Public Service Workers Under the Worst Attacks Ever
Before the fall elections, our union was already facing great fiscal and political pressures. After the elections were over, we knew the anti-worker candidates who won in many states and the U.S. House of Representatives would make our situation worse.
(Photo Credit: Luis Gomez)
A Message from the President
Speaking to AFSCME activists, leaders and retirees gathered in December for the union's Public Pension Leadeship Meeting.
By Gerald W. McEntee
Before the fall elections, our union was already facing great fiscal and political pressures. After the elections were over, we knew the anti-union, anti-worker candidates who won in many states and the U.S. House of Representatives would make our situation worse. We were right. Today, these anti-public service zealots have proposed deep budget cuts to vital services, mass layoffs, cuts in public service workers’ pensions, jobs and benefits, and they’re trying to dismantle unions piece by piece.
Minnesota’s state Legislature is considering a bill to eliminate the jobs of 15 percent of the state’s workforce by 2015. In Ohio, newly elected Gov. John Kasich (R) wants to do away with collective bargaining rights for home health care and child care workers and curtail the bargaining rights of police officers and firefighters. He says public employees who strike over labor disputes should automatically lose their jobs. “They’ve got good jobs, they’ve got high pay. They get good benefits, a great retirement. What are they striking for?” says the governor.
A Full Assault
There’s more. Currently, there are pending bills against public employee collective bargaining rights in Colorado, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Oregon and Tennessee. Other states are threatening to follow suit. In addition, 10 states have introduced deceptively named right to work legislation with two more states expected to follow. Legislation to repeal everything from payroll deduction to health and safety measures is being introduced throughout the country, including Washington state, Michigan and New Jersey.
This is happening because the extreme right wing needs someone to blame for state and local budget shortfalls, the near-collapse of our economy and the loss of 15 million jobs. That’s much easier than pointing to the folks who put them in office — reckless, unregulated Wall Street millionaires.
Our Blueprint to Win
To put it plainly, we need to work like hell and pull out all the stops to correct the distortions and get state legislatures across the nation to defeat or table anti-labor bills.
That means talking to co-workers, neighbors, elected officials, and family members so they know exactly what’s at stake. Everyone needs to know that while we’ll battle anyone who tries to scapegoat us, at its core this struggle is about preserving vital public services and keeping communities strong.
We are bringing the full strength of our union together. The national union and affiliates are forming partnerships that are standing up to those who stand against us. And AFSCME is stopping lies about public employees through our new website, afscme.org/StopTheLies.
AFSCME activists are signing up for e-mail action alerts, getting informed and getting involved in battles across the nation. They’re joining afscme.org/mobile and receiving important information by text so they can connect with Congress on issues where our voices are needed most. On facebook.com/afscme and twitter.com/afscme, AFSCME is starting important conversations that are getting the facts out and setting the record straight.
Our activists are writing letters and posting comments to news stories that talk about public service workers. In every way possible, we are getting out the truth about hard-working public service workers.
The Bottom Line
Times are tough. No doubt about it. But there is also no doubt that AFSCME is tougher. That’s why we must increase our efforts at every level of the union. We must mobilize the power that comes from speaking with one clear voice. Each of us must be fully engaged in a unified effort for the good of every AFSCME member, for the good of working families and for the good of our nation.