by Tina Adams | November 12, 2015
This guest post first appeared on Lily's Blackboard. See the original story here.
My name is Tina Adams, and I am a school lunch lady in Mansfield, Ohio. Every school day for the past 30 years, I have cooked healthy meals and nutritious treats to feed hundreds of hungry kids. For many of my students, my food is the only food they eat all day. I keep my students’ bellies full so teachers can feed their minds.
I know if my kids are hungry, they aren’t learning. I also know who is eating his vegetables, and which kids needs to watch their sugar because of diabetes or other dietary restrictions. From the time the bell rings in the morning to when school lets out in the afternoon, I’m the mom. I care for these kids like my own—and all I want is for them to be happy, healthy and ready to learn.
After more than three decades, my salary is little more than $20,000 a year. At times, I have had to work two, even three jobs, just to make ends meet. In fact, I earn so little money that my family falls under the federal poverty level and, ironically, we qualify for food stamps.
Earlier this year, our school district declared a fiscal emergency and, as a result, the administration closed down a neighborhood school, forcing more than 220 students to bus to other schools and laying off 107 teachers and support professionals, including me. Even while I wait to be recalled back to my students, I am continuing to pay my union membership dues because I know—and I see—how important it is for all educators to have a collective voice to speak up for our students.
In fact, the state legislature here in Ohio has tried—and failed—to strip public workers like me of our collective bargaining rights. When that didn’t work, the legislature tried to kill our unions by introducing laws with names like “Right to Work.” That’s like calling bologna an artisan meat. We can see beyond their fancy, misleading labels, and we know their motives: They want to weaken our unions so they can cut wages and slash benefits to feed their own bottom lines, even if it hurts our children and communities.
You don’t have to look far to see what happens when states outlaw fair share fees in an effort to weaken unions. The results have been lower wages and worse benefits for working people. In states without full union rights, the average worker makes $1,500 less per year, and workers are much less likely to have health insurance—let alone other benefits that help them support their families.
We need to rebuild the American Dream and our middle class, but there is a Supreme Court case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, that hopes to dismantle it. The Friedrichs case, which will be heard by the Court next year, threatens to make it even harder for working people to negotiate for wages, benefits and public services. I have dedicated my whole life to helping my community, to feeding our children and helping them thrive in school, yet that won’t matter if the corporate special interests—who are pushing and bankrolling this case—are successful in convincing the Court. Friedrichs will make it even more difficult for workers to sustain their families, and that’s the goal of these wealthy CEOs who want to continue shifting the balance in their favor.
Like the foods that are bad for you, Friedrichs needs a warning label because if the U.S. Supreme Court decides against fair share fees, I won’t be able to help my students get what they need to succeed—and that’s just wrong.
by Clyde Weiss | November 12, 2015
Veterans Day was a special occasion for Glenn Dusablon, president of AFSCME Local 2869 (Rhode Island Council 94). Besides being a national holiday honoring the nation’s veterans, it was the day he opened his own nonprofit museum, dedicated to America’s veterans.
More than 100 first-day visitors – many of them veterans – stepped through the doors of the Veterans Memorial Museum, in the city of Woonsocket (Providence County) Nov. 11 to admire the treasures that Dusablon has acquired since he was 9.
Just the day before, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held and attended by Glen and Carol Dusablon; U.S. Rep. David Cicilline (R.I.); Woonsocket Mayor Baldelli-Hunt; Normand Deragon, president of the American French Genealogical Society, which offered the space for the museum; and Tyrone Smith, Veterans Affairs Coordinator in the office of U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.), who presented a congressional citation for the museum.
Among those who were present on opening day were members of the museum’s board of directors: AFSCME Council 94 Pres. J. Michael Downey and his wife Claudette; Council 94 Retiree Chapter Pres. Michael Connelly, and Ralph Belleville, a former member of the council, now retired.
Dusablon, a resident of North Smithfield, also a member of his council’s executive board, is chief electrical investigator for the state Department of Labor and Training. He has been collecting war memorabilia since he acquired a confederate Bowie knife that a relative, union soldier George Oakes, picked up during the fight. He also has an identifying stencil plate from Joseph Horton, another relative and a member of Oakes’ unit, the Massachusetts 57th Regiment, who fought and died in the war.
Beyond those special items that have a family connection, Dusablon treasures the hundreds of items he’s collected since, representing wars stretching from the Revolutionary and American Indian Wars through World Wars I and II and into more recent conflicts. He’s even got a Samurai sword, brought back as a souvenir during World War II, that was made in 1504. Many objects are so rare that they’re being reproduced.
Ask him which are most important to him, and he has a ready answer: “Anything associated with a veteran is what I prize as the most valuable. If it’s an artifact of a veteran, we display a photograph and a story of the veteran. Those are the things that mean the most to me.”
The nonprofit museum is the first permanent public home of his collection. Until now, he’s shown it at the RI Veterans’ Home, Elks clubs, VFWs and other venues. One who saw his collection was a retired Army colonel who had visited military artifact museums in all 50 states. He told Dusablon that his collection “is one of the most impressive,” and donated one of his uniforms.
Dusablon says the Woonsocket Veterans Memorial Museum is the accomplishment of “a lifelong dream” that would not have been possible without the generosity of the American French Genealogical Society. He also credits his father, who served in the U.S. Navy aboard a submarine during World War II, for encouraging his hobby.
Dusablon used a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to develop the museum, but invested his own money to rent the room, buy mannequins, and other material. Now he’s trying to raise money -- $200,000 – for a new elevator to make the facility more accessible. Donations can be made at www.gofundme.com/veteran-memorial.
The Veterans Memorial Museum is located at 78 Earle St., Woonsocket, RI. Hours are Saturdays, 10-4. Call the museum to check for other times: 401-222-9025. Read more about the museum and Dusablon here.
by Mark McCullough | November 12, 2015
Pointing to his accessibility and willingness to fight for working families, the men and women of AFSCME Florida announced that U.S. Rep. Patrick E. Murphy has earned their endorsement in his campaign for U.S. Senate.
The endorsement, recommended by Florida members and made by AFSCME International, makes AFSCME the largest union – and one of the largest organizations overall – to endorse Rep. Murphy.
“No matter if it is here in South Florida where he was born and raised or at membership meetings in Pensacola, or organizing drives in Jacksonville and Orlando, Congressman Murphy has made a concerted effort to listen to us and share his plans to tackle the issues our country faces,” said Corey Taylor, a member of AFSCME Local 871 who is a waste equipment operator for the City of Miami.
David Jacobsen, an AFSCME Florida Retiree Subchapter 43 leader in Tallahassee, also pledged his support. Retirees, he said, “have worked with Congressman Murphy during his time in the House and he knows that we will be just as involved, and hold him just as accountable, once he represents us in the Senate.”
“Election Day 2016 is less than a year away and with so much at stake, with so many important races on the ballot, we can only make sure the voices of working families and retirees are heard loud and clear if we get involved now and organize our communities like never before,” Jacobson said.
Over the past several months, AFSCME Florida members have met with each candidate running for Florida’s open Senate seat, debated their platforms, and moved forward with the endorsement recommendation once Rep. Murphy became the clear choice of a super majority of the membership.
Members were drawn to Rep. Murphy’s record of trying to bring people together behind legislation focused on creating good American jobs, battling income inequality, and standing up for rights and equality on the job.
“I'm humbled and excited by AFSCME's support for our campaign,” said Rep. Murphy. “This country's middle class was built by strong unions, and they remain the stalwart supporter of working families across Florida and across America. In the U.S. Senate, I will fight for working families -- for workers' rights, for better wages, and for a vibrant middle class.”
by Kevin Zapf Hanes | November 12, 2015
Loveday was presented last month with United Way’s Dante Mollo Labor Award by Rhode Island AFL-CIO Pres. George Nee. In accepting the award, Loveday said her desire to help others began at a young age. “My parents instilled in me a sense of responsibility to those less fortunate,” she said. “Building a bridge between my labor family and the work of the United Way seemed to be a great way to get our members active in the community.”
Following Loveday’s lead, other local leaders of Council 94, as well as leaders of other Rhode Island labor unions, also got involved helping the homeless.
“My sister Lynn has been vital in bringing other unions on board with her work for the homeless,” said Council 94 Pres. J. Michael Downey. “I am so proud of her. She embodies the commitment that all Council 94 members have daily as they go to work to make Rhode Island a place we are all proud to call home.”
Loveday has vowed to continue her work with the United Way “until everyone in Rhode Island has the life they deserve.”
by Kevin Zapf Hanes | November 10, 2015
PITTSBURGH – Dozens of union leaders and members have joined U.S. Rep. Michael Doyle to launch a public awareness campaign about the need to strengthen Pittsburgh’s middle class, which has been shrinking along with unionized workplaces.
“Unions built this city,” Congressman Doyle declared at a press conference. “Good union jobs create a path to the middle class, and strong unions benefit and protect all workers.”
Jacquie Bowman-Porter, AFSCME Local 2924 member and a secretary at the Sci-Tech School in Oakland who also spoke at the press conference, credited her good union job for her personal success.
“Two years into my employment with the Pittsburgh Public Schools, I gave birth to my son, Julian,” she said. “I was a single mother. But with the great family support, and an excellent union job that provided me with great working hours and a great benefit package, I was able to spend quality time with my son, provide him with a stable childhood, and give him things that I was unable to have.”
Good union jobs are not just about negotiating a contract about wages and benefits, speakers noted. They also enable workers to advocate for a better workplace in which to do their jobs, pointed out public school teacher Anna Tarka DiNunzio. “When we have a strong teachers’ union, educators are able to advocate for their students,” she said. “We advocate for important issues that help our pupils get the education that they need and deserve.”
The campaign includes a mobile billboard truck that will circle Pittsburgh over the next several day to raise awareness that the economy is out-of-balance because big corporations have manipulated the system to their benefit at the expense of average working families.
by David Patterson and John Noonan | November 10, 2015
Kentucky’s governor-elect and tea party favorite Matt Bevin is expected to move ahead with his plan to dismantle the state’s Affordable Care Act program and throw more than 400,000 Kentuckians back into the ranks of the uninsured. Although Bevin tempered his criticism of the program near the end of the campaign, it remains at the top of his agenda.
“Absolutely!” said Bevin, when asked by Fox News if he would follow through on dismantling the program, called Kynect. “No question about it, yes.”
Gov. Steve Beshear set up Kynect as the state exchange. The term-limited governor was credited with the second-biggest drop in its uninsured rate among all states since 2013.
Bevin plans to make other major, anti-working family changes once he takes office, with an aim to lower taxes on the wealthy. He has also vowed to slash state government, rework public pensions for teachers and state employees and introduce right-to-work scam legislation.
Bevin’s victory followed an Election Day marked by extremely low turnout. Approximately 30 percent of registered voters showed up to vote. Bevin will be sworn into office on Dec. 8.
by Kevin Zapf Hanes | November 10, 2015
Faced with the outsourcing of trash collection services now performed by city employees, residents of Newark, Delaware, said they’d rather pay a higher tax than see the work go to a for-profit company. The City Council members listened, voting unanimously last month to keep the work in-house.
The proposal to outsource the work to Phoenix-based Republic Services was supposed to save the city $4.9 million over seven years, but residents preferred the tax increase, citing numerous acts of kindness by the workers in making their case to save the jobs of the public employees.
The annual tax increase would cost the average homeowner $58 and businesses $297, but would provide a peace of mind that was priceless.
“The women and men of the Newark Public Works department rightfully earned the respect of their community,” said Mike Begatto, AFSCME Council 81 executive director. “Residents came out in droves to tell their elected officials to raise their taxes. This is a true testament of the quality of service these hard-working Delawareans provide to their neighbors and friends.”
by Justin Lee | November 04, 2015
Independence, MO — It’s clearly a problem when 20 percent of a company’s workforce vanishes within 16 months, especially when that company is a local unit of the nation’s largest private provider of emergency services. Professionals at the Independence/ S. Platte County operations of American Medical Response (AMR) are leaving at an alarming rate of twice the national average for paid EMS providers, and AFSCME members there want to shine some light on the problem.
EMT Robert Mills, a member of EMS Workers United-AFSCME Local 1812, has worked at AMR for 14 years and has observed a constant influx of new employees. Some stay, many leave. He is concerned that the high turnover could have a negative effect on emergency care in his city.
“Keeping an experienced workforce can help ensure crews respond faster, and assess and treat patients more efficiently,” said Mills. “Independence residents would be better off if AMR wasn’t having to constantly train new staff.”
So how can AMR reduce turnover? They can start by listening. Mills and his fellow union members presented AMR with reforms that would help improve retention and patient care by preventing exhaustion.
“We see a lot of burnout, but now that we’re united as EMTs, paramedics, and dispatchers, we can guide the company forward,” said Mills. “It’s not uncommon for a crew to run call after call without a break and then be held over their shift because there aren’t enough of us in the field. Many have to go straight from that to another job. We want AMR to improve their model and do what’s good for workers and patients.”
The dangers of fatigue in EMS are obvious. Earlier this year, an investigation by Good Morning America highlighted ambulance accidents across the country linked to fatigue and the lack of federal oversight to address it. Truck drivers, pilots, and railroad conductors all have federally mandated work hour limitations, but not EMS personnel, according to a 2013 National EMS Advisory Council report on Fatigue in EMS.
Joey Ford, president of EMS Workers United-AFSCME Local 1812, noted that when he worked as a truck driver hauling dirt and rock, before becoming a paramedic, “there were more regulations to keep me and the public safe. We have to do better in EMS, and as the largest provider, AMR should be leading the way.”
AMR now has an opportunity to do the right thing when they return to negotiations on Nov. 9.
by Mark McCullough | November 04, 2015
Jacqueline Milton-Herring’s day starts well before the sun rises. For most of 20 years, this AFSCME Local 1184 member has been a dedicated employee of the Miami-Dade County Public Schools. She has been a bus aide and a bus driver. This means her day, like that of her coworkers, starts well before most people’s alarms go off. Their responsibility: make sure that students make it to school safely and on time.
“Just look at our great safety and on-time records to see we are doing a good job,” said Milton-Herring. “This is not a me thing, this is an us thing. Without the job we do, parents wouldn’t be able to get to their jobs on time, schools wouldn’t be able to start on time.”
But for too long these dedicated public employees have been taken for granted and neglected by the very school board they have dedicated their careers to serve. Even as Superintendent Alberto Carvalho trumpeted the district’s latest budget as proof “the recession is behind us” – with plans to spend millions on adding wireless Internet to school buses -- investments in the drivers themselves have been forgotten.
“When we heard they were going to spend money on Internet for the busses, we cried,” said Milton-Herring, who as a single parent raised six kids while compiling an exemplary record on the job. “I bring home $380 each paycheck. How am I supposed to live off of $800 a month? We are not middle class, we’re not even just getting by.”
Respect for the work bus drivers do is central to the contract negotiations that have just started between the school system and Local 1184. That is why Milton-Herring and her coworkers have taken up the fight.
“Our hours make it tough to know all that is going on, but we sat down with our union leaders and gave them some ideas,” she said. “They listened to our concerns and they showed us the things they are pushing that would help us out. Now we are all fired up because we see they are fighting for us.”
With so much focus on the Fight for $15 across the country, Milton-Herring says that what they are fighting for is not just a number on a paystub but the respect that paystub represents.
“The people who get your kids to school safely should be focused on doing that job perfect every day, not wondering if they are going to have to rely on their neighbors for help paying the bills this month,” she said. “We deserve better than that.”
by UDW/AFSCME Local 3930, the Homecare Providers Union | November 04, 2015
Homecare is the fastest growing industry in the country. Every day, 10,000 people in this country turn 65—but even as the need for long-term care increases daily, the work of homecare providers remains undervalued and underappreciated.
November is Homecare Provider Appreciation Month, as well as National Family Caregiver Month. We can use this month and those that follow to pay closer attention to the workers who keep seniors and people with disabilities safe and healthy at home.
People with disabilities and the seniors who rely on in-home care do so because they would prefer to remain in their homes rather than nursing homes or facilities, where studies show they live longer, happier lives. But as it stands now, we are not equipped to care for the millions of people who will need long-term care in the coming years.
In California alone, 4 million more people will be over 65 by 2030, comprising 20 percent of our state’s total population. To keep up with demand, our country will need 1 million new homecare workers by 2022. But how can we expect to attract and retain quality homecare workers if average wages amount to less than $20,000 a year?
“You have to love this job to do it,” said Michelle Wise, a UDW member and homecare worker in San Diego. “You have to care about people to work at these wages.”
UDW is a union made up of 89,000 homecare providers throughout California, and we’re committed to protecting and growing the state’s homecare program for workers, clients and families. This year, after a lot of hard work, homecare providers helped end a 7 percent cut that was harming their In-Home Supportive Services’ (IHSS) homecare clients.
With each new victory, we renew our fight to win justice for homecare, because poverty wages aren’t enough. Michelle and her fellow homecare providers are highly-skilled workers who do everything for their clients from household work to providing paramedical care like wound treatment, administering medications and injections, changing catheters and so much more. The care they provide is as diverse as each of their clients’ needs.
Let’s use November to honor in-home caregivers like Cynthia Wilson from Madera County, who moved from Arizona to California to become a friend’s in-home care provider. Let’s honor people like Gregory Barney, a veteran from Merced County who cares for two seniors in his community.
Let’s honor and appreciate the millions of other caregiving heroes in this country who do the work because they love it, and because they understand the need for it. Let’s honor them by amplifying the conversation around repairing our long-term care system, and addressing the needs of caregivers and those who rely on them.
Throughout the month, we will share stories of every day heroes like Michelle, Cynthia and Gregory. This month, like every month, we honor and are thankful to those who provide care in our communities.