by Jesse Berney | March 14, 2017
This article was first published in the Winter 2017 edition of AFSCME Works. Click here to download the full magazine.
Even in times of great change, some things will always stay the same.
Kids still need a ride to school on the bus in the morning. Garbage still needs to be cleared off the streets. Prisons need to be kept safe. Our cities and states still need dedicated public service workers who go out every day to ensure that our communities are healthy and strong.
That’s who AFSCME members are. And no matter what comes our way, that’s what we’ll always do. Like Rachel Cooper (Local 1644), who talks about giving hope through a meal to the Atlanta school children she feeds every day.
Or Officer Jonathan Cahill (Local 787, Council 93) of Boston, a former Marine who saved a man’s life when he rushed to the scene of a shooting even though he was off-duty.
AFSCME Members Stand Firm
Their commitment to helping their communities doesn’t change. AFSCME members never quit. But change is here and so are new challenges.
AFSCME members fought hard in 2016 to elect a president and candidates up and down the ballot with the same strong commitment to public service that we all share. We weren’t successful despite all our efforts, and now we face a vastly changed landscape for working families.
Some of the dangers we face are familiar.
We faced the threat of a Supreme Court decision that would weaken public service unions like ours, and would rob us of the power we have to bargain together for the wages and benefits we’ve earned. Now that threat has returned. A negative ruling by the Court in another case like Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Association, the case that threatened to turn every state into a so-called right-to-work state for public workers, would be enormously destructive.
Workers' Rights Under Attack
It’s not only right-to-work laws that could cost our families and communities dearly. The new administration is filled with officials who oppose workers’ rights.
We also face privatization, with our jobs given to contractors who try to squeeze a profit out of public services, doing less and paying their workers less. The overtime pay that was promised to millions of Americans may be lost. They’re threatening our health care, our public schools. Retirees are being targeted, too. “
Attacks against Medicare and Social Security are coming,” said Gary Tavormina, chair of AFSCME Retiree Council. “We have to be ready to fight against them."
Attacks on our right to bargain together and build better lives for ourselves and our families have been going on for decades. And no matter how much things change, one thing remains the same: AFSCME members will continue to fight for our fellow Sisters and Brothers.
We Are Stronger When We Stand Together
Our first and most important goal must be to organize to strengthen and grow our union. It is vitally important that every member of AFSCME recommit to supporting our Sisters and Brothers.
Those efforts are already underway. AFSCME Strong organizing has seen tremendous success in the past few years as we’ve added thousands of new members to our union.
In just one recent example, volunteer member organizers went to the unaffiliated Public Employees Union (PEU), Local 1, which represents more than 6,600 public service employees across communities in northern California. Local 1 embraced the AFSCME members who told them what it would mean to them to be part of the AFSCME family.
We are stronger when we stand together. The more we talk to our co-workers about sticking together in the union, the more opportunity we have to fight harder and secure our families’ futures.
And just as important, the more we stand together, the better we can serve our communities. No matter what challenges we face, serving the public will always be what unites us. Some things change, but that never will.
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