early voting, increasing access to the democratic process. Click here to find out more about what options you have available in your state.

The benefits of early voting include greater participation by traditionally disenfranchised voters and reduced stress on the voting system on Election Day.

 

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