by Tim Birch | November 25, 2013
West Haven, Ct. – The state of Connecticut recently dedicated a bridge spanning the cities of West Haven and New Haven to fallen AFSCME brother Robert Fumiatti, a New Haven police officer and member of Local 530 who died after he was shot in the line of duty. Nearly 200 people attended the ceremony.
Officer Fumiatti was shot while arresting a convicted felon and died five years later on Jan. 10, 2007. He was a six-year veteran of the New Haven Police Department and grew up in West Haven.
The West River Bridge connects Elm Street in West Haven with Kimberly Avenue in New Haven. The dedication in honor of brother Fumiatti is the result of work by Local 530 New Haven and Local 895 West Haven police unions, as well as AFSCME Council 15 on behalf of Officer Fumiatti and his family.
New Haven Mayor-elect Toni Harp, a former AFSCME member for the City of New Haven, joined officers and family members at the ceremony, as well as West Haven City Councilor-elect Sean Ronan, an active member of the Bridgeport Police Union, AFSCME Local 1159.
“I knew Bobby for 30 years,” said Lou Cavaliere, Jr., president of New Haven Police Local 530. “He was a great cop and a great father. He is greatly missed. This honor brings some closure to his family and is long overdue.”
Statement by Pres. Lee Saunders and Sec.-Treas. Laura Reyes on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women
by Lee Saunders and Laura Reyes | November 25, 2013
Washington, DC – Today we observe the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. It is a day to raise awareness and continue our fight against the global pandemic of violence against women.
As many as 70 percent of women worldwide experience violence in their lifetime, according to the United Nations. This problem is rooted in discrimination against women and persistent gender, legal and social inequalities.
Nineteen years ago, AFSCME supported passage of the Violence Against Women Act, a U.S. law that continues to make a real difference in the lives of many women in this country. Violence against women is a human rights violation that transcends national borders. Today the U.S. must continue to lead by example and we must renew our commitment to protect the safety of girls and women everywhere.
by David Patterson | November 25, 2013
Roughly 1,200 county employees in Illinois went on strike Monday, after management again refused to compensate them with fair wages or scrap a plan that would double employee health care costs.
In a last-ditch round of negotiations last week, representatives of the Will County, Ill., board did not budge from their demand that employees of Local 1028 accept a paltry wage increase after four years with no cost-of-living raise. Combined with the county’s demands on health care costs, management’s proposal amounts to a pay cut for many employees.
Today, 40 percent of Will County union members earn less than $30,000 annually.
County employees voted to authorize a strike more than a month ago, but made every effort to seek a compromise, even delaying a planned work stoppage to return to negotiations at the request of a federal mediator.
“County workers went above and beyond at the bargaining table, just like we do in serving our community every day,” Local 1028 Pres. Dave Delrose said. “Management refused to meet us halfway, demanding employees pay unaffordable costs for health insurance that would more than negate their paltry offer on pay. Management knew its demands would force a strike but still they refused to compromise.”
Current contract talks dragged for 15 months with little sign of compromise by county management and little involvement by the county executive.
AFSCME represents more than 1,200 employees in the county court system; health department; highway department; a local nursing home; county jail; and in the offices of the sheriff, coroner, recorder, assessor, clerk, chief judge, circuit clerk, executive and state’s attorney.
“The county executive and the county board leave us no choice but to strike for fair pay and health care we can afford,” Delrose said. “We want to work and serve the people, but management’s demands have gone too far for too long. We are united and ready to stand together for fairness as long as it takes.”
Stand with Will County workers by signing their online petition.
by Helen Cox | November 22, 2013
ENID, Okla. – Residents of this small town in the heart of the conservative southwest voted earlier this month to restore collective bargaining rights to city employees. It was a dramatic victory that put an exclamation point on a nearly 10-year campaign by the workers there.
City employees gained the right to collectively bargain in 2004 but lost it in 2011, when Gov. Mary Fallin took it away.
AFSCME members of Local 1136 spent the summer gathering signatures and getting an amendment to the city charter placed on the ballot. They showed their neighbors how the union fought for safer working conditions, a fair working environment, better efficiency and accountability. By walking door-to-door and calling their neighbors, AFSCME members were able to secure the votes they needed to win.
Much of the Enid community was already familiar with Local 1136’s charitable activities. The local raised $12,500 to help area charities with three annual car shows, contributed $2,000 to a veterans’ memorial, and regularly supports other community activities.
The International Association of Fire Fighters, International Association of Machinists, Fraternal Order of Police and American Postal Workers Union stood shoulder to shoulder with Enid city workers in the fight to regain their rights. This election marks the first time unions coordinated their activities with such laser focus. Now, local union members are staying better connected than ever before.
Since July, Enid City workers have been without a contract. Now, they can return to the bargaining table.
“It’s going to allow us the right to bargain with the city management over working conditions, give us a voice in the workplace, a voice for the citizens of Enid,” said Local 1136 Pres. Joey Breeze. “We’re out every day talking to them, hearing their concerns. It allows us to go back to management and say what citizens are saying and would like to see.”
by Karen Conner | November 21, 2013
Barre, Vt. – Dozens of Vermont home care providers recently launched their new union, AFSCME Vermont Homecare United Local 4802.
The founding meeting was the culmination of two years of organizing and hard work, including passage of state legislation recognizing the right of home care providers to join a union. AFSCME led the successful fight for the law signed in May. Local 4802 is the newest AFSCME local in a state where approximately one in every 100 Vermonters is an independent home care provider.
“It makes me feel good to be a part of something so big,” said Christine Connors, a provider from Winooski who attended the founding statewide meeting.
Since that day, home care providers moved quickly to build their union. AFSCME Vermont Homecare United won its union election in October in what was not only the largest organizing victory in the nation this year, but the largest organizing victory in Vermont state history.
The newly charted local is working quickly to elect its bargaining committee to negotiate its first contract.
“It was a good thing to get together and gather notes on what we should be looking for in the new contract,” said Lori Lovell, a provider from Goshen.
Mark Bernard, Council 93’s director of special projects, said, “It gave me goose bumps just being at the founding meeting.” Bernard and Jim Howell, AFSCME’s Eastern regional director, presented nominees for the new local’s bargaining committee with the charter of AFSCME Local 4802. The local’s number, 4802, is a tribute to the small state’s only area code, 802.
by Pablo Ros | November 21, 2013
Thousands of our AFSCME sisters and brothers who work for the University of California hospital system and campuses stood up Wednesday for patient safety and quality health care by demanding safe staffing levels at all worksites.
The strike followed one in May at which AFSCME members of Local 3299 went out on strike for two days demanding safe staffing levels and for hospital executives to put patients before profits.
As was the case then, AFSCME 3299 put in place a Patient Protection Workforce to respond in case of emergency during the one-day work stoppage. The walkout is taking place at UC hospitals in San Francisco, San Diego, Davis, Irvine, and Los Angeles, and in 10 campus sites statewide.
Local 3299 represents more than 22,000 service and patient care technical workers.
“Our members have both the legal right and moral responsibility to stand up for the safety of the students and patients we serve,” said AFSCME 3299 President Kathryn Lybarger, who is also an AFSCME International vice president. “By attempting to silence workers, UC hasn’t just repeatedly broken the law – it has willfully endangered all who come to UC to learn, to heal, and to build a better life for their families.”
Since the strike in May, frontline service and patient care workers have been subjected to a coordinated campaign of illegal intimidation and harassment by UC administrators. A complaint issued by the state’s Public Employment Relations Board chronicles this abusive behavior.
This week’s strike was led by UC patient care technical workers and service workers, as well as UC students and other workers joining in solidarity. It was supported by state senators Darrell Steinberg, Leland Yee, and Alex Padilla; and members of the state assembly including Shirley Weber, Nancy Skinner, Lorena Gonzales, and Richard Pan.
Local 3299 is calling on UC administrators to immediately cease their illegal campaign of intimidation against workers and to provide safe staffing levels that don’t compromise patient safety and care.
by Anders Lindall | November 18, 2013
CHICAGO – Belva Blakely has served as a community worker for nearly 10 years with the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s extension program. She teaches healthy eating in the school system, focusing on children under the age of 10. It’s crucial work in the age of skyrocketing childhood obesity rates.
But Blakely has difficulty supporting herself on the low wages she is paid, scrimping to get from paycheck to paycheck. The woman responsible for teaching others nutrition and healthy eating often can’t afford to go to the grocery store.
At the university, the wealthy are getting wealthier, while workers like Blakely are falling behind. That’s the findings from a new report demonstrating how the school's clerical and technical staff have seen their wages stagnate in recent years and now struggle to make ends meet, while compensation for the university's highest-paid administrators and staff continues to skyrocket.
The highest-paid university employee takes home more in an hour -- $817 – than the lowest-paid makes in two weeks -- $783. The lowest-paid university employee would have to work 96 years to earn what the highest-paid employee takes home this year alone
Other troubling findings from the report:
- More than 2,800 university employees are paid wages so low that they qualify for food stamps.
- 68 full-time university employees are paid less than the poverty level for a family of four ($23,550).
- The 50 highest-paid university employees are being paid an average $397,141 this year -- more than 19 times the average $20,348 paid to the 50 lowest-paid employees.
- These 50 highest-paid university employees have enjoyed an average 25-percent pay increase in just the past three years. The lowest-paid employees have had just a 3.8 percent raise over the same period.
- The total value of raises paid to just the top 1 percent of university employees since 2010 could have given the bottom 10 percent of lowest-paid workers a wage increase of more than $3,100 -- enough to lift them out of poverty.
- Wage inequality at UIUC disproportionately harms women, who comprise nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of the bottom 10 percent of earners.
"Big-name administrators and academic superstars couldn't function without the thousands of hard-working men and women who make the university happen," AFSCME regional director Jeff Bigelow said. "President Easter and the board must acknowledge and confront this growing wage gap and provide a decent standard of living for all university employees."
by Margitte Kristjansson | November 18, 2013
SAN DIEGO -- Affordable health care is a good thing. Ask one of the thousands of homecare providers in California – some of whom make only minimum wage and are able to get good health benefits for themselves and their families for the first time.
America’s homecare providers take care of family and community members—people with disabilities or illness, and the elderly—so that they can live with dignity in their own homes. And even though their job is to keep others healthy, many homecare providers were unable to go to a doctor themselves if they got sick.
Amy Day is one of those providers. She’s one of the 65,000 members of the United Domestic Workers of America (UDW), AFSCME Local 3930, a single mom and full-time caregiver.
For the first time ever, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) guarantees Day and her family health insurance that they can afford. California is one of the states that will participate in the Medicaid expansion, meaning that health care benefits are free for thousands more low-income families.
“I come from a huge family, so I know how hard it can be to find good health care on a budget,” Day said. “What this means for me is that my family can focus on preventative care and staying healthy.”
Nghi Huynh, a caregiver in Orange County, gave up his job at an acupuncture clinic to care for his elderly father who suffered a stroke six years ago. He has health insurance already, “but it is extremely limited and does not cover preventative care or my prescriptions,” he explained. “I am glad for the opportunity to have affordable insurance with better benefits.”
Because no one should have to choose between buying groceries and seeing a doctor, UDW has launched a statewide effort to help people sign up for health care through the ACA.
“We’re encouraging members to call our Member Communications Center to get started, and we trained our entire staff on what is available to our caregivers through the ACA,” said AFSCME International Vice President and UDW Executive Director Doug Moore. “We’re hosting telephone town hall meetings and in-person workshops in all of our counties.”
Many homecare providers, like Santa Barbara County’s Olivia Cardenas, have taken advantage of the Affordable Care Act workshops offered through UDW. “It’s great that our union is helping us through the enrollment process,” she said. Cardenas, who previously worked at Taco Bell and had no benefits at all, says that she and her husband are excited for the opportunities afforded to them by the ACA, adding “subsidized health care is so important to low-income workers and our families.”
The Affordable Care Act means that millions of working families have access to quality, affordable care—practically overnight. Earlier this month, AFSCME President Lee Saunders called attention to the misconception that unions are absent in the push to enroll Americans in health care.
“This couldn’t be further from the truth,” Moore said. “The Affordable Care Act is expanding access to health care for millions of Americans, and we are on the frontlines.”
by Clyde Weiss | November 18, 2013
In an effort to strengthen Social Security, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio is taking a leadership role by co-sponsoring a bill that will extend the life of the Social Security Trust Fund while increasing benefits for average Americans.
Brown announced last week that he is co-sponsoring the Strengthen Social Security Act of 2013 (S. 567), introduced by Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa.
“Seniors have spent a lifetime paying into Social Security, but as the cost of living continues to rise, the budgets of many are stretched to the breaking point,” Brown said. “That is why Congress needs to do more to ensure that our seniors receive the benefits they’ve earned so that they can continue to retire with dignity.”
The bill expands benefits, strengthening the program’s future, and makes retirement more secure for all Americans.
- Boosts benefits an average of $70 per month.
- Improves the annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) by tracking the real spending patterns of seniors. It gives more weight to health care spending and helps seniors keep up with the rising costs of medications and other essential health items.
- Improves the long-term solvency of the Social Security Trust Fund by asking wealthier Americans to contribute the same share of their wages as those in the middle class. That ensures that Social Security will be able to pay 100 percent of all benefits when it’s time for our children and grandchildren to receive them.
Help Senators Brown and Harkin ensure that those who depend on Social Security for retirement security will be able to get it. Tell Congress to “expand Social Security – not cut it.” Sign the petition here.
by Karina Hernandez | November 14, 2013
SANTA CLARA, Calif.— After a year of negotiating with their employer, members of United EMS Workers-AFSCME Local 4911 have secured a contract that improves working conditions and pay, maintains benefits, protects jobs, and allows them more time off with their families.
Members voted overwhelmingly to ratify the new two-year contract with employer Rural/Metro. The contract for the EMS workers must be honored even if the company changes ownership.
Faced with multiple hurdles at the table, the EMS professionals at Rural/Metro’s 911 division used the power of collective action to hold the company accountable to the promise of maintaining quality emergency medical services in Santa Clara County. With safety on the line, members took a strike authorization vote to underscore their commitment to achieving a safe and fair workplace through a contract.
The result: a contract that moves EMS closer to being a safe profession, whose workers are paid fairly.
“We knew it was up to us to hold Rural/Metro accountable,” said Martine Bustamante an EMT at Rural/Metro 911. “People’s lives and our safety were on the line.”
“Having democracy and participation at every level is what makes our union strong,” said Samantha Tennison, a Paramedic at Rural/Metro 911. “We’ve never been this united, and it made all the difference in negotiations.”