by Mark McCullough | June 29, 2015
Eight years ago, Edgardo Marrero realized things had to change. Staff morale in Miami-Dade County’s Animal Services department was at an all-time low. The workers suffered from bad management, frequent turnover and a lack of control over their day-to-day jobs and their careers.
Marrero knew he had to do something and that something was to get involved with his union, AFSCME Local 199.
“Most of your day is spent at work,” he said. “So I figured that instead of just spending the time complaining and wishing it would get better, I would actually do something about it.”
Born and raised in south Florida, Marrero understood the cyclical nature of the area’s economy and how that impacts county workers in everything from contracts to staff size, but he also knew that the union could be a positive force for change in both good times and bad. With the right support from AFSCME and a focus on the right goals, he knew his success at work didn’t have to depend on the economic roller-coaster.
“The shop steward at the time helped me understand how powerful we can be if we work together and stand strong for what we want. She kept me active over time and, thanks to her, I soon became shop steward myself,” he said.
Soon, Marrero’s department was flourishing. Turnover levels dropped, productivity rose along with job satisfaction, and new members were joining the union after seeing what Local 199 was all about.
Marrero decided to take his new passion for supporting his co-workers to the next level by becoming a union representative. Thanks to his hard work, along with his fellow representatives and member leaders, Local 199 is now much more present in the worksite, more active in helping members achieve their goals and in ensuring that help is never far away.
The renewed focus paid off with a new contract last year that won back tens of millions of dollars in pay concessions relinquished during the economic crisis and even includes a wage increase, an end to furloughs and continued quality health coverage. And it is reflected in the more than a thousand new members that joined in the past year.
“Local 199 is moving in the right direction to say the least but all this success really just has us wanting more,” said Marrero. “In many departments we are reaching a super majority of membership, but I want to see 100 percent membership across the county.”
by Kevin Zapf Hanes | June 26, 2015
More than 100 employees of Lackawanna County (Pennsylvania) Family and Youth Services took the ultimate step to go out on strike in May to demand respect in the workplace. After 11 days on the picket line, they won.
The workers attempted to negotiate with the county for two years. Tired of being walked on by the county, they voted to walk out May 14.
The Lackawanna County Family and Youth Services employees lacked longevity pay; all other units in the county had longevity pay contractually. Also, their wages were much lower than in surrounding counties.
“Enough was enough,” said Mary Rose Moran, AFSCME Local 524 president. “They gave us no option but to take our fight to the street. We work hard, provide important services to the community and that work must be respected.”
After the AFSCME members voted down a tentative agreement that did not offer the longevity pay and wage increases they sought, the employer agreed to return to the bargaining table. At the next bargaining meeting, however, the county’s chief negotiator, County Commissioner Jim Wansacz, failed to show up.
“How much disrespect can a group of workers endure,” asked Kerri Gallagher, director of AFSCME District Council 87. “The brave women and men took their demand for respect to the streets and won.”
As part of the agreement to return to work, Local 524 members won their long-sought longevity pay and wage increases. “What happened in Lackawanna serves as an example of power for all people in Pennsylvania,” said AFSCME Council 13 Exec. Dir. Dave Fillman, also an AFSCME International vice president. “When we stand strong, we win. When we demand respect, we get it.”
by Joe Weidner, AFSCME Ohio Council 8 | June 25, 2015
Marie Clarke, an AFSCME Ohio Council 8 retiree who dedicated her life to working for equal rights in the workplace, celebrates her 100th birthday June 27.
As one of Ohio's foremost black female labor leaders, Clarke distinguished herself during her long career not only within her AFSCME family, but also in the United Auto Workers Local 927.
Her outstanding contributions to Ohio the labor movement were recognized in 1986 when then-Gov. Richard Celeste inducted Clarke into the Ohio Woman’s Hall of Fame.
The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, which administers the Hall of Fame, states on its website: “Marie Clarke is one of Ohio's foremost Black female labor leaders. She had the lifelong ambition to work for equal right in the work place for everyone.”
Clarke was instrumental in founding Columbus City Workers Local 1632 (AFSCME Council 8) and served on its executive board. Even in retirement she continued her labor activism as a member of AFSCME Retiree Chapter 1184
“When we say we are standing on the shoulders of those who came before us, we’re talking about people like Marie Clarke,” said John A. Lyall, president of AFSCME Ohio Council 8, and also an AFSCME International vice president. “She knew the power of solidarity and was a great believer in direct action. Her accomplishments should inspire us all. We wish her a happy 100th birthday.”
“I have always felt that serving the public was a special kind of work. And I will always be proud to say I am an AFSCME member,” Clarke said.
Clarke began work as a mechanic in 1946, at the Columbus plant of Curtiss-Wright, then the largest aircraft manufacturer in the United States. A single mother, she was one of thousands of women who went to work in the factories while the men left to serve in the military. After the men returned, Clarke was one of the few minority women to keep her job.
As a factory worker she helped organize and recruit members into the United Auto Workers union. One of her first job actions was to address the disparity in washroom conditions. The men’s washroom had large round sinks where dozens of men could wash at one time. The women’s locker room had just a few regular sinks, and always had a long line at the end of the shift.
Clarke used that time standing in line to organize and encourage the women to join the union. As UAW members, they successfully pushed management to provide equal washroom facilities.
By the end of her 22-year aircraft factory career, she was the first African American woman to be elected to the executive board of UAW Local 927. Although the union survived the company’s transition from Curtiss-Wright to North American Rockwell, Clarke moved on.
In 1969, Clarke began a 23-year clerical career at Columbus City Hall, and brought her union activism with her. However, she found that only sanitation workers were members of the city workers’ union, AFSCME Local 1632. When the union went on strike later that year, she supported the strikers, but could not be a part of the union, or participate on the picket lines.
After the strike, Clarke set about organizing her co-workers and building the union. She went on to become a proven and effective leader of AFSCME Local 1632 who was the “go-to” person on many issues. She was appointed to a series of ever more responsible union posts, and eventually was elected to serve on her local’s executive board.
In 1980, she was elected the union’s secretary-treasurer, an office she held for 12 years. During that time the union kept growing, and today represents more than 2,000 city workers.
by Justin Lee | June 25, 2015
RIVERSIDE COUNTY, Calif. — Paramedics and EMTs in Riverside County have reached an agreement with American Medical Response that would provide 18 percent pay increases over three and half years, protect health insurance, and perhaps most importantly, create a professional practice committee to give emergency care professionals a voice in patient care issues.
The agreement with the nation’s largest private emergency medical services (EMS) company could usher in a new approach to running EMS systems by requiring managers to regularly consult with their licensed personnel on issues impacting patient care. For residents who may find themselves in need of emergency assistance, this would lead to better outcomes.
“As the professionals delivering the care, we’re the best advocates for patients,” said Paramedic Ricky Rodriguez. “With our professional practice committee, AMR has finally agreed to listen.”
Profit-driven EMS companies often implement what Rodriguez and his colleagues call a lean model of care. That often translates to outdated equipment, aging ambulances, an exhausted workforce and high turnover. Securing a commitment from AMR to recognize and act on recommendations from front line professionals was a top priority during negotiations.
“I’m happy and excited that we’ve won a voice in shaping the way patient care is delivered,” said Paramedic Sam Maddaluna. “The county has said they want to have more input from actual field providers, and soon we’ll be able to speak with one unified voice to help shape policies and protocols.”
Members of AFSCME Local 4911 will vote on the tentative agreement in the coming weeks. In the meantime EMS professionals at AMR in Missouri and Arizona continue to bargain for a contract that would raise standards for their families and their patients.
by Joye Barksdale | June 25, 2015
MILLBURY, Mass. – Some people become union activists because they see what’s broken and want to fix it. Not Ryan Marsh, vice president of Rhode Island College Clerical Employees Local 2879 (AFSCME Council 94). He’s an activist because he likes what he and his co-workers have and wants to hold on to it.
Marsh, a Rhode Island College (RIC) graduate who earned a master’s degree in accounting this year, works in RIC’s loan office as an accountant. He holds another distinction: his union’s 101st member.
“It’s great to be part of the union,” says Marsh, a native of Scituate, Massachusetts. “In the private sector you have to fight for your own rights and benefits. It’s so refreshing to be part of a whole team of people who work together for all of our interests.”
In May, Marsh took part in an AFSCME Strong coaches’ training for members of Councils 4, 93 and 94. AFSCME activists and leaders who participate lean how to train other activists to reach out to their co-workers.
The goal of AFSCME Strong is to engage members in protecting workers’ rights, strengthening our union and rebuilding the middle class through activism and political participation wherever they are. “Spreading the message and making people more aware is really going to do great things for all of us,” Marsh says.
Similar AFSCME Strong trainings are being conducted nationwide.
Marsh, 32, brings plenty of rich experiences to his activism. He joined the U.S. Marine Corps at age 17 and traveled to 11 countries during his service. He returned to Rhode Island to attend college, then trekked across the country. With a friend, he rented a small commercial space to open a tax-preparation business that he turned into a furniture store when tax season ended.
Feeling homesick, he then returned to Rhode Island, where he joined an accounting firm. Laid off once tax season ended, he considered taking the college loan office job.
Marsh, known for his cheerfulness and positive outlook, got active with Local 2879 as its “sunshine coordinator.” In that role, he reached out to members who were very ill or going through other significant events. He began attending every training program Council 94 offered and also went to statewide AFL-CIO conferences.
Local 2879 Pres. Mary Riley encouraged him to run for vice president last year, seeing his enthusiasm and recognizing the importance of bringing in young Next Wave leaders.
Being a Next Waver means Marsh is a long way from retirement. But he is already concerned about retirement security – not so much for himself, but for those who have been in state government years longer. Benefits in the state’s pension plan were slashed in 2011 for current and future retirees. “If you are a retiree, you need someone to step up on your behalf. When I’m in that position, I hope somebody will be looking out for me,” he says. “The whole point of being in a union is solidarity. We have to fight the battles, because other people did it for us.”
by David Patterson | June 25, 2015
Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s signature quasi-public JobsOhio “economic development” mechanism, created in 2011 ostensibly to bring jobs to the state, has joined a list of similar entities created by other GOP governors that have come under fire for excessive pay, loans or lack of transparency.
For JobsOhio, recent filings required by state law shows that spending on salary and benefits increased 82 percent from $2.54 million in 2012-13 to $4.68 million in 2013-14. And staff grew from 37 to 61 employees while the organization added highly paid executives and granted huge pay raises.
JobsOhio Pres. John F. Minor Jr. saw a raise of $82,000 — to more than $306,964 — last year. Two senior managing directors make at least $247,745 and $242,821. By contrast, Kasich makes about $149,000 yearly as governor. These amounts don’t even account for money diverted to nontaxable contributions to 401(k) retirement accounts or health insurance premiums.
JobsOhio is a private, nonprofit corporation funded through a lease on state liquor profits, revenue that historically had been public money, and is exempted from all public records laws. The board of directors who approve compensation are appointed by Kasich.
At least six other states with Republican governors have created similar setups, including Michigan (1999), Texas (2003), Indiana (2005) and Wisconsin (2011). Each has come under fire.
In Michigan, Gov. Rick Snyder was forced to shut down a secret fund in 2013 that paid salaries to his trusted advisors, living expenses for Detroit's emergency manager, and new furniture and security for the Governor's residences.
Snyder started the nonprofit NERD (New Energy to Reinvent and Diversify) Fund shortly after taking office, ostensibly to raise private funds for government innovation. However, two years after its creation it was discovered that two of Snyder’s advisers in the Capitol have spent time on NERD’s payroll.
In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker formed the WEDC (Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.) in 2011, three days after he was sworn in. This quasi-public authority replaced the Department of Commerce and is designed to give taxpayer dollars to private corporations and help them create jobs. Since its creation it has been plagued by scandals.
by John Noonan | June 23, 2015
Nearly 4,000 AFSCME and Teamsters members — front-line workers at the University of Minnesota — are speaking up about grossly unequal pay as they negotiate a new contract with the university.
While more than 3,000 university employees earn at least $100,000 a year, and basketball coach Richard Pitino was recently awarded a $400,000 raise, there are more than 400 university workers who make less than $15 an hour.
"The University likes to pit students against staff. They say if they give our underpaid workers a raise then they'll have to raise tuition," said Cherrene Horazuk, president of AFSCME Local 3800 (Council 5). "We see that as a false choice. The University of Minnesota has more than 600 administrators who make at least $100,000 a year. This bloated and growing section of middle-management could easily be trimmed so the workers who keep the U of M running can make ends meet."
The University of Minnesota is not alone when it comes to ballooning middle-management and athletic salaries that take dollars out of the classroom. It could well be the poster child for this trend. A Wall Street Journal study in 2012 found that the ranks of management employees at the university grew "more than twice as fast as the teaching core and nearly twice as fast as the student body."
Workers aren’t just upset about the money being diverted from the classroom to a bloated management class at the University. Also at issue is a fundamental lack of respect for the valuable work AFSCME members provide the university.
“Frontline workers are treated as second class to management,” Horazuk said. “For instance, administrative employees receive six weeks of paid parental leave when they have a child. Our members only receive two weeks. Is their time with their newborn less meaningful or needed?”
Horazuk added that “administrative employees receive 7 percent more in pension contributions than our members, yet our members are the one who need the extra help retiring. A frontline worker pays the same as an administrator for healthcare, and receives the same percentage raise, but the workers’ raise is based on a far lower salary. Every year the gap between the U of M’s haves and have-nots grows.”
Local 3800 members and their Teamsters sisters and brothers – as well as their student allies – have steadily increased the pressure as negotiations continue. In April, they joined a “Fight for $15” rally to bring attention to the 400-plus workers at the university who make less than $15 an hour. They also recently took their issue to the Board of Regents.
by David Kreisman | June 23, 2015
CHICAGO – Members of Cab Drivers United/AFSCME Council 31 are praising the Chicago City Council’s introduction of a resolution designed to regulate UberX and Lyft like the taxi services they are.
The resolution affects so-called Transportation Network Providers (TNPs) like UberX and Lyft that offer services identical to licensed professional cab drivers. Introduced by the City Council, it is now before the Committee on License and Consumer Protection. A hearing on the resolution is expected before the council’s August recess.
Twenty-six aldermen – a majority – signed on in support of the resolution, which is sponsored by Alderman Pat Dowell.
The resolution was crafted after Cab Drivers United/AFSCME Council 31 members spent months meeting with the aldermen to urge them to regulate TNPs that currently do not face the same kind of oversight that cab drivers do, despite repeated instances of gross misconduct by UberX drivers.
“Cab drivers in Chicago are ambassadors for the city,” Alderman Dowell said. “The public is confident that when they hail a cab, the driver has the knowledge of the city, the proper insurance and has passed the necessary background checks to get them to their destination safely and efficiently.”
Dowell added, “On the other hand, Transportation Network Providers are providing the same type of service without any of the training or oversight that licensed cab drivers submit to before they can drive. We need to hold TNPs to the same high standards.”
“I’m proud of the work we put in with our union to get to this point,” said veteran Chicago cab driver Nnamdi Uwazi, a member of Cab Drivers United/AFSCME Council 31. “We still have a lot of work to do to level the playing field and regulate TNPs, but today is a great first step toward the fairness and justice that Chicago cab drivers deserve.”
by Michael Byrne and Omar Tewfik | June 22, 2015
The tragic, senseless massacre on June 17 of nine good people praying to God in a Charleston, S.C., church is hard to fathom, and AFSCME members all across the country are grieving. The racially motivated crime strikes at the heart of a community and a church — the Emanuel African Methodist Church — that for decades has been at the forefront of the struggle for racial equality and workers’ rights.
Among those saddened over the shooting is AFSCME International Vice Pres. Henry Nicholas, president of AFSCME National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees/ District Council 1199C. “With all of the [racial] tension that is occurring around the country, this is especially painful,” said Nicholas, who watched the reports in horror. “I recognized some of the kids who got killed.”
Nicholas knows that community well, having rallied workers and families in front of that church during the historic 1969 strike by black workers at Medical College Hospital. They sought out 1199 to help them battle indignities at every level of their jobs.
This was a year after the Rev. Martin Luther King was assassinated. His widow, Coretta Scott King, was quick to go to Charleston to support the hospital workers in their campaign for representation by 1199, which Dr. King had called his “favorite union.” Andrew Young and Ralph Abernathy, leaders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, also rallied with the workers during the 113-day strike that eventually led to their recognition, and improvements on the job.
“You can’t have one without the other,” said Nicholas, referring to the innate relationship between the civil rights and labor movements. “Martin Luther King and Coretta Scott King were an integral part of our struggle.” Coretta Scott King became the honorary chairwoman of the hospital union.
Nicholas’s last visited Charleston in May to attend the funeral of Mary Moultrie, the hospital worker who led the successful campaign for a union. He also accompanied her two years earlier at the unveiling of a marker in front of the hospital that commemorated the workers’ struggle for a union.
What started out as an internal struggle for racial equality and a voice on the job grew into a national movement where black hospital workers became the front line of the civil rights struggle throughout the country, Nicholas said. “Out of Charleston, I sent staff to 14 different states,” said Nicholas, who was operating out of New York then. “We went to West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky and many others. I had 5,000 people in Baltimore in less than three weeks.”
“Charleston was the beginning of the struggle,” he said. “That community was looking for partners then, and still is. The violence there at that church shows just how much work we have to do.”
by Namita Waghray | June 19, 2015
ST. LOUIS – Young AFSCME members from all over the country gathered June 12-14 for the third annual Next Wave Assembly, getting an opportunity to strengthen their organizing skills, rally for Missouri home care attendants and connect with a network of future labor leaders.
The first message the Next Wave activists got, however, is that the future is now. “You aren’t the leaders of tomorrow,” AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders said in his opening remarks. “We need you to lead today.”
AFSCME Strong was front and center this year, and the activists broke into nine groups for all-day training, learning the one-on-one organizing skills necessary to educate and mobilize members.
The Next Wavers also put their training to use in Missouri, with 50 attendees visiting state facilities and talking with workers – and signed up more than 30 new union members. Also, 200 of the activists marched in solidarity with Missouri home care workers whose contracts were not being implemented by home care vendors.
“I have no words to describe seeing all of these people standing in the heat as we demanded respect for our contract. It gives me hope and I am resolved that we will continue fighting,” said Mary Woods, a consumer and Missouri Home Care Council member. The rally sent a clear message to Paraquard, the largest home care vendor, which agreed to meet with home care attendants the following week.
Attendees also attended workshops and talked about their experiences in their locals. David “Big Daddy” Bride talked about how he helped sign up more than 400 PEOPLE MVP members – 80 percent of the Indianapolis public works unit – in a three-week blitz by Local 725, part of the Indiana-Kentucky Organizing Council 962.
“We have 512 workers in our bargaining unit and would you believe me that we have 511 dues paying members?” Bride told the group, noting that Indiana has imposed a “right-to-work” scam on workers. “And whoever that 512th guy is – well I haven’t found him yet, but don’t worry – I will … for real.”
A PEOPLE party featured karaoke competition and raised several hundred dollars – part of nearly $6,000 raised by the young activists for AFSCME’s political action fund during their three-day event.