May 15, 2015
You don’t have to be Legally Blonde to know public employees Walk the Line to make America happen!
Reese Witherspoon says it’s Municipal Worker Appreciation Day. AFSCME agrees.
Hollywood superstar Witherspoon gave public workers a big shout out this week on Twitter. She posed for a photo with one lucky city employee and called on her followers and fans to show their love for public workers by celebrating all that they do.
Witherspoon dubbed it Municipal Worker Appreciation Day and gave it the hash tag #MWAD. So go ahead and let Reese know we love the idea. Tweet out photos of the work you do or the work you appreciate public employees do every day.
by Kevin Zapf Hanes | May 14, 2015
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – Confronted with community opposition, the Atlantic City Council rejected a measure that could have led to outsourcing municipal water services.
The council voted on May 6 to “reject the proposal in perpetuity” by a vote of 7 nays and one abstention. Councilman Aaron Randolph abstained, identifying a conflict of interest as an employee of the MUA.
Two weeks earlier, on April 22, community residents joined members of AFSCME locals 2646, 2302a and 3974 (Council 71) in a demonstration of overwhelming resolve to fight the outsourcing proposal. The council took notice and tabled the measure, which would have dissolved the Municipal Utility Authority (MUA).
“The two weeks that followed demonstrated a community – workers and residents together – that was determined to keep their elected officials from selling out their city,” said Mattie Harrell, Council 71 executive director and an AFSCME International vice president. “We reached out to workers at the MUA, and to community and religious groups to fight back.”
Atlantic City enjoys some of the highest quality and most affordable water in the state, said Harrell. “We have seen time and time again that when cities sell off their water services it means higher prices and lower quality services for residents. Now is not the time, when we are fighting to rebuild Atlantic City, to hit residents up with higher vital utilities,” Harrell told City Council members.
The packed City Council chamber on May 6 was a clear indication that the meeting would be contentious. City Council Pres. Frank Gilliam, who originally introduced the measure, assured the audience that the measure would be tabled permanently. That didn’t satisfy the residents, who demanded the lawmakers “Kill the bill” forever.
The council approved a provision stating that the outsourcing proposal should never be brought up again.
Since Hurricane Sandy devastated the coastal region, Atlantic City has suffered the closure of numerous high profile casinos and sits on the verge of bankruptcy. The AFSCME locals continue to look for ways to work with elected officials to rebuild the city.
by Pablo Ros | May 14, 2015
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Law enforcement officers from around the country came together in our nation’s capital this week to honor those who fell in the line of duty in 2014.
Among those whose names were added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial this year were three AFSCME members: Alaska State Trooper Gabriel “Gabe” Rich, Alaska State Sgt. Patrick “Scott” Johnson, and Albany, N.Y., Police Det. Douglas H. Mayville.
A candlelight vigil at the memorial was part of National Police Week, which draws as many as 40,000 attendees from around the United States to activities that honor law enforcement officers’ service and cultivate a spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood among them.
The memorial, located in the 400 block of E Street NW, saw the addition this year of 273 names of law enforcement officers killed last year. These join the more than 20,000 names on the memorial walls of officers killed serving their communities, dating back to 1791.
Jim Lyman, executive director of AFSCME Council 82 and a retired police detective from Albany, remembered Doug Mayville as a “stoic figure, with a hard shell and a soft inside, as long as you were able to get through that shell; a cop’s cop.”
Lyman said he worked with Mayville for 10 years and has been to National Police Week many times. It gets “harder and harder,” he said, every time he’s back.
Mayville died April 9, 2014, after a 26-year career. He suffered from Wegener’s granulomatosis, which was caused by long-term exposure to harmful chemicals in the department’s forensics lab. He was a member of AFSCME Local 2841, Council 82.
Sgt. Aaron Danielson of the Fairbanks International Airport Police and Fire Department, remembered Scott Johnson as “the trooper we all aspired to be.”
“He worked in the drug unit, he was a statewide K-9 instructor, he was part of the Special Emergency Response Team, he was just the best trooper around,” said Danielson, who is president of the Public Safety Employees Association/AFSCME Local 803.
This is the second year in a row that Alaska state troopers mourn one of their own during National Police Week. Last year, it was Tage B. Toll, an AFSCME member killed in a helicopter crash on March 30, 2013, after the successful rescue of a stranded snowmobiler.
“It’s tough,” Danielson said. “But we’re a really close unit. We all came out in support of the troopers and their families, and the community came out, too. People started bringing in food for the troopers because they knew what they were going through.”
Gabe Rich, who was just 26 when he was killed, and Scott Johnson, were shot to death May 1, 2014, in the remote village of Tanana, 130 miles west of Fairbanks. They’d gone to arrest a local resident after a disturbance when the man’s son opened fire on them with a semiautomatic rifle. The older suspect has since been found guilty of evidence tampering, while his son awaits trial on murder charges.
AFSCME is a partner of the Memorial Fund. To donate, go to nleomf.org/AFSCME.
by Olivia Sandbothe | May 12, 2015
By now everyone knows that our country has a problem with income inequality. It’s not just that economists are talking about it. Most American have noticed that good jobs are harder and harder to find and our wages don’t go as far as they used to, all while the Donald Trumps of the world keep pulling ahead.
But some of our political leaders are still pretending it isn’t true. They won’t take the common-sense steps that could keep the wealthy and well-connected few from grabbing a bigger piece of the pie and give working families a fair shot at the American Dream. It’s about time that we had a real plan to level the playing field for all Americans.
Members of Congress and labor leaders gathered at the Capitol today to stand with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio as he unveiled what he calls his Progressive Agenda. It’s a 13-point plan to fix an economic system that is rigged against ordinary working people. It includes reforms that most people already want, like a higher minimum wage, free preschool for all children, and paid family leave for workers.
AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders was there to address the importance of raising wages and reducing inequality through strong unions. “We support the Progressive Agenda because it will advance the principle that the working women and men who help create our America’s prosperity should share in America’s prosperity,” President Saunders told the crowd.
Big business insiders have been setting our national agenda for too long. But when working people unite around the issues we can all agree on, we have the power to turn things around.
by Clyde Weiss | May 12, 2015
Barbara DeLong, a school bus driver who cares deeply about the safety of the children in her care, was honored recently as the School Bus Driver of the Year by Dutchess County, New York.
DeLong, who has driven for the Arlington Central School District for 29 years, is a member of Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA)/AFSCME Local 1000. She received the award during a ceremony on April 15 at Arlington High School.
Awarded annually for the past 14 years, the Dutchess County School Bus Driver of the Year Award is meant to reward drivers with exemplary safety records. It is also intended to put a spotlight on a serious national problem – drivers who fail to stop when school buses stop to pick up children, even though the bus is displaying its extended stop sign.
A near-miss involving an SUV that failed to stop for a school bus last month in Graham, Washington, shown on media outlets nationwide, demonstrates the danger that school children face when they get on or off a bus. That’s why DeLong’s safety award is so important. It reminds drivers that they need to be especially careful when they see a stopped school bus with its red stop sign extended and lights flashing.
“Our children’s safety is our utmost priority and school bus drivers take their responsibility for children safety very seriously,” said Dutchess County Executive Marcus J. Molinaro at last month’s ceremony honoring DeLong. “Today we say thank you to all the bus drivers who transport our children with such care and remind drivers that they have also have an important role in bus safety. Always stop when the red lights are flashing on a school bus. The extra moment could save a life.”
Joining in the praise is CSEA Pres. Danny Donohue, also an International vice president. “School bus drivers do some of the most important work imaginable by transporting our children safely to and from school,” he said. “We are proud of their dedication and hard work and Barbara DeLong represents the very best of that service.”
The School Bus Driver of the Year Award is presented at the start of a Dutchess County Law Enforcement program called Operation SAFE STOP, whose goal is to remind drivers to exercise caution when approaching a school bus, and obey the flashing red lights when the bus is stopped to pick up students. During Operation SAFE STOP, law enforcement officers shadow school buses throughout the county to identify violators.
Congratulations to Barbara DeLong – and to all the other bus drivers who work hard every day to ensure that children get to school and home safely. They risk their lives – and sometimes sacrifice their lives – to save others. Such was the case of school bus driver Laura Zborowski, an Ohio Association of Public School Employees (OAPSE) union member killed last year in a terrible accident while trying to keep a child out of harm’s way.
by Pablo Ros | May 11, 2015
Members of AFSCME Local 2262 in Jersey City, New Jersey, have gained more than the trust of the local board of education. They’ve gained its admiration.
When students go on vacation this summer, AFSCME members who are tradesmen for Jersey City Public Schools will renovate two more school cafeterias, adding to an ever-expanding list of repair and maintenance jobs that have been insourced. These include electrical and plumbing repairs, carpentry, and renovation of cafeterias, libraries, classrooms, science labs and a swimming pool.
While many of these jobs were commonly outsourced to private contractors, Local 2262 members convinced the Jersey City Board of Education to allow them to do the work in-house. The city’s business administrator, a proponent of privatization, was originally skeptical. But AFSCME members persevered, insisting at every monthly board meeting that they could do the work better, faster and cheaper than private contractors. Given the chance to prove themselves, they made the most of it.
“The key is proving yourself,” said Bill Murawski, president of Local 2262. “And our members proved themselves. We did the work better and cheaper.”
Since the first major jobs were insourced in the summer of 2014, more doors have been opened. Local 2262 has established a good relationship with the board and the city’s business administrator. Mayor Steven Fulop also stood behind members.
Although fewer than 10 percent of the local’s members are tradesmen, their success has benefited public workers in general.
“It strengthens the whole bargaining unit,” said Steven Tully, associate director of AFSCME Council 52.
The effort to return these jobs to the public sector began in September 2013 when Local 2262 leaders participated in AFSCME International’s “Privatization Bootcamp.” Local 2262 members, working with AFSCME’s national staff, developed a plan to fight outsourcing and preserve public-sector jobs.
Its victories may well inspire AFSCME members nationwide to do the same.
Murawski said Local 2262’s victory over outsourcing has “opened more doors for our members to do the work. It’s also given credibility to the union. We showed that we could save the city money by doing the work better and cheaper, and we did it. It reflects well on public employees, and it shows that the answer is insourcing.”
by Olivia Sandbothe | May 11, 2015
During National Law Enforcement Week (May 10-16), AFSCME is saluting the public safety employees who keep our communities safe. The commemoration is especially important this year when police officers are coming under fire for the actions of a few.
As AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders reminded us recently in the Huffington Post, “our fight for justice and respect extends to all women and men who put themselves in harm's way every day, especially while in the line of duty as a law enforcement officer.”
In 1962, President Kennedy established National Police Week and National Peace Officers Memorial Day, a time to honor those law enforcement officers who have been killed in the line of duty during the previous year. AFSCME is proud to take part in this solemn event on behalf of the nearly 100,000 public safety officers in our union.
The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, DC is engraved with the names of more than 20,000 officers who have given their lives to serve the public. This year we will add the names of three AFSCME brothers who were tragically lost in 2014.
Alaska State Trooper Gabriel Rich and Sgt. Patrick Johnson were killed on May 1, 2014 in the isolated village of Tanana after a neighborhood disturbance turned violent. Detective Douglas H. Mayville of the Albany Police Department passed away on April 9, 2014 following exposure to dangerous chemicals in the department’s forensics lab. They, along with 271 others from around the nation and their families, will be honored in a wreath-laying ceremony on May 13.
You can contribute to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund at by visiting this site.
by Kevin Brown | May 08, 2015
Members and staff from United Domestic Workers (UDW) Local 3930, Hawaii Government Employees Association (HGEA) Local 152, AFSCME Council 36, and AFSCME Locals 3299 and 1902 talk about the importance of their recent AFSCME Strong training in this video.
More than 30 participants gathered for the three-day training in San Diego to practice the essential one-on-one conversational skills necessary to talk to their co-workers about our union. As they left the training, participants said they were ready to take their lessons home and strengthen their local unions.
by Kevin Zapf Hanes | May 08, 2015
Following months of mounting pressure by AFSCME Council 3 members and allies, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan backed down from a plan that would have permanently cut the 2 percent raise that all state and university employees received in January.
“Let’s be very clear, this is not a pay raise from Governor Hogan. This is Governor Hogan finally admitting he won’t take away a raise (that) hard‐working, middle‐class workers already had,” said Council 3 Pres. Patrick Moran in a letter to members. “But Governor Hogan has still not said if he will furlough state employees – that would still be a temporary pay cut to the middle‐class families of state and university employees.”
As part of recent Maryland AFSCME Strong training, members from across the state took to the doors in Baltimore to sign up new members and sound the alarm on Governor Hogan’s plan to take back the 2 percent raise that was negotiated last year. This pressure, combined with weekly rallies at the state capitol and a flood of phone calls into the governor’s office, was successful.
AFSCME members will continue to fight against furloughs.
“We have to keep up the public pressure on Governor Hogan to do the right thing – respect our service, do not furlough our hard working, middle‐class families,” said Moran.
by Dave Kreisman | May 08, 2015
CHICAGO – In response to serious concerns about policing raised by cab drivers, a high-ranking representative of the Chicago Police Department committed to taking action, issuing a “cease and desist” order to the officers identified as the most abusive in their interactions with cab drivers.
This past March, Cab Drivers United/AFSCME Council 31 members met with senior representatives of the Chicago Police Department to voice concerns about policing practices that specifically target cab drivers. These unfair practices are costing drivers thousands of dollars in fines, putting their licenses at risk and creating a hostile and distrustful environment between drivers and law enforcement.
Prior to the meeting with the Police Department representatives, Cab Drivers United/AFSCME Council 31 submitted a Freedom of Information Act request seeking traffic tickets issued to cab drivers that brought to light several disturbing statistics.
First, three officers were responsible for 23 percent of all tickets written to cab drivers in 2014, or about 1,500 tickets. Forty-three percent of all tickets written were by 10 officers in a workforce of more than 300 officers.
Many of the cab drivers at the meeting have found themselves on the wrong side of the officers in question. In some instances, they received up to 5 tickets at one time.
One driver noted that their complaints of mistreatment are sometimes met with deaf ears by the internal investigations office responsible for hearing their concerns. Another driver said two different officers ticketed him for illegal parking in two different locations at the exact same time, further demonstrating the immediate need for reform.
Another alarming issue concerns the fact that an overwhelming majority of cab drivers ticketed by the three officers in question had surnames indicating they were likely immigrants.
Cab Drivers United/AFSCME Council 31 will continue to monitor the situation and hold the Chicago Police Department accountable for ensuring fair treatment for cab drivers.