by Carli Stevenson | July 25, 2014
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — More than 48 union activists from locals throughout Indiana and Kentucky gathered earlier this summer to attend the Indiana-Kentucky Organizing Committee 962’s Local Union Leadership Academy (LULA).
Attendance was at a record high for the organizing committee, tripling from last year’s LULA. It is just one of the trainings and events held to rebuild the committee in the wake of the revocation of collective bargaining rights for Indiana state workers and Indiana’s “right-to-work-for-less” law, which led to declining membership.
Union activists learned how to create strategic plans for their locals, including membership development, forming relationships with allies, and engagement with the political process. They also learned more about union governance.
“It will really help me to mobilize my members,” said participant Stephanie Croft, a library worker at the Louisville Free Public Library and president of Local 3425. “I have some great ideas to take back to my local.”
by Dave Kreisman | July 25, 2014
SUPERIOR, Wis. – When the custodians and grounds crew at the University of Wisconsin-Superior received “at risk notices” alerting them their jobs would be outsourced to a private company, AFSCME Local 42 (Council 24) and the greater Superior community decided to fight back.
AFSCME members mobilized immediately to spread the word throughout the tightknit Superior community. They also partnered with their sisters and brothers from the American Federation of Teachers, the United Steelworkers, and the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO. Within a couple weeks, an online petition to UWS officials generated nearly 3,000 signatures.
Tom Van Overmeiren, a custodian with 26 years on the job at UW-Superior, is encouraged by the level of community support they’ve received, but concerned about the precedent being set.
“After 26 years working at UW-Superior, I’m really upset the administration would treat people like me, making under $15 per hour, this way,” he said. “Outsourcing the custodians and grounds crew at UW-Superior will cause unnecessary harm not just to the university, but also to our community. They tell us we can be hired back, but without any benefits. Many of us have worked our entire careers to keep the university running, and I don’t think any of us expected to be treated this way.”
Van Overmeiren added that, “Since the news broke, we’ve received an incredible amount of support from our community. People from all over the area are rallying around our cause because they understand how outsourcing jobs like ours can hurt an entire community.”
In yet another important signal of support, during the first week of July, the Superior City Council passed an advisory resolution encouraging the university to find ways to balance the university’s budget without terminating the hardworking custodians and grounds crew at UWS.
by Helen Cox | July 24, 2014
ATLANTA – A year of activism paid off for Atlanta public school bus drivers and monitors, members of AFSCME Local 1644, with an agreement that provides for across-the-board raises and fair pay for a 2013 dispute. In addition, all part-time workers were transferred to permanent full-time employee status, giving them access to much needed benefits and retirement security.
The 2013 dispute was a result of Atlanta Public Schools (APS) withholding pay and/or time off when workers were called in early for training. In violation of their contract, the bus drivers and monitors were not paid for the five days they worked. After an agreement reached this month, all bus drivers and monitors will receive fair pay checks closing out the fiscal year in August.
Members also received a 5 percent pay increase, the first increase in seven years. The agreement to extend permanent full-time status to part-time bus drivers and monitors, some of whom were considered part-time since as early as 2007, means they now have access to benefits and retirement security. Local 1644 plans to implement safeguards to ensure workers aren't dragged along as part-time year after year.
Since last summer, Local 1644 marched on APS Headquarters, the home of Superintendent Erroll B. Davis and to bus yards, held labor-management meetings, helped elect Board of Education members who support them, and hosted political forums to air potential innovative solutions for APS officials and Board of Education members.
This month, Local 1644 sponsored a Town Hall for Common Sense and Strong Services at the Atlanta City Council Chambers, drawing panelists that included Ceasar Mitchell, president of the City Council; Board of Education members Eshe Collins, Jason Esteves and Steven Lee; and Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams. Other council and school board members attended, as well as 150 Local 1644 members.
At the Town Hall, Patience Taylor, who's been a bus driver for seven years, said, "We're getting treated with more respect than ever before and it's because we demanded it. We care so much about Atlanta's kids and now we're able to do our jobs without some unnecessary stressors. This is the beginning of a new era in Atlanta and the only place to go is up."
by Clyde Weiss | July 24, 2014
Phyllis Thede, a member of AFSCME Iowa Council 61, will be inducted Aug. 1. into the Iowa African American Hall of Fame for her efforts as a state legislator and member of Iowa’s Human Rights Board.
The Iowa African American Hall of Fame (IAAHF), housed in Iowa State University's Black Cultural Center, “recognizes the outstanding achievements of African Americans who have enhanced the quality of life for all.”
Thede said being inducted into the Iowa African American Hall of Fame is “overwhelming.”
Thede is an attendance secretary at Williams Intermediate School, located in Davenport. She is also an active member of AFSCME Local 751, serving in past years as local president, vice president, contract negotiator and grievance chair.
Thede also is one of four African Americans serving as a member of the Iowa House of Representatives. First elected in 2008 to represent the Bettendorf/Davenport area, she is currently running for her fourth term. Thede is a member of the Iowa House Appropriations Committee, an important panel responsible for all expenditures in the state budget. She is also ranking member of the Ethics Committee and sits on the Government Oversight Committee, the Local Government Committee and the Natural Resources Committee.
As a legislative representative on Iowa’s Human Rights Board, Thede says she endeavored to “help people of diverse groups to be successful in their communities, whether African American or Indian or Asian.”
Thede says she hopes her induction will serve as encouragement to young people across Iowa and people of diverse backgrounds. “If one of us wins something like this, it serves as a message to all young people that they can be successful as well,” she said.
“Phyllis Thede is an inspiration to her AFSCME sisters and brothers,” said Danny Homan, president of AFSCME Iowa Council 61, and an AFSCME International vice president. “She is a strong voice for all of her constituents. She has championed treating everyone with dignity and respect. Her work has made Iowa a better place to live, work and raise a family.”
by Olivia Sandbothe | July 23, 2014
When Maricruz Manzanarez decided to come to the United States, she knew that she was setting out on a difficult path. Her journey across the border was treacherous, but that was only the beginning. She has spent decades trying to hold her family together and scraping by on low wages, all while navigating America’s broken immigration system.
But when Manzanarez joined AFSCME Local 3299, she saw that she wasn’t alone—and that she had power when she stood with her coworkers. She and her fellow custodians at the University of California-Berkeley nearly doubled their wages through union action. Now she serves on the executive board of the local and is speaking out about one of AFSCME’s national priorities: justice for immigrant workers.
by Olivia Sandbothe | July 21, 2014
Harborview Medical Center has served the Seattle community for 137 years, and during that time it has been both a leader in medicine and an important resource for citizens of all backgrounds and income levels.
But in the past few years, hospital employees with AFSCME Council 28 have noticed troubling patterns in the way the hospital is managed. And because of their advocacy, the county government is starting to take action.
Harborview is owned by King County, but is currently managed by the University of Washington (UW), which has muddled the hospital’s mission to be a service to the community. UW recently provoked public outcry when it announced a plan to close some of its critical care clinics and move them to parts of the city that were less accessible to lower-income residents.
UW rescinded that plan following backlash from AFSCME and other community groups, but major issues with its treatment of employees remain unresolved. The university administration moved call center employees to an off-site location, and refused to follow through on a previously negotiated raise owed to custodians. When the employees sought to correct the situation, UW dragged out the process with multiple appeals.
Council 28 took its concerns directly to the King County Council, aware that the university’s contract to manage Harborview is up in 2015. AFSCME and other unions represented at the hospital have been working with the County Council to find ways to ensure that the next contract is fair. Earlier this month, the council released a blueprint for negotiations that urges fair treatment of employees as a requirement for future operation of the hospital.
“It is a public hospital owned by King County and we don’t want to lose sight of that,” Council Chair Larry Phillips said before the council’s unanimous vote.
by Olivia Sandbothe | July 21, 2014
The founders of our democracy envisioned lawmaking as a serious and deliberative process. Chosen for their qualifications to craft complex statutes, representatives would work late into the night, making tough compromises to solve problems while trying to uphold the values of their constituents.
Or if you’re a Republican member of the Missouri State Legislature, you just copy, paste, and call it a day.
Earlier this month, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed Senate Bill 508, which would make it harder for people to buy health insurance through the Affordable Care Act. But Nixon didn’t veto it for that reason. The bill was based on sample legislation provided by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a right-wing think tank, and the legislature failed to remove some generic filler text before introducing the bill. As a result, the final bill referred to the wrong chapters of state code.
“It appears that in copy and pasting from this ALEC model act, the General Assembly failed to correct this incorrect reference,” Nixon wrote in his veto letter.
The lawmakers’ inability to proofread a 15-page bill is enough to make headlines, but the real scandal is the way that Washington think tanks and conservative donors have come to call the shots in Missouri as the state’s Republicans push an agenda lifted straight from the ALEC playbook.
If Missouri lawmakers want to see where their copy-and-paste strategy leads, they need look no further than neighboring Kansas, where the legislature has already implemented ALEC’s agenda with the blessing of Gov. Sam Brownback. In 2012 Kansas enacted a massive tax cut for corporations and the wealthy. As a result, the state’s credit rating has been downgraded, public schools are struggling to stay afloat, and job growth has stagnated.
July 21, 2014
Ten members of the AFSCME family, across the country, received scholarships through the Union Plus Scholarship Program, which this year awarded $150,000 to 116 students representing 39 unions.
This year’s AFSCME winners are:
• John Ertl, of Hartford, Connecticut, whose mother, Mary Ertl, is a member of AFSCME Council 24, Local 6.
• Emily Fletcher, of Kalamazoo, Michigan, whose father, Richard Fletcher, is a member of AFSCME MSEA, Local 5.
• David Joyce of Worcester, Massachusetts, whose stepfather, Gary Joppas, is a member of AFSCME Council 93, Local 1067.
• Greg Lasko, of Cashton, Wisconsin, who is a member of AFSCME Council 40, Local 2470.
• Courtney Mings, of Dayton, Washington, whose father, Jason Mings, is a member of AFSCME Council 2, Local 1191.
• Vikas Munjal, of Fords, New Jersey, whose father, Rakesh Munjal, is a member of AFSCME Council 52, Local 2306.
• Kenny Nguyen, of Hilliard, Ohio, whose father, Khan Nguyen, is a member of AFSCME OCSEA, Local 11.
• Neil Patel, of Mountain Top, Pennsylvania, whose father, Vinod Patel, is a member of AFSCME Council 87, Local 2453.
• Merribeth Pentasuglia, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, who is a member of AFSCME Council 26, Local 2027.
• Tali Smith, of Renton, Washington, whose husband, Justin Smith, is a member of AFSCME Council 28, Local 843.
The Union Plus Scholarships, an added benefit for participating labor unions, are offered to students attending a two-year college, four-year college, graduate school or a recognized technical or trade school. Visit the Union Plus webpage for more information.
July 18, 2014
Members at our 41st International Convention speak to the convention’s theme of "Bold. Brave. Determined.” Check it out!
July 18, 2014
In an electrifying address that had Convention delegates on their feet and cheering repeatedly, the Rev. Dr. William Barber on Thursday underscored a message of coalition building and solidarity with references pulled from the civil rights and labor movements, as well as Scripture.
“We are all trade unionists. We are all civil rights activists. And it’s about time for all of us to get together and organize America like never before! It’s time to say to America, ‘We will not turn back now!’” he declared.
The Rev. Dr. Barber, pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, North Carolina, and president of the North Carolina NAACP, is the architect of the Moral Mondays-Forward Together movement that began in North Carolina and is spreading across the nation. He charged that political extremists, backed by corporate billionaires like the Koch brothers, are pushing “an immoral agenda” that includes denying rights to workers, immigrants, women, African Americans, the LGBTQ community and others.
“And all these agendas intersect because all the same people fighting labor rights are fighting civil rights. So if they are together, by God, we ought to get together and fight them back!”
Working with allies is a winning strategy, President Saunders told delegates, pointing to the immense challenges we face. “The people who are trying to take out our union have a lot of money. That’s where they get their power,” he said. “But for workers like us, we get our power through solidarity. Solidarity with our union sisters and brothers, but also with a broad coalition of workers, retirees, students, clergy, community groups and even business owners who believe every worker deserves respect and dignity.”
The power of alliances with community organizations was demonstrated in an address by Barb Kalbach, board president of the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement. Her fight with corporate-backed forces began with a personal fight to preserve her fourth-generation family farmer way of life.
But her fight is also AFSCME’s fight, she said. “What’s happening in farms is happening to you, too,” she said. It’s a “deliberate plan” by corporations and billionaires to “enhance their power in order to generate more profits,” she said. Fighting back “will take all of us pulling together, but when we’re done, family farms will then be passed to a new generation,” and we will have an economy “that values all of our public-sector workers.”
Paul Moist, president of our sister union, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), offered his union’s support for AFSCME Michigan Council 25 in its fight against privatization of water services. He and members of his union will march over the Ambassador Bridge that connects Detroit and Canada next week.
The march is to show solidarity with AFSCME in opposing Detroit’s decision to turn off the taps to thousands for failure to pay their bills, and also to oppose privatization of the city’s public service jobs and to support the municipal retirees, who are faced with cuts to their benefits because of the city’s bankruptcy.
Among the successful member and ally campaigns showcased was one launched two years ago by New York’s Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA)/AFSCME Local 1000, which joined forces with New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness, a statewide coalition of more than 130 community and consumer-based faith, labor, environmental, human services and other groups, to stop a planned downsizing of the State University of New York Health Science Center at Brooklyn (SUNY).
“Two years ago, mismanagement and budget cuts led the state to question our hospital’s mission and explore outsourcing its services,” said CSEA Region 2 Pres. Lester Crockett. “For us, this wasn’t just an attack on our jobs; it was an attack on patient care, our community and a proud New York institution.”
Together, CSEA and New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness put up a fight that made the difference. Crockett said hospital staff joined patients and preachers to make public demonstrations to save the institution.
The state backed down and “threats of cuts, outsourcing and closings stopped,” Crockett said.
Describing a successful campaign to raise the minimum wage in Minnesota, Dennis Frasier, a member of Council 5’s executive board, was joined by Kris Jacobs, executive director of the Jobs Now Coalition. Working together, they were able to get lawmakers to raise the state’s minimum wage to $9.50 an hour by 2016.
AFSCME’s efforts to create a Medical Interpreters program in California were also highlighted during the program. Carlos Garcia, an interpreter and a member of UDW Homecare Providers/AFSCME Local 3930 explained how the union expanded its reach with the help of allies.
“To ensure quality of care and communication between health care providers and patients, the members joined forces with more than 40 organizations statewide including the Korean American Senior Association of San Diego County,” Garcia said.
Delegates approved 29 resolutions, including support for comprehensive immigration reform and the Dream Act, which would provide an avenue for undocumented immigrants to attend college. Maricruz Manzanarez, an executive board member of Local 3299 in California, shared her family’s story of struggle to stay together and achieve their American Dream.
“No matter your politics; no matter your birthplace; we are all human,” she said. “And the human dignities of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness have no boundaries.”