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Long Lines Lead to Child Care Organizing Opportunity

by David Patterson  |  September 10, 2014

MILWAUKEE – In the face of anti-union legislation that has left working people reeling from Gov. Scott Walker’s political agenda, family child care providers in Milwaukee and across Wisconsin have fought back and begun organizing with AFSCME/Child Care Providers Together Wisconsin.

The breaking point came when the state forced providers working in Milwaukee County to deliver their timesheets in person downtown at the Milwaukee Early Care Administration (MECA) offices in order to get paid in a timely manner. The result was hours-long lines extending out the building and down the block from the early morning through the afternoon –  time those providers could have used caring for children.

“This was a blatant slap in the face to the providers in Milwaukee,” said Glenda Haynes, a child care provider who was forced to wait in line for hours. “No provider in any other county was forced to do this.”

Those lines, however, resulted in an opportunity for AFSCME/CCPT organizers who visited providers in line to talk union and bring water to ensure none lost their place in line. Soon, activists inside and outside the building created the pressure needed to get a meeting with MECA leaders and the in-person requirement was lifted.

The time-sheet resolution – along with new accreditation courses offered at no cost to AFSCME/CCPT members – has spurred a growth in the local, tripling membership in just two months.

“The word is getting out about the resources and the unity the union can provide,” said Anneliese Sheahan, president of the AFSCME/CCPT local. “For just $25 a month for membership, the union provides so many resources that benefit all providers.”

Secretary-Treasurer Reyes Takes ALS Bucket Splash

September 09, 2014

Challenged by AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders, Sec.-Treas. Laura Reyes took the plunge last week, taking a bucket of ice water on her head to benefit ALS research.

“As a union woman and proud AFSCME member, I accept the challenge,” she said. In turn, she challenged “my sisters at the Women’s Leadership Academy,” as well as Kathryn Lybarger of AFSCME Local 3299 in California, an AFSCME International vice president.

Secretary-Treasurer Reyes pledged to make a personal donation, added to the $1,000 already pledged by AFSCME for research to fight the neurodegenerative disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The “ice bucket challenges” helped raise nearly $100 million for ALS research since the end of July.

Chicago Taxi Drivers Demand Due Process

by David Kreisman  |  September 05, 2014

CHICAGO – Frustrated by an unjust system that denies due process to taxi cab drivers cited for code violations, more than 400 members of Cab Drivers United (CDU)-AFSCME demonstrated this week outside the Chicago Department of Administrative Hearings (DOAH).

For Chicago’s drivers, a hearing date at DOAH is the last step in a process that efficiently and effectively strips drivers of their rights and hard-earned income.

According to a study released by Cab Drivers United-AFSCME in June, drivers pay thousands of dollars each month to lease their cab or finance a medallion, and work 12 hours a day, six or seven days a week. And yet they find their modest income in serious jeopardy over the slightest infraction, regardless of guilt, and typically without the opportunity to present evidence to an impartial judge.

“The system here at 400 West Superior is set up to prevent drivers from ever having our day in court,” said taxi driver and CDU member Maxwell Akenten. “The enormous fines and penalties are used by the city as leverage to pressure us into settling and paying a fine without ever making our case. It’s coercion. We are automatically guilty; there is no due process for taxi drivers.”

CDU drivers already met with Business Affairs and Consumer Protection Commissioner Maria Guerra Lapacek twice to highlight the areas her office can act on immediately to alleviate the impossible position drivers are in.

“We are asking for common-sense solutions to the problem facing taxi drivers,” said taxi driver and CDU member David Adenekan. “These are issues the commissioner could act on today.  She could work to create a fair system where drivers have the same expectation of justice and due process as the rest of Chicago.”

Quick Action Rescues Phoenix from Flooding

by Kevin Brown  |  September 05, 2014

Torrential flooding posed major problems for Phoenix in August, but public service workers rose to the challenge and saved the day.

Dennis Martinez, a fire emergency dispatcher and AFSCME Local 2960 member, reported 18 swift water rescue assignments in just a 12-hour period at their call center. Swift water rescues are very intense and can require up to 15 to 20 fire apparatuses and specially trained technical firefighters.

During a rescue, captured by Fox 10, one of Martinez’s team members remained on the phone with the survivors for more than 45 minutes, providing vital information for a successful rescue. The home moved more than 20-feet from its original address and the flooding forced firefighters to use a helicopter to land on the roof.

“We handled more than 6,000 calls during the hours of the flood, dispatching units to multiple emergency situations,” Martinez said. “Every second is a matter of life and death, we are grateful to have been prepared to play a huge role to ensure the safety of our residents. It was a great combined effort of city employees.”

Arizona is known for its monsoon season, which lasts from June to September and carries a severe threat of mudslides and aggressive flash floods. Improvised evacuations and rescue missions are common during this time period. The desert around Phoenix sees very little rain most of the year, so that in the event of an intense storm the water has nowhere to go.

For city employees at the Union Hills Water Treatment Plant, the first task was to close the intakes before the plant could be contaminated with unsanitary water spilling over the banks of the Skunk Creek Wash.  Their courageous efforts protected the health of many Phoenix residents and the infrastructure of the plant. The intakes remained shut down for nearly 15 minutes to let the mud flow by, safely out of the path of clean drinking water.

“We have a good response team at Union Hills. As soon as we realized the threat of the flooding, we took to the problem and closed off the intakes and relied on the other four water plants to supply clean water to our residents,” said Julian Marquez, AFSCME Local 2384 member and a building maintenance worker.

The Union Hills Water Treatment Plant intakes were reopened and no deaths or major injuries were reported due to the flooding; however, heroic stories of public servants and neighbors banding together to ensure the safety of their communities continue to surface.

Indiana City Workers Fight Back, Secure Contract

by Carli Stevenson  |  September 05, 2014

The hard-working members of Local 2487, which represents city workers in Bloomington, Indiana, have a history of working cooperatively with city management for the benefit of both workers and city services. When they negotiated their last contract, which went into effect on Jan. 1, 2014, they had no reason to believe things would be different.

But five months later, on June 1, the city revised its personnel policy, limiting compensatory time and mandating that members use 10 days of compensatory time before using their sick time or paid time off. This change was made unilaterally without negotiating with the local.

AFSCME members knew that if they did not fight back, the integrity of the contract would be seriously eroded. If the city didn’t think it had to bargain with members on this, then they could start to make other policies outside the contract.

Local 2487 Pres. Rick Albright filed a grievance and met with management. But more importantly, he worked with Dave Robertson, his staff representative at AFSCME Indiana-Kentucky Organizing Committee 962, to organize his co-workers. Under the banner “Hands Off Our Contract,” more than 80 members signed up to take action during a City Council meeting on Aug. 21.

Having gotten wind of the members’ plan, the city called the local for a meeting and agreed to back off the changes to the personnel policy.

“They knew we had a lot of help coming, and they got scared,” Albright said. “Because we organized, we were able to move things forward.”

 

 

Missourians Back $11 an Hour for Home Care Attendants

by Joe Lawrence  |  September 04, 2014

Missourians from St. Louis to Independence to Joplin called on Gov. Jay Nixon to set the home care attendant minimum wage at $11 an hour. In news events in seven cities and through videos on social media, home care attendants, their consumers, and political and community leaders said poverty wages for such valuable work isn’t right.

The state’s Medicaid-funded Consumer Directed Services (CDS) program enables a better life for 30,000 Missourians who are elderly or with disabilities, and who cannot remain in their own homes and communities without assistance. CDS attendants provide that care and make the program work. Earning an average wage of $8.56 and working spotty hours, attendants themselves cannot make ends meet, leading to a high turnover rate that leaves consumers with uncertainty about their future.

Governor Nixon can raise the program’s minimum wage to $11 with the current state allocation. Home care agencies are given $15.56 for each hour of attendant service. On average nearly half of that is taken up in administrative costs.

The call for a raise was backed by lawmakers and community leaders.

“We all know someone who needs in-home care,’” Missouri Rep. Kevin McManus said. “’You know how important it is that that person is able to remain in their homes and stay connected to communities and to their family. I don’t think it’s too much to ask to give them a wage that provides them with the same level of dignity they provide consumers.’”

The Missouri Home Care Union bargaining team will resume contract negotiations on Sept. 17.

Don’t Want to be Evil? Drop ALEC

by Joye Barksdale  |  September 04, 2014

If Google wants to adhere to its “Don’t Be Evil” motto, AFSCME and other organizations are urging the Internet giant to stop funding evil and cut ties with ALEC, which pushes bills that advance corporations at the expense of working families.

ALEC brings state legislators together with corporate lobbyists to formulate legislation that busts unions, attacks voting rights and takes other extreme positions.

The coalition joins AFSCME with more than 50 unions and advocacy groups.

One of the groups, Common Cause, filed a complaint with the IRS in 2012 challenging ALEC’s status as a nonprofit charitable organization. The complaint says ALEC serves “as a vehicle for its corporate members to lobby state lawmakers and then deduct the costs of these efforts as charitable contributions.”

In a letter, the coalition reminds Google’s CEO, Larry Page, and other officers that hundreds of thousands of Americans signed petitions during the past year urging Google to cut ties with ALEC “because of their concerns about the harmful role ALEC has played in our democratic process.”

Just last month, Microsoft announced that it will no longer be a member or financial supporter of ALEC. That’s evidence of a growing backlash against the group. More than 90 companies and other members dropped their support for ALEC, including Coca-Cola and Pepsi, Kraft Foods Inc., General Motors and Walgreens. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation also ceased backing the organizing in 2012.

 

Shhh… Medicare Costs Are Going Down

by Ann Widger  |  September 04, 2014

Contrary to conventional wisdom, Medicare costs aren’t a budget buster. The nonpartisan budget scorekeeper, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), reported last week that Medicare spending is declining.

In its published report, the CBO looked at actual costs and updated projections.  Thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and its ongoing changes to the health care system, the United States will spend $9 billion less on Medicare in 2014 alone (that’s billion, with a B). 

Over time, the savings are expected to multiply. The difference between CBO’s current estimate for Medicare’s 2019 budget and the estimate four years ago is approximately $95 billion less.   Paul Krugman nails it by explaining this Medicare Miracle.

To put that figure into perspective, the $95 billion in savings is more than double the amount of funding for Army military and National Guard personnel in fiscal year 2014.

How much are we saving in terms of each Medicare beneficiary?   In 2019, the United States is projected to spend $11,300 in today’s dollars to care for each person on Medicare. That’s down from $12,700 since 2010, the year the ACA became law.

Good news alert:  This means lower costs for beneficiaries, too.

The truth is our nation can afford Medicare – now and in the future.  And that’s a good thing because Medicare works for all Americans.  It affirms our commitment to caring for those who worked a lifetime, earned its coverage and deserve the peace of mind it provides.

From Labor Day to Election Day, 'These People' Are Ready for Action

by AFSCME President Lee Saunders  |  August 31, 2014

This Labor Day weekend, millions of Americans will enjoy the final stretch of summer. Most won't think about the 1.6 million hardworking public service workers of AFSCME who are on duty 24/7. But evidence of what we do for our communities will be everywhere.

You will see it on your drive to the beach as you travel roads and bridges built by AFSCME members. You will find it when you head to a barbecue at the park maintained by city workers and kept safe by police officers. It's at the hospital where our nurses and technicians are on the nightshift, ready to assist you in an emergency. As proud public service workers, we make America happen on Labor Day and every day.

But no matter how vital we are to the success of every community, it hasn't stopped anti-union politicians from scapegoating us to advance their extremist ideology. Instead of taking responsibility for their own policy failures, they whip up the animosity of those who don't trust government, as if those of us providing valuable public services are the enemy.

Read the full article here »

A Whopper of a Tax-Avoidance Scheme

by Clyde Weiss  |  August 28, 2014

Next time you consider chomping into a Burger King Whopper, you might think about the bite this fast food giant is trying to take out of the American taxpayer.

The company announced it will purchase beloved Canadian coffee and donut shop chain Tim Hortons. That purchase could help it dodge its U.S. tax obligations, shifting its burden to the rest of us American taxpayers.

While the prospect of avoiding taxes and raking in higher profits may sound appealing to the company’s top brass, the rest of us know we’ll have to make up the difference, or do with less public service as the tax revenue pool shrinks.

Burger King is pursuing the purchase as a process called a tax inversion. That is, when a U.S.-based firm buys a company in another country, and relocates its corporate headquarters. Even if most of the company’s managers and employees remain in the United States, the firm can take advantage of the other country’s lower tax brackets.

It’s a decision that Walgreens recently mulled but dropped after American taxpayers came together in protest of the move. But since 1983, approximately 75 corporations abandoned America through inversion, and at least 10 more corporate inversions are currently underway.

AFSCME opposes these corporate tax evasion schemes. We are urging members of Congress to enact the “Stop Corporate Inversions Act of 2014” (S.2360), introduced by Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.). The measure would prevent U.S. corporations from claiming to be foreign companies unless they meet specified conditions. 

We also support the Bring Jobs Home Act, introduced by Sens. John Walsh (D-Mont.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.). The legislation would eliminate some tax incentives that corporate CEOs use to increase their profits by sending our jobs overseas.

To tell Congress to pass the "Stop Corporate Inversions Act of 2014," send them a message here!

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