by Clyde Weiss | May 31, 2013
The eight-year struggle of Minnesota’s 11,000 family child care providers to win collective bargaining rights culminated last week with Gov. Mark Dayton’s signature on the recently passed Child Care Representation Act.
“This is a huge victory for workers in Minnesota and across America,” said Eliot Seide, executive director of AFSCME Council 5 and also an AFSCME International vice president. “This landmark legislation bucks the national trend by expanding the rights of Minnesota workers at a time when workers in other states are seeing their rights eroded by ‘right-to-work’ laws that drive down wages, benefits and working conditions. It changes the course of history and it rebuilds the middle class.”
AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders said child care providers “deserve to have a union of their own to speak with a united voice in the statehouse, where decisions are made on the services they provide, their benefits, and their wages. Through collective bargaining, hard-working women and men such as these child care providers stand strong, knowing that they’re part of the AFSCME family.”
“This bill is about ensuring the basic rights of undervalued workers to choose for themselves if they want to collectively bargain for better wages,” said St. Paul provider Lisa Thompson, president of Child Care Providers Together, a unit of AFSCME Council 5 that will now petition the state to conduct an election for child care providers who receive state subsidies. “We are small business owners, predominately women, who now have an opportunity to bargain for improvements in our profession. No longer will Minnesota be able to dismiss the immense value of our work.”
The new law, sponsored by state Sen. Sandra Pappas and state Rep. Michael Nelson, also allows home health care workers to form a union, granting the largest expansion of collective bargaining rights in a generation.
For child care providers like Lynn Barten, this legislative victory gives them the same union rights enjoyed by nurses and teachers. “Providers won the freedom to vote and have a voice in our profession,” she said. “Unions have professionalized so many other careers, and we are excited for the opportunity to form our union to improve the quality of our profession and make child care affordable for all families.”
Through a union of their own, child care providers gain the opportunity to advocate for quality care that parents can afford – and need. Studies show that the first five years in a child’s life are the most critical, and every $1 invested in early education for a child delivers up to $16 in returns during that child’s lifetime.
"Half of Minnesota’s children are not prepared for kindergarten and many are living in poverty with poor nutrition," said Benton County provider Karla Scapanski. "We want to prepare children so they are successful in school and life. Collective bargaining is a partnership for that success."
The new law affects all licensed and unlicensed home-based child care providers who receive state subsidies from the Child Care Assistance Program. There are roughly 12,700 of these providers who will be eligible to vote in the union election. If a majority of the providers who vote choose a union, then their union will negotiate their first contract with the state. They will be able to bargain for higher subsidies and better training to keep kids healthy, learning and safe.
Learn more here.
by Cynthia McCabe | May 30, 2013
The average price of a ticket to watch the San Francisco Giants went up 20 percent in the last three seasons. Team revenues spiked 14 percent. Even beer prices increased 13 percent. And concessions stand workers’ wages? Surely they went up as owners raked in more profits, right?
The wages of the folks selling the peanuts and Cracker Jacks at AT&T Park haven’t been raised a penny since the start of the 2010 baseball season. Their employer, food and beverage subcontractor Centerplate, refuses to negotiate a fair contract that includes adequate health care benefits. So last week, the workers of UNITE HERE Local 2 called a strike, which kicked off at the May 25 Giants-Rockies game and will occur four more days during the summer if necessary.
It’s not the only action undertaken at parks as baseball season gets into full swing. Workers from California to Washington, DC, are calling attention to income inequality between company owners and the employees who keep them in business. They’re doing it by bringing the fans on board as allies.
At Monday’s Washington Nationals’ interleague game against the Baltimore Orioles, concessions stand workers of UNITE HERE Local 23 greeted fans coming into the park with leaflets and buttons calling for a fair contract, which they’ve never had. They pointed out the benefit to the economy of a union contract that pays fair wages and guarantees health care benefits for workers.
In San Francisco, fans showed their solidarity with workers the day of the strike by bringing food to the ballpark and avoiding the counters.
Julie Nordman, a San Francisco concession worker for 20 years, had a simple question for management: “My stand alone brings in over $20,000 a game. Why can’t we share in the success?”
With more strike days looming, it’s a question that will require owners to step up to the plate and answer.
Show your support for striking concession workers by signing Local 2’s petition today.
by Laura Reyes | May 29, 2013
A petition filed Wednesday by approximately 7,500 Vermont homecare providers seeks the state’s permission to vote to form a union with Vermont Homecare United/AFSCME. Legislation approving their right to organize a union was given final approval in May. Once a majority vote to form their union, they will have a formal seat at the decision-making table to improve their training, benefits and compensation.
AFSCME Sec.-Treas. Laura Reyes was in Vermont for a press conference announcing the petition. She writes about it in The Huffington Post, reprinted here.
I am in Vermont today as thousands of home care providers in the Green Mountain State file for the largest union election in the state's history. I know first-hand the struggle home care providers face. I also know the power and possibilities that are created when providers come together and form a union that cares about home care workers and the people we serve. I know it because I am a home care provider and have walked in the shoes of Vermont providers.
My oldest son was born two and a half months early. He had a brain hemorrhage, and the doctors diagnosed him with cerebral palsy. They said he would never speak or walk. That's when I quit my job as an educator and became a home care provider. I knew that with constant care and attention, Damien would overcome the obstacles. And he did. Today he is not only walking and talking, he's in college preparing for a full life of opportunity.
So I know what it is like to decide that you can achieve more for your family and loved ones together than you can alone. I decided to get active with AFSCME nearly two decades ago. Now thousands of Vermont's home care providers have taken that same step. AFSCME has a proud history here in Vermont. For six decades, thousands of workers across the state have been working for the best interest of working families and the communities we serve. From workers at non-profit agencies like the Howard Center in Burlington – to the public school bus aides for children with special needs in Rutland – to the Bennington Police – the Green Machine of AFSCME members has been critical to moving the Green Mountain State forward.
We've made progress across the country. Home care workers in Maryland joined AFSCME and won their first pay raise in 18 years. Home care workers in Iowa joined and won their first pay raise in the history of the program. Iowa created a new referral registry to connect providers and clients. And in my home state of California, we've won health benefits, annual cost of living raises, worker's compensation coverage and more paid hours for the care we provide.
None of these victories were guaranteed or are permanent. Home care programs often get caught in the crosshairs of political posturing. That's why it is so important for providers to chose the union that has a long term commitment to the struggle. In many ways, my story represents AFSCME's commitment to home care. As a single mom taking care of my son, like many providers, I felt isolated and powerless. I learned, through AFSCME, that there were 60,000 providers in my local union. I learned that there were hundreds of thousands in other states, in similar circumstances. When I learned that, I found my voice. I was empowered by our organizing. That's what it's about.
That's why home care providers like Carol Delage in St. Albans, Leona Ingalls in Johnson, Patrick Willis in Montpelier, Mary Montgomery of Washington, and Heather Boyd in Shelbourne are joining together in Vermont. They and thousands of other home care providers are joining together with AFSCME Vermont Homecare United.
Together, we are working to change our culture and policies to provide real dignity and respect – dignity and respect for those who receive home care services and those who provide them. For seniors and people with disabilities, their quality of life and safety depends on the reliability and the skill of their home care provider. Their access to services that keeps them independent depends on a stable and committed workforce. Yet, low wages, long hours and no benefits will continue to drive more workers out of these important jobs. The tragic result will be more seniors and Vermonters with disabilities denied the services they need.
These are our neighbors. In taking care of them, home care providers are taking of care of our communities. They are giving others a chance to lead their lives with independence and the dignity and respect they deserve. But respect is also a job with a living wage. Respect is paid time off so that providers can take a sick day when they are sick or need to take their child to the doctor. Respect is proper training so that they can give the highest quality care possible to the people providers serve.
I was honored to be in Vermont today and to stand with all the members of AFSCME Vermont Homecare United. Together, we will work to improve conditions for home care providers and enhance the lives of all the people we serve.
by Pablo Ros | May 29, 2013
Student support services employees of the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash., went on strike yesterday to demand job security and fair pay. They are members of the Washington Federation of State Employees, AFSCME Council 28, Local 443.
Following more than 16 months of stalled negotiations, the 57 workers – who are academic counselors and advisors, dorm residence directors, mental health advisors and athletic coaches, among others – went on strike seeking due process for disciplinary actions (just cause) and compensation that is roughly on par with other college staff.
They are non-management exempt staff and are negotiating their first contract.
Local 443 members were joined by more than 200 of their allies at the college and in Council 28 at 12 locations throughout the campus. A “Day of Action” rally also was held in the college’s Red Square.
Our sisters and brothers at Evergreen play crucial roles in fulfilling the mission of the college and meeting students’ needs. As such, they should be treated with the respect they deserve and receive fair compensation.
May 28, 2013
Hundreds of AFSCME nurses gathered at the 14th AFSCME/United Nurses of America Congress held in Washington, DC, as part of National Nurses Week. These nurses understand the dangers of cutting social support programs for the most vulnerable while politicians ignore corporate tax loopholes and millionaire tax cuts.
Whether it's the closing of centers that care for the most vulnerable or cuts to Medicare and Social Security, our nation's nurses aren't putting up with proposed reductions in health services. Watch the latest episode of AFSCME.TV to see how AFSCME’s nurses are fighting for improved conditions for nurses and patients across the country.
by Pablo Ros | May 24, 2013
California’s budget crisis has decimated its court system in the last several years. Cuts of more than 30 percent have left courts across the state and particularly in Los Angeles County understaffed and unable to meet the legal needs of citizens.
With more cuts proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown, court employees and residents are voicing concerns that the wheels of justice may be grinding to a halt.
“Judicial services have been cut to the bone,” said Sharis Peters, a family law mediator in Los Angeles Superior Court and member of AFSCME Local 276 who spoke recently at a town hall meeting to demand that Governor Brown restore funding to the court system. “Residents are being forced to wait much longer to have their issues resolved in court. A father who files for help in a custody matter may have to wait six months or more before he has an initial court hearing.”
Gwendolyn Jones, a Los Angeles Superior Court Clerk and president of AFSCME Local 575, warned that as court hearings are moved from local courthouses to just a few designated courts throughout the state – in a process called “hubbing” – the public will be forced into increasingly overcrowded and understaffed clerks’ offices.
“The state’s court budget cutbacks and hubbing are in effect violating citizens’ fundamental right to justice,” she said. “It will only get worse from here.”
California’s Chief Justice, Tani Cantil-Sakauye, also protested the cuts, saying courts are unable to “provide fundamental services or protect the rights of Californians,” and that, “By marginalizing the courts, California strikes a blow against justice.”
Yet despite the dire circumstances, the state’s courts this year are asked to trim another $350 million from their budgets, making it practically impossible to offer fair and timely justice to citizens on cases that will affect everyone. In fact, further layoffs will mean more than half of civil courtrooms will be shut down permanently; civil cases such as divorce proceedings and lawsuits will take more than four years to wrap up; and delays in hearings will mean children in foster care will be left separated from parents for longer periods of time.
These are just some of the awful consequences. That’s why AFSCME stands with our sisters and brothers in California to demand an end to cuts and layoffs in the court system.
by Kate Childs Graham | May 24, 2013
Trailblazing activists Viola Liuzzo, Annie Clemenc and Evelyn Dubrow were posthumously honored and inducted into the International Labor Hall of Fame this month.
The women each lived lives of incredible courage to advance the American labor and civil rights movements. Viola Liuzzo traveled to Alabama to join the growing Civil Rights Movement after seeing the events of “Bloody Sunday” unravel on March 7, 1965. Weeks later, while driving fellow activists home from a rally, she was shot and killed by members of the Ku Klux Klan. She was only 39.
“Big Annie” Clemenc was a leader in the 1913 strikes protesting the mistreatment of mine workers on the Keweenaw Peninsula in Michigan. She was arrested and imprisoned twice for her actions. She also founded the Women’s Auxiliary No. 15 of the Western Federation of Miners.
Evelyn “Evy” Dubrow was a lobbyist for the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union. She was famous for visiting dozens of senators in one day, fighting on behalf of working people everywhere. She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1999.
Past inductees to the International Labor Hall of Fame include Harry Truman, Franklin Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt, and former AFSCME Presidents Arnold Zander and Jerry Wurf.
AFSCME remains committed to developing women leaders at every level of the union. Visit afscme.org/women for more information.
by Malcolm Maurice | May 24, 2013
A new video series from the Center for American Progress aims to highlight the importance of union representation for working families by telling the personal stories of workers for whom union membership has made a very real difference. Among those featured in the “Unions Make the Middle Class” series is La Tonya Johnson, an AFSCME child care worker in Milwaukee who was one of the thousands of union workers affected when Gov. Scott Walker pushed through the law to eliminate most union rights for government workers in 2011.
“Right after our union was repealed, we lost our weekly pay,” said Johnson, owner of an in-home licensed child care center. “For people who think that having a union or being organized doesn’t have a bottom line effect, I’m here to tell you that it does.”
Johnson was inspired to run for office to continue the fight to restore workers’ right to organize and collectively bargain in the state. Her message resonated with voters and she won a resounding 19-point victory in a four-way primary contest in August 2012. Johnson is currently representing the 17th District in the Wisconsin State Assembly and has pledged to vote in favor of restoring all collective bargaining rights.
“Being in a union is so important to the working class because it protects the rights of the working class,” she said. “It gives you a voice.”
Watch all the videos from the series on ThinkProgress.
by Kate Childs Graham | May 23, 2013
A high-energy program focusing on the vital role that young people play in AFSCME will bring together new and young members from across the country for the 2013 AFSCME Next Wave Conference in Detroit, Mich. After Gov. Rick Snyder rammed through a right-to-work (for-less) bill and robbed communities of their democratic rights with his Local Dictator Law, Michigan has become ground zero for attacks on workers.
From July 12 - 14, young, fired-up activists will exchange strategies at a series of workshops on issues ranging from cutting-edge digital media tactics to best bargaining practices, all with the goal of better fighting the attacks we face from anti-worker politicians across the country.
Attendees will hear from AFSCME leaders, including Pres. Lee Saunders and Sec.-Treas. Laura Reyes. Key allies will be on hand to discuss best practices of partnerships. Direct action experts will share their compelling stories and insights. A dynamic, new open space portion of the conference will provide participants with the opportunity to present and hear about issues important to them. And, of course, Next Wavers will once again share their gifts at Open Mic Night.
View highlights from the 2011 Next Wave Conference in Atlanta, Ga., here.
Click here to find out more and register.
by Pablo Ros and Kevin Brown | May 22, 2013
LOS ANGELES – California state and local officials came out yesterday in support of University of California patient care workers who are on strike to demand from UC hospital executives that they put patients before profits.
Among the state Assembly members who showed their support for members of AFSCME Local 3299 were Roger Dickinson (7th District), Das Williams (37th District) and Richard Pan (9th District), who is the chair of the Assembly Health Committee. Sacramento Councilmember Darrell Fong also joined the protesters, as did students of the University of California Los Angeles. The strike was held in five locations throughout the state – Los Angeles, Irvine, San Diego, San Francisco and Davis.
AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders, who traveled to California to join the rally yesterday, will again address participants at UC San Francisco and UC Davis.
Media coverage of yesterday’s strike included appearances in more than 70 news segments.
Since AFSCME Local 3299 began negotiations more than 10 months ago, UC administrators have been unwilling to come to the table with a workable proposal. The two-day strike was supported by 97 percent of members. Before the walkout, Local 3299 took measures to ensure that patient care needs will be met.
You can still sign this petition to show solidarity with our sisters and brothers in California.