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Repealing Obamacare Would be a Disaster for Rural Communities

by Clyde Weiss  |  March 17, 2017

Pat Waller helps deliver babies in the only hospital that provides maternity or emergency services in a 45-mile radius in her rural Ohio community. If congressional leaders and the Trump administration succeed in their plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act – Obamacare – it will make it much harder for people in her hospital’s service area to get the medical care they need.

“We’ve seen a much larger percentage of patients at the hospital have coverage” since the Affordable Care Act became law in 2010, said Waller, a labor and delivery nurse for her Athens-area hospital.

Waller, who is also a member of AFSCME Ohio Council 8, estimates that as many as 70 percent of patients at her hospital have coverage through Medicaid, a state-run insurance plan for low-income people that was expanded under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to cover more people. That’s true “especially in Labor and Delivery where I work,” she said. “Because of that, they are more likely to get regular prenatal care.”

If the law is repealed, as the House GOP leadership has proposed, Waller worries that more people in her community will no longer be able to afford basic health care, such as treatment for opioid addiction, which is plaguing the nation’s rural communities. That’s because the ACA requires Medicaid and ACA plans to cover basic mental health and addiction services. Under the proposed replacement plan, states will no longer be required to offer those services, and the Medicaid expansion will be phased out starting in 2020, leaving millions of working people without coverage.

The ACA replacement plan will be financially devastating not only to the millions of Americans who will lose their coverage, but to health care providers as well. Hospitals in rural areas will be particularly hard hit and could then be forced to cut back on services or close entirely. To Waller, that’s not acceptable. 

“I’m afraid that with the [Trump] administration, they’re going to repeal every good thing about the Affordable Care Act that has made health care access so much better for people in this country,” Waller said.

Overall, the repeal plan being rushed through Congress would “increase the number of people who are uninsured by 24 million,” according to the bipartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO). That includes about 14 million people who will lose their coverage just next year.

On the campaign trail and in the White House, President Trump vowed that he would not cut Medicaid, and that the replacement for the ACA would have “insurance for everybody.” But the repeal plan that Trump is supporting abandons both of those promises to struggling communities in rural America.

“No one should ever have to worry between taking your child to the doctor or putting food on the table,” said Waller. But that’s the choice that people may have to make if the ACA is repealed.

Watch and share Pat’s story, and call Congress today. Tell your representative: No cuts to Medicaid!

Cool Job: Animal Trainer

March 17, 2017

Cool Job: Animal Trainer Andrew Egyud, Animal Trainer (Photo by Clarence Elie-Rivera)

Local 1501 member Andrew Egyud, an animal trainer for the Wildlife Conservation Society, described his cool job to DIANE S. WILLIAMS, District Council 37 (New York City), Public Employees Press:

“I’ve been working with animals for about 10 years. I came to the New York Aquarium as an animal trainer a year ago.

I’ve always liked animals. Growing up I did not know what I wanted to do for a living. As a teen I watched a show on Animal Planet, the Croc Hunter Diaries with the late Steve Irwin. I admired all the work, education and passion he had. He inspired me. I went to college and studied biology. Being a zoo keeper is not viewed as a real job by most people.

In the summer of my freshman year, I got a job at Busch Gardens in Virginia, where I am from. I fell in love immediately. I was determined to become the best animal care specialist I can be.

Over the years, I’ve worked with gray wolves, hawks, and beluga whales at Sea World in San Antonio, Texas. But of all the animals, I really get sea lions: I can relate to them. I’m sort of this goofy, laid-back guy and that reflects a sea lion’s personality exactly. They are laid back and sleep a lot. I’d do same if I could.

At the International Marine Trainers Association website, I saw this job opening. In this field, you move where the work is.

Living in New York City has always been my dream. New York City is in every movie you’ve ever seen. There is so much history and culture here, it’s amazing. Landing this job is the chance of a lifetime.

We focus on the shows. I work with show animals, and our aim is to entertain and educate. We train the animals in a mix of high energy behavior and information for audiences that drives home our message of conservation and education. We do four shows a day and in warmer months it’s a packed house every show.

Seals and sea lions are different—a seal has holes for ears and a sea lion has little Shrek ears. I work with five California sea lions that are 2 to 16 years old and weigh between 400 to 600 pounds each. We feed them each about 40 pounds of fish a day. Sea lions are very intelligent, social animals. Like people, each individual sea lion has its strengths and weakness—some are better at jumps and flips, others are better at cognitive behavior and games.

The key to becoming an animal trainer is to develop a relationship with the animal based on trust and positive experiences. Every day I realize I have my dream job: I see a 600-pound sea lion by my side who is ready to go to work — and so am I.”

(This story was first featured on District 37’s blog).

Trump’s Budget Plan a Disaster for Working People, Poor

by Clyde Weiss  |  March 16, 2017

Trump’s Budget Plan a Disaster for Working People, Poor

We knew it wouldn’t be good news for most Americans, but President Trump’s budget blueprint “is even worse than we could have imagined,” said AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders. “This budget cuts nearly everything that matters to working families.”

It was always clear to us that Trump would favor his rich friends and corporations over working class Americans. But we’re surprised how quickly and audaciously Trump abandoned his campaign oft-repeated pledges to improve the lives of hard-working people that formed the core of his support during the election.

This budget plan abandons those middle class moms and pops, and their children. It will make it even harder for them to get ahead as it threatens to hollow out the very agencies, departments and programs that do, in fact, help the poor and middle class.

Here are just a few examples that should give you an idea what President Trump considers his real priorities. The key winners under Trump’s plan are:

  • Defense contractors. Spending on the military would increase in 2018 by more than $52 billion, to $574 billion. That’s a 10 percent hike.
  • Homeland security. Spending here, including for the border wall that he promised Mexico would pay for, would increase by nearly $3 billion, to $44 billion – a jump of 7 percent.

Here are just some of the losers, if this plan is adopted by Congress:

  • Poor people who depend on community services programs such as the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which “helps keep families safe and healthy through initiatives that assist families with energy costs,” says the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. HHS would take a hit of nearly $13 billion next fiscal year, a 16 percent decline.
  • People who depend on cures being researched through programs funded by the National Institutes of Health, which would be axed by nearly $6 billion – about 20 percent.
  • Elderly and impoverished people who now benefit from such critical anti-poverty initiatives as Meals on Wheels, housing assistance programs and Community Development Block Grants run by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which would take a $4.3 billion hit – a 12 percent cut – in 2018.

In his address to Congress on Feb. 28, Trump declared, “Above all else, we will keep our promises to the American people.” How quickly he’s forgotten his promises to all but the wealthy, corporations and extremists who want to decimate public services.

"Once again, President Trump's actions aren’t living up to the populist rhetoric of his campaign,” said President Saunders in a statement. “He is breaking promises to the struggling families who feel left behind in today's economy. This budget does not just neglect these families and communities; it goes out of its way to hurt them.”

Saunders added, “Combined with the proposed changes to Medicaid contained in the health care plan the president has endorsed, this budget will prove devastating to state budgets and the vital public services our communities depend on.”

How Medicaid Cuts Would Hurt People with Disabilities

by Raju Chebium  |  March 16, 2017

The House plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will make sweeping changes and $880 billion in cuts to Medicaid, which insures one in five Americans.

Half of the people enrolled in Medicaid are children and the other half includes people with disabilities, those whose work does not provide insurance and millions of senior citizens.

Cuts to Medicaid will mean fewer seniors and disabled Americans will have access to the homecare and nursing home services they need. The cuts would also result in significant job losses for home health care aides.

Here’s a video by the Center for American Progress that shows how people with disabilities would be hurt by Medicaid cuts proposed by President Donald Trump and his congressional allies:

Strength to Meet the Challenges Ahead

by Pablo Ros, Justin Lee and David Patterson  |  March 16, 2017

Strength to Meet the Challenges Ahead Welcome to the AFSCME family! Just some of the more than 6,600 public service workers represented by Public Employees Union (PEU), Local 1, who voted to unite with AFSCME.

AFSCME is better positioned than ever to thrive and grow despite the tough political territory in which labor unions will have to operate in the next few years. We’re stronger than ever because as AFSCME members, we never give up.

Not to mention, we are persistent in our quest to protect more working people.

Consider:

  • Last year, we grew by almost 12,000 members.
  • In the past two years, we've had nearly 600,000 one-on-one conversations with our co-workers — many of whom joined our union for the first time.
  • Many more recommitted to our cause; nearly 35,000 members became contributors to our political action fund, PEOPLE, strengthening our efforts to elect candidates who stand with working families.
  • In just the last few months, we’ve welcomed thousands of new members in California, Indiana and Ohio.

And through our AFSCME Strong campaign, we’ll continue to reach out to them.

More than 6,600 Workers in California Join AFSCME

More than 6,600 city and public service workers represented by Public Employees Union (PEU), Local 1, voted to unite with AFSCME. The affiliation offers public workers across eight Northern California counties a path to improve the vital services they provide every day.

“We don’t do this work for fame and glory,” said Local 1 Pres. Mike West, a printing-services coordinator at Los Medanos Community College in Pittsburg. “We do it to keep our communities strong. Joining AFSCME helps make sure we have the tools we need to advocate for quality public services for all.”

PEU Local 1 represents workers employed by cities, counties, community colleges, school districts, libraries, courts, Head Start and special districts that provide clean water and other services.

Marion County Workers Join AFSCME Some 230 Marion County employees in Indianapolis joined AFSCME after newly-elected officials granted them the right to bargain collectively.

Workers from the Marion County Clerk’s, Auditor’s, Assessor’s and Surveyor’s offices had worked without collective-bargaining rights or raises for far too long. With newly elected, pro-labor Mayor Joe Hogsett taking office in 2015, county employees decided the time was right to form their union with AFSCME Council 962.

Council 962 organizers facilitated the process by meeting with them in each office; identifying supporters; answering questions and concerns during after-work meetings, at lunches and over the phone and via emails; and training key leaders. As a result of all this hard work, a majority of the employees signed membership cards and each office voluntarily recognized AFSCME.

“It was exciting to organize our offices,” said George Farley, an accounting coordinator in the Assessor’s office and a member of AFSCME’s bargaining team.

Volunteer Member Organizer in Ohio Is Committed to Her Union

Karen Holdridge Karen Holdridge is a retired school bus driver from OAPSE/AFSCME Local 4 in Columbus, Ohio, and is a volunteer member organizer.

Karen Holdridge is a Volunteer Member Organizer (VMO). A retired school bus driver and former secretary of the Ohio Association of Public School Employees (OAPSE)/AFSCME Local 4 in Columbus, she worked hard in a campaign to get Local 1, an unaffiliated union of school and other employees, to join with AFSCME.

Local 1’s members were skeptical that their voices could be heard, and at first they seemed wary of AFSCME organizers. For example, when Holdridge and other organizers asked for access to the schools where the employees worked, they were relegated to the library, which few employees ever visited.

But Holdridge and the other VMOs didn’t give up.

Over time, the conversations became friendlier. The organizers moved from the library to the staff lounge where they were able to talk to the staff more frequently. Members were especially excited about AFSCME’s new free college benefit. “A lot of them were thrilled with that prospect,” Holdridge said.

She knew that the members of Local 1 were warming to them when they invited organizers to a cookout to thank them for their work.

Last fall, Local 1 voted to join AFSCME.

Olivia Sandbothe contributed to this story.

Your Money, Your Goals: Announcing Financial Education Clinics for Members

by Peter Levine  |  March 15, 2017

Your Money, Your Goals: Announcing Financial Education Clinics for Members

Next to the health of your family, the health of your finances is a close second. That’s why AFSCME is pleased to announce we’ve been selected as one of 30 organizations nationwide to partner with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to offer members a series of free, in-person financial education clinics through a program called Your Money, Your Goals.

Soon, you’ll be able to make better decisions about your financial future.

The financial landscape can be a complicated one, and it may seem like there are pitfalls and potholes at every turn. Most Americans don’t have enough in savings. Too many Americans don’t even have a credit score, according to the CFPB. When it comes to figuring out what to set aside for retirement, more confusion reigns.

That’s why the CFPB, a federal government agency, was created: to protect consumers in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.

For everything AFSCME members do on the job and at home, they deserve to have the tools they need to make their lives easier.

The Your Money, Your Goals Toolkit helps AFSCME members avoid common mistakes by spotting them early and teaching you how to make sense of the often-confusing world of finance.

Members will learn how to:

  • Make spending decisions that can help you reach your goals
  • Order and fix credit reports
  • Avoid tricks and traps as you choose financial products
  • Make decisions about repaying debts and taking on new debt
  • Keep track of your income and bills
  • Decide if you need a checking account and understand what you need in order to open one.

Preparing for your future while meeting your day-to-day obligations is no small feat. However, by equipping yourself with sound financial techniques, you put yourself in the best place possible to protect your family’s future.

Stay tuned for more information about a workshop session coming near you. 

How Trump’s Voters Stand to Lose

by Pete Levine  |  March 15, 2017

How Trump’s Voters Stand to Lose

If President Trump really wants to go to bat for the people who voted for him, he won’t slash government safety net programs.

One of President Trump’s major voting blocs was white voters without a college education. They made up a third of the total electorate, and nearly two-thirds of them voted for Trump in the past election, according to a Pew Research report.

At the same time, this bloc of voters represents the largest group lifted above the poverty line by the safety net, according to a new paper published by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP).

That poses a contradiction: while Republicans want to cut government programs for low and moderate-income Americans, many of their constituents rely on those programs to survive.

“The safety net lifted 6.2 million working-age white adults without a college degree out of poverty in 2014,” the CBPP report revealed. A total of 12.2 million working-age adults without college degrees were kept out of poverty by the safety net. 

The CBPPs report explains how the safety net plays a critical role in keeping people above the poverty line, whether through programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, previously known as food stamps), housing subsidies or other tax credits.

What’s more, some 6.2 million non-college educated whites also benefitted from Obamacare between 2010 and 2015, according to a report by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Obamacare is also in the crosshairs by Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress to be gutted.

Having been elected by promising to fight for hard-working Americans, it’d be a shame to watch President Trump sell out his base.

An Ice Bucket Challenge for Republicans in Congress

by Pablo Ros  |  March 14, 2017

Call it the CBO ice water bucket challenge for congressional Republicans.

On Monday, the Congressional Budget Office – doing its job as the non-partisan agency in charge of providing budget analysis to Congress – handed House Republicans a bucket of ice-cold water.

According to the CBO, the Republican proposal to replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, would leave 24 million people without health insurance by 2026.

Let that wash over you for a moment: 24 million people would lose health insurance if the House health care bill becomes law.

That includes 14 million fewer people covered by Medicaid, the government program that helps the most vulnerable in our society get the health care they need.

As AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders put it, the CBO’s assessment “further crystallizes the priorities of House leaders: to take away health care for millions of vulnerable Americans and use the savings to cut taxes for the wealthy and corporations. Their plans to gut Medicaid and shift its costs to the states will prove particularly dangerous, not only threatening health services for children, seniors and people with disabilities, but also destabilizing state budgets.”

President Donald Trump and fellow Republicans are trying to undermine the CBO’s analysis, but anyone who has been paying attention to their theatrics can see right through this tactic.

“The CBO score is not up for negotiation, argument or interpretation,” Saunders said. “If congressional leaders choose to continue rushing this legislation forward, they do so knowing full well that their plan will cause real pain and exact a devastating human cost for millions of Americans.”

House Republicans should give themselves an ice-cold drenching. That may help them come to their senses.

But we won’t wait for them to do so. We will fight this bill. AFSCME is urging working families to voice their concerns to their representatives and demand that they oppose this horrific bill.

“Let’s keep the pressure up on members of Congress by flooding their phone lines, writing them letters and attending town halls,” Saunders said. “We can and must protect health care for 24 million fellow Americans.”

Times of Change, Times of Challenge

by Jesse Berney  |  March 14, 2017

Times of Change, Times of Challenge

Even in times of great change, some things will always stay the same.

Kids still need a ride to school on the bus in the morning. Garbage still needs to be cleared off the streets. Prisons need to be kept safe. Our cities and states still need dedicated public service workers who go out every day to ensure that our communities are healthy and strong.

That’s who AFSCME members are. And no matter what comes our way, that’s what we’ll always do. Like Rachel Cooper (Local 1644), who talks about giving hope through a meal to the Atlanta school children she feeds every day.

Or Officer Jonathan Cahill (Local 787, Council 93) of Boston, a former Marine who saved a man’s life when he rushed to the scene of a shooting even though he was off-duty.

AFSCME Members Stand Firm

Their commitment to helping their communities doesn’t change. AFSCME members never quit. But change is here and so are new challenges.

AFSCME members fought hard in 2016 to elect a president and candidates up and down the ballot with the same strong commitment to public service that we all share. We weren’t successful despite all our efforts, and now we face a vastly changed landscape for working families.

Some of the dangers we face are familiar.

We faced the threat of a Supreme Court decision that would weaken public service unions like ours, and would rob us of the power we have to bargain together for the wages and benefits we’ve earned. Now that threat has returned. A negative ruling by the Court in another case like Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Association, the case that threatened to turn every state into a so-called right-to-work state for public workers, would be enormously destructive.

Workers' Rights Under Attack

It’s not only right-to-work laws that could cost our families and communities dearly. The new administration is filled with officials who oppose workers’ rights.

We also face privatization, with our jobs given to contractors who try to squeeze a profit out of public services, doing less and paying their workers less. The overtime pay that was promised to millions of Americans may be lost. They’re threatening our health care, our public schools. Retirees are being targeted, too. “

Attacks against Medicare and Social Security are coming,” said Gary Tavormina, chair of AFSCME Retiree Council. “We have to be ready to fight against them."

Attacks on our right to bargain together and build better lives for ourselves and our families have been going on for decades. And no matter how much things change, one thing remains the same: AFSCME members will continue to fight for our fellow Sisters and Brothers.

We Are Stronger When We Stand Together

Our first and most important goal must be to organize to strengthen and grow our union. It is vitally important that every member of AFSCME recommit to supporting our Sisters and Brothers.

Those efforts are already underway. AFSCME Strong organizing has seen tremendous success in the past few years as we’ve added thousands of new members to our union.

In just one recent example, volunteer member organizers went to the unaffiliated Public Employees Union (PEU), Local 1, which represents more than 6,600 public service employees across communities in northern California. Local 1 embraced the AFSCME members who told them what it would mean to them to be part of the AFSCME family.

We are stronger when we stand together. The more we talk to our co-workers about sticking together in the union, the more opportunity we have to fight harder and secure our families’ futures.

And just as important, the more we stand together, the better we can serve our communities. No matter what challenges we face, serving the public will always be what unites us. Some things change, but that never will.

Corporations are NOT People – But Does Trump’s Supreme Court Nominee Know That?

by AFSCME Staff  |  March 13, 2017

Corporations are not people. AFSCME members know that. So do working Americans.

But right-wing lawmakers and judges don’t seem to understand this. That’s why we urge you to call your U.S. senators, too many of whom seem prepared to confirm Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court even though he refuses to answer simple questions.

Gorsuch appears to believe that corporations are people, and that’s troubling. Your senators need to hear from you today.

Call Your Senators and Ask them to Ask Gorsuch if Corporations Are People!

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As a federal judge, Gorsuch supported a case that ruled corporations are “persons” and therefore could deny vital health care coverage to their employees based on the corporate owners’ personal religious views.

On March 20, Gorsuch will go before members of the Senate to make his case to serve a lifetime term on the highest court in the land. If he is confirmed, he will make decisions that affect each and every one of our lives, including whether or not we have access to the health care we need, how and when we can vote, and whether our Constitution protects the rights of working people or unfairly favors corporations and the wealthy.

We must be sure that Gorsuch would use the Constitution to protect all people, not just the rich and powerful. 

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