Thu, 20 Aug 2015 05:00:00 +0000 AMPS en hourly 1 AFSCME Blog Feed Recent posts on the AFSCME Blog. Fighting for Better Patient Care and R-E-S-P-E-C-T in Connecticut Thu, 20 Oct 2016 14:16:00 -0500 Despite aggressive opposition from hospital management, workers at two Connecticut hospitals can now proudly call themselves AFSCME members.

Custodians, maintenance workers, lab techs, nursing assistants and others employed at Danbury and New Milford Hospitals, both managed by the Western Connecticut Healthcare Network (WCHN), voted to join Connecticut Health Care Associates (CHCA/AFSCME) on September 1. They’re fighting for respect on the job — for their patients and themselves.

“The main thing we’re hoping to get in the contract is better staffing levels that would make things safer for us and the patients,” says Jessica Ellul, a patient care coordinator at Danbury. “I think people are excited to see a change. Now that they have a voice, people feel like they’re part of this hospital again. We’re hoping to build a better relationship with management.”

Management tried to spread misinformation and divide workers from one another in the lead-up to the election. But hospital workers didn’t waver from their convictions: safety and quality care must come ahead of profits.

“I want to work in a hospital that not only I, but our whole community can be proud of,” said Melissa Zipparo. Shirnette Noble says she voted for the union because “our work safety depends on it.”

Now that they’re officially standing together as a union, WCHN employees are ready to begin speaking up for better patient care and a fairer workplace.

Protecting Our Children Wed, 19 Oct 2016 12:44:00 -0500 Each year nearly a million children are abducted or run away. Many are never returned to their families. That’s a staggering statistic and one that our union can help to reduce.

AFSCME is partnering with the National Child Identification Program and the American Football Coaches Association to make our children's lives safer. This month, AFSCME members will receive a child identification kit that can be used to collect and store a child’s fingerprints and DNA. Completed kits should be stored at home in a safe place and only turned over to authorities in the event of an emergency. No one will have access to your child’s fingerprints or DNA without your permission. 

The kits will arrive with the Fall issue of AFSCME WORKS magazine and include instructions for use. It’s so easy to gather the information, and it could make all the difference in the future.

There’s nothing more important to AFSCME than the members who help keep their communities running and our union strong. And there’s nothing more important to us as parents and grandparents than our children and grandchildren. Through the use of the child identification kit, a parent or guardian can dramatically increase the chances that a missing child will be located and safely returned.

The fingerprint kit, DNA sample collector and fact sheet are kept by the parent or guardian in their personal records, but if needed — will give law enforcement agencies up to 80 percent of the information they need to initiate an immediate search when time is of the essence.

In teaming up with the National Child Identification Program, AFSCME joins several unions and dozens of community, faith and athletic organizations to make our communities safer. In addition to receiving one free kit, AFSCME members will have the option of buying additional kits at the specially negotiated price of $4.95, half the usual cost.

Watch your mailbox for a free child identification kit in the Fall issue of AFSCME WORKS magazine. A missing child is a parent’s worst nightmare, and we sincerely hope that once AFSCME members complete the kit, they’ll never have to use it.

As public service workers, we take pride in making our communities safer. If we all take a few moments to protect our families, we can help bring every missing child home safely. 

For kit instructions en Español, visit

Support Our Fallen Brother Wed, 19 Oct 2016 10:32:00 -0500 When shots rang out in downtown Fairbanks, Alaska, Sergeant Allen Brandt did just what you’d expect a trained law enforcement officer to do: He went toward the danger so he could protect others.

Sgt. Brandt put his life on the line, and was shot multiple times as he responded to the call. While the suspect fled the scene, Sgt. Brandt was rushed to the hospital and eventually flown to Anchorage to be treated.

It's moments like this where being an AFSCME member is most meaningful, because Sgt. Brandt has 1.6 million sisters and brothers behind him. Sgt. Brandt is a loving husband and father of four children, and an 11-year veteran of the Fairbanks police force.

He's also a member of PSEA Local 803, our brother, and that’s why AFSCME members are stepping up to support him.

Supporters have set up an online fundraising campaign to help Sgt. Brandt and his family through this difficult ordeal, and AFSCME members all over the country are stepping up to support a fallen hero and their brother in need.

You can join them by donating here.

Council 31 Members’ Message for Rauner: Come Back to the Table Tue, 18 Oct 2016 10:00:00 -0500 Illinois state employees — AFSCME Council 31 members — are featured in a new union ad campaign pressing Governor Rauner to return to the bargaining table after breaking off negotiations in January.

Recently an Illinois Labor Relations Board hearing officer recommended that the full Board reject Rauner’s contention that the parties are at impasse on wages, health care and other key issues, and require the administration to resume negotiations with AFSCME. 

The latest ad features a correctional officer, Alanea, who was injured in a recent attack by prison inmates.

“We had taken some contraband from an inmate’s cell, and when my lieutenant was explaining to him what we took, he just hit her, and then all the other inmates joined in,” says Alanea. 

“Every day when I’m getting ready for work, I wonder how the shift is going to go.  If we’re going to have a good day, and make it home, or if it’s going to go bad,” continues Alanea. 

While AFSCME Council 31 members have agreed to limit pay raises and pay more for their health care, Governor Rauner is demanding a four-year wage freeze and doubling employee costs for health care. That would amount to a $10,000 pay cut for the average state worker.

“We want to keep our health insurance, we want to keep our right to negotiate, we just want to do our job,” concludes Alanea.

Two Hundred-Plus County Employees Join AFSCME in Indy Mon, 17 Oct 2016 14:27:00 -0500 Some 230 Marion County employees in Indianapolis joined the AFSCME ranks, this summer, after newly elected officials granted their employees the right to bargain collectively.

Employees from the Marion County Clerk’s, Auditor’s, Assessor’s and Surveyor’s offices had worked without collective bargaining rights or raises for far too long. In fact, many have gone at least eight years without a raise. With newly elected, pro-labor Mayor Joe Hogsett taking office in 2015, county employees decided the time was right to form their union with AFSCME Council 962. AFSCME Council 962 organizers helped workers in the process by meeting with employees in each of the offices; identifying  supporters; answering  questions and concerns over meetings after work, at lunches and over phone calls and emails; and training key leaders. The result has been a success. A majority of the employees signed membership cards and each of the county offices voluntarily recognized AFSCME.

George FarleyGeorge Farley helped lead the organizing drive in the county Tax Assessor's office.

“It was exciting to organize our offices,” said George Farley, an accounting coordinator in the Assessor’s office and a member of the AFSCME bargaining team. “It was satisfying convincing people to join together and signing union cards, knowing that we are standing together to make our jobs better.”

Currently, the bargaining team is training and preparing to negotiate a first contract with the county, and AFSCME members are looking forward to founding their own local union.

“We’re looking forward to bringing everyone together into the local,” said Farley, a former UAW member. “So many of my co-workers don’t realize what it means to have a union. And that we, as members, are in control of it. We determine our leaders, our issues and how we spend our dues dollars. That’s going to be exciting to see.”

Keeping Our Children Safe Fri, 14 Oct 2016 13:03:00 -0500 Rebekah Wright works for the Ohio State School for the Blind. She’s worn different hats there, including a job in the music department, which is home to the nation’s only blind marching band.  “Those kids are absolutely amazing!” she boasts.

Wright, a maintenance repair worker for the school and member of the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association (AFSCME Local 11), cares about the children she serves and does her best to improve her community one day at a time.

Rebekah WrightRebekah Wright (Courtesy photo)

As a mother of three children who is married to a police detective, community safety is also a top priority for her. When her children’s school several years ago invited parents to fill out kits from the National Child Identification Program, she didn’t hesitate. “I thought it was a great way to keep track of my children in the event of a crisis,” she says. 

AFSCME partnered with the National Child Identification Program (NCIP) and American Football Coaches Association to provide free ID kits to all members nationwide. AFSCME members will receive a free ID kit with the fall issue of AFSCME WORKS magazine. The kits come with easy-to-follow instructions for collecting your child’s personal information, fingerprints and DNA. The completed kit should be kept in a safe place at home.

Peace of Mind

Phyllis Zamarripa’s children are all grown up. But when she learned that AFSCME was sending free child ID kits to all members, she thought of her grandchildren.

“I would feel safer if my daughters did it for their children,” said Zamarripa, a retired social worker who is president of Colorado AFSCME Chapter 76. “It sounds like it would be easier to find them wherever they were.”

Zamarripa said knowing that her children are prepared for a worst-case scenario gives her peace of mind.

Phyllis ZamarripaPhyllis Zamarripa (Photo by Bryan Kelsen)

“Most likely nothing will ever happen,” she continued, “and I don’t think parents need to live in fear that their children will be abducted. But the fact is, many children do go missing every day in our country, and there’s nothing written in stone that it can’t happen to you. So, why not be prepared and have peace of mind? Especially since it’s so cheap and easy to do.”

Better to Be Prepared

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, more than 460,000 U.S. children went missing in 2015. Some children run away from home, while others are abducted by family members or even strangers. The child ID kits from the NCIP, first distributed in 1997, have helped law enforcement in their search for missing children. Since the program began, more than 26 million kits were distributed. 

“Unfortunately, in this day and age, it’s better to be prepared,” Wright says. “Hopefully there’s never a crisis, but in the event that there is, you have everything compiled in one place to expedite the process in case a child goes missing.”

A completed ID kit can help law enforcement locate a missing child by providing key pieces of personal information, such as fingerprints and DNA. The FBI encourages participation in the program by law enforcement agencies across the United States, and recognizes the child ID program as its preferred method of child identification.

AFSCME arranged a discounted rate for additional kits for members. For instructions en Español, visit

Boycott Trump Thu, 13 Oct 2016 17:19:00 -0500 UNITE HERE, the hotel workers’ union, called for a national boycott of Donald Trump’s businesses. The Boycott Trump campaign urges customers not to eat, sleep, or play at Trump hotels and golf courses.

The Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas hired a “union avoidance” firm that is alleged to have intimidated workers who were attempting to organize with the Culinary Workers Union. Trump supervisors were alleged to have threatened and/or fired workers for wearing union buttons in the workplace. 

In February 2016, after the NLRB rejected Trump management’s election objections, the majority of workers at the hotel voted to join the Culinary Union, the largest affiliate of UNITE HERE. Yet hotel officials are stalling negotiations and have refused to recognize the union or negotiate a first contract.

The Department of Labor has cited Trump businesses around the country in dozens of cases for violations of wage and hour laws.

“Enough is enough,” said UNITE HERE President D. Taylor. “While Donald Trump waged an indefensible anti-worker and anti-immigrant Presidential campaign, the workers at his Las Vegas hotel fought for dignity and respect in their workplace. They voted to unionize, they won and now the law says Trump must negotiate.” 

Standing in solidarity with the Culinary Union, hundreds of community supporters, students and AFSCME and other union members picketed the Trump Old Post Office Hotel in Washington, DC, today.

AFSCME members also participated in a direct action at Trump Hotel Las Vegas last July in support of the hotel workers. “We are here and we are here to fight for them and we are AFSCME strong,” said Stephanie Wiley of Ohio OAPSE Local 4.

“At the hotel in the morning we chant ‘No Contract, No Peace! No Contract, No Peace!” said Eleuteria Blanco, a guestroom attendant at the Trump Hotel Las Vegas. Over 57,000 union workers in Las Vegas have fair wages, job security and good health benefits — in stark contrast to workers at Trump Hotel Las Vegas who pay up to $260 per month for their health insurance, and are paid approximately $3 less per hour in comparison to union workers on the Strip. “We’re not second class workers,” Blanco added.

“After a disgraceful anti-union campaign against their own workers, the hotel still refuses to negotiate with their employees,” said Geoconda Arguello-Kline, secretary-treasurer for the Culinary Union. “We call on allies and workers to stand in solidarity in a national boycott until Donald Trump, the ‘Great Negotiator,’ comes to the table.”

Kathryn Lybarger, International vice president promised AFSCME’s support. “AFSCME is proud to stand in solidarity with you,” she said. “As long as Trump continues to undermine basic fairness for working people, the 1.6 million members of AFSCME stand with the Culinary Union to urge Trump to treat his employees with respect and negotiate a fair contract.”

Gold Medal Parents Thu, 13 Oct 2016 13:31:00 -0500 During the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Dalilah Muhammad, a long-time New York resident, became the first American woman to win the 400-meter hurdles in a dramatic race, held during a driving rainstorm at Olympic Stadium. Dalilah led from the first hurdle and finished for the gold medal at 53.1 seconds.

Her victory came on the heels of a series of championship victories, several after coming back from an injury last year. Her determination is an inspiration for anyone with a wish and a goal in mind.

Upon her return home, Dalilah and three other Olympians were honored in a parade in Southeast Queens. In her acceptance speech for the award, Dalilah told the crowd, "After returning home, so many kids have come up to me, saying that they want to be like me. But my message is to strive to be 10 times better than me. That is how I won the gold medal. Don't have small dreams, set bigger goals to try to achieve."

But beyond the story of Dalilah Muhammad's rise to Olympic glory, there is a family as remarkable as she is — her own.

Dalilah's parents are committed public workers and members of DC 37, both having spent decades working for New York City in their respective roles, and are pivotal to the communities they serve.

Dalilah's mother, SSEU Local 371 member Nadriah Muhammad, has worked for 16 years at the Administration for Children's Services as a child protective specialist.

"My focus as a child protective specialist is following up and checking on families that have been through the system; I monitor to make sure the families are following the court mandates and that everything is going well."

As for the challenges she faces in her work, she explained, "While it is always difficult when working with families with children who sometimes do not always make the best decisions, for the most part the situations have been workable."

Building a Strong Spiritual Foundation

Dalilah’s father, Imam Askia Muhammad, is an administrative chaplain for Islamic Affairs for the Department of Corrections and a member of Local 299. A 26-year veteran of the department, he spoke of the importance of his vital prison work.

"My work involves supporting and monitoring all the Islamic programs at all the jails and Borough Houses in the Department of Corrections. I also work with adolescents and adults," he said. “We generally counsel, we teach, and instruct on religious matters with the inmates and that has had a very strong impact on the family."

Imam Muhammad explained the role of their Muslim faith in the upbringing of his and Nadriah’s family. " The children have been basically raised in the mosque, and have a very strong spiritual foundation,” he said. "We oriented our children and family — and the community — into really understanding Islam and how our faith works in our daily lives."

The family's firm commitment to public service continues. Another daughter, Jamilah, also serves in the Department of Corrections and her brother, Hassan, is a sergeant in the United States Army.

Before and After the Storm Wed, 12 Oct 2016 13:08:00 -0500 By midday, the middle of last week, Miami-Dade County residents began boarding up their windows, shoring up their homes, and buying supplies of water, flashlights and shelf-stable food. The county was preparing for the onslaught of Hurricane Matthew, a category 4 storm.

Hurricane Matthew had already ravaged the Caribbean — devastating Haiti and leaving hundreds dead. This was no storm to take lightly, with Florida officials warning residents to evacuate, and for those remaining — to prepare for the worst. But rather than hunker down in the safety of their homes to protect their own families, AFSCME members like David Diaz and his crew prepared to battle the storm and protect his community. 

Armed in heavy rain gear, Local 1584 member Diaz and his co-workers — skilled trash collectors — spent all of Wednesday and Thursday inspecting roadways. They made sure that fallen trees and other large debris didn’t harm local residents. The area received up to four inches of rain with winds averaging 120 miles per hour.

“We’d been on alert since early Sunday,” said Diaz. “I started early in the week inspecting smaller debris drop-off sites. Then during the actual storm, I made sure any large debris that had fallen wasn’t blocking areas or able to damage property or any of our residents.” Hurricane Matthew was a strong storm that did not hit as hard as was expected. But that didn’t stop Diaz and his fellow public service workers from being part of the preparedness, immediate response and recovery.

“There were many Miami-Dade AFSCME members out cleaning up and helping with the recovery,” said Diaz. “Our storm preparedness process works so well because of all of us, and it’s what keeps Miami-Dade County working!”

Sharp Hearts, Sharp Cares, Sharp Nurses Tue, 11 Oct 2016 14:51:00 -0500 SAN DIEGO — More than 300 nurses, health care professionals, clergy, students, union members and a lawmaker gathered last Thursday morning in solidarity with Sharp Healthcare nurses. Rallying in front of the San Diego Convention Center, the nurses drummed up community support for their attempts to improve worker retention in their workplace.

The nurses of UNAC/UHCP (affiliated with the National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees [NUHHCE]/AFSCME) are currently in negotiations with Sharp; however, those conversations are breaking down. Sharp nurses say worker turnover is high because their pay is significantly lower — by $8/hr to $15/hr — than what their peers at other area hospitals make. In just the first nine months of this year Sharp lost 509 nurses, reported ABC 10 News. Nurses don’t stay too long at Sharp, leaving behind demoralized and overextended co-workers.

Lorena GonzalezAssemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez proudly displays her support of Sharp Healthcare nurses.(Photo by Max Carbuccia, UNAC/UHCP)

“A 19-year Sharp nurse only makes what a two-year Kaiser nurse gets across town,” said Jackie Young, RN with 16 years at Sharp Memorial. “New grads come here just long enough to get the experience to move on. A lot of experienced nurses are pinning all our hopes on this contract. We love our patients and we love our co-workers, but at a certain point you have to make some tough decisions and think about you and your family’s future.”

Even Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (District 80) was on deck to lend her support. “I have been through this fight three times now with UNAC. There is nothing more important in this campaign than to ensure long-term union security,” said Gonzalez. “Because if not, I’m going to be back out here in three years fighting the same fight.”       

Sharp nurses aren’t rallying because their workplace is a bad environment — but because it is a good environment that could be great.

Says Jay O’Brien, RN, a seven-year employee of Sharp Memorial: “Sharp is a good place to work. We want it to stay a good place to work. All of us are really truly dedicated to Sharp.”

With profit margins at least double those of their largest local competitors, it makes sense for Sharp to invest in a plan to retain experienced, loyal employees.

“Everyone in San Diego sees the ads and infomercials for ‘The Sharp Experience,’” said Michelle Byers, RN, for Sharp Grossmont in the Cardiac Cath Lab. “We believe in Sharp’s ideals — but we wonder if Sharp’s executives do. Nurses know the reality at Sharp. We challenge Sharp executives to live up to Sharp’s own ideals.”

Sharp Nurses After rallying in front of the San Diego Convention Center, Sharp Healthcare nurses spread their message across the city skyline. (Photo by Russell Miller, UNAC/UHCP)
How Stronger Unions Could Fix Our Economy — And Our Politics Tue, 11 Oct 2016 13:13:00 -0500 Of the little we’ve heard, much of this election’s economic policy discussion has focused on what can be done about our historically slow growth, rising inequality, and decreasing social mobility. But neither candidate has focused on one no-brainer solution: strengthening unions.

That might seem a contentious statement in a country with decades of fraught relations between corporations and labor. But as a new report from the left-leaning Center for American Progress outlines, a stronger labor movement may be the quickest way to spur the sort of broad-based growth (via wage hikes) that we need to create a more sustainable, robust recovery.

“It’s become pretty clear that in order to raise wages and reduce inequality, the number one thing that we could do would be to increase worker power within our economy,” says David Madland, a senior fellow at CAP and the author of the study.

Strengthening unions might also have the knock-on effect of decreasing populism. At least some of the ugliness we’ve seen this election cycle has been rooted in rising inequality. Meanwhile, about one-third of the recent increase in wage inequality for American males can be attributed to weakening unions, according to research by Harvard and Washington University academics. A separate IMF study found that countries without unions see a 10 percent increase in the share of income that goes to the highest earners.

By contrast, the social benefits of unions stretch across generations. American children of fathers without a college education earn 28 percent more if their dad was in a labor union, compared to those whose fathers were non-union. In other words, the demise of American unions — only about 7 percent of private sector workers currently belong to one — has been a key factor in the rising wealth gap, but also in the sort of horrific, Hobbesian presidential politics we’ve seen over the past year. (Many economists see the wealth gap as a big reason why we aren’t enjoying a more sustainable recovery.)

The big challenge to revitalizing unions is moving beyond today’s system of labor law, which hasn’t been updated since 1935. Unions get a bad rap in the U.S. in part because most collective bargaining can be done only at a firm-by-firm level. That creates a race to the bottom away from higher-wage unionized firms. Yet there is a wealth of research that shows that when bargaining can be done at an industry level — the way it is in most other countries, including Germany, Sweden, Australia, and Canada, among others — you get higher national wages without sacrificing economic competitiveness. That’s because factors like labor representation on corporate boards and the ability to bargain collectively is associated with greater productivity levels, as management and labor are better able to work together to solve problems. (See here for an example of how this helped German companies gain market share against U.S. firms in the wake of the financial crisis.)

Such a drastic change won’t be easy. Reforming the National Labor Relations Board will require policy action. “Legal changes [to collective bargaining structures] have to come first – unions simply aren’t powerful enough right now to drive this change on their own,” says Madland. Yet there are already examples at the state and local level that show the potential of a new kind of labor movement. Think about the Fight for $15 movement in various cities, which has helped bolster low-end service pay across industries. It’s something that Hillary (fingers crossed) should make a top priority if she’s elected. It would help stabilize our economy — and our democracy, too.

(Originally posted on TIME Magazine’s website.)

California Public Workers Find Strength with AFSCME Wed, 05 Oct 2016 09:00:00 -0500 Six thousand public service workers represented by Public Employees Union (PEU), Local 1 voted last week to unite with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) — one of the nation’s largest public service worker unions. The affiliation will give public workers across eight Northern California counties a stronger voice to improve the vital services they provide their communities every day.

Local 1 Pres. Mike West, a printing services coordinator at Los Medanos Community College, said that he and his co-workers are excited to become part of a larger movement that is fighting to defend families and neighborhoods across the country.

"We don’t do this work for fame and glory. We do it to keep our communities strong,” said West. “Joining AFSCME helps make sure we have the tools we need to advocate quality public services for all.”

PEU Local 1 represents more than 6,000 public service workers in the region, including workers for cities, counties, community colleges, school districts, libraries, courts, Head Start and special districts that provide clean water and other services.   

Lynda Middleton has worked as a Head Start teacher in Contra Costa County for 21 years and serves on the Local 1 board of directors. She believes the affiliation with AFSCME will make her union stronger.

“We do the same work; we share the same issues. It makes sense that we stand together in the same union,” said Middleton.

Play “Feeding the Dragon” Recalls Life with Dad, a DC 37 Member Mon, 03 Oct 2016 14:19:00 -0500 Deep in the annals of the jobs we once did lies the New York City Public Library live-in custodian. Occupying a small apartment in the library with his wife, child and mother-in-law, George King Washington’s task was to keep the furnaces going.

The family motto was, “Don’t let that furnace go out.” It was grueling work requiring great strength as Washington shoveled coal into the large furnace in the basement of the St. Agnes Branch of the New York City Library. He kept it going 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

In the mid-1960s, Washington and his wife Connie lived at the St. Agnes Branch Library on the Upper West Side of Manhattan with their daughter Sharon, mother-in-law Cassandra and their dog Brownie. He retired, moved to South Carolina, collected his pension and passed away in 2006.

End of story, right? Not so fast.

Daughter Sharon Washington – story teller and actor, best known for her stage, film and television work with reoccurring roles on Fox TV’s Gotham (2014) and Law & Order: SVU – has chronicled her experience from inside the library and what it meant for her family in her play, “Feeding the Dragon.” In it, Sharon recalls her life running around the library after hours, endlessly reading and often “imagining who else held these books” that riveted her.

Her talents were recognized from an early age. In the second grade, the vice principal at her Upper West Side public school alerted her mother of her amazing academic ability and recommended sending her to Dalton, a private school for well-to-do families. While Sharon did receive a partial scholarship, the Washingtons scrimped and saved to afford the tuition.

Sharon describes the life of a little girl of “two worlds” – the haves and the family living in the library working to get by. Her classmates enjoyed extravagant, expensive private parties for their birthdays. For hers, she would have her best friends over to the library.

Families in Sharon’s economic situation relied on clinics and other social services for their medical care, but the Washington family enjoyed quality health care provided through George’s good union job. “As a child, I never went to a clinic,” Sharon recalled in an interview. “I had a regular doctor. When I went off to college, the doctor I had most of my life wished me well. I had a doctor because of DC 37,” New York City’s largest public employee union and an AFSCME affiliate.

Her father would always say, “It’s that union. They took care of everything,” Sharon recalled. “My father was really proud to be part of a union.”

When her father retired and moved to South Carolina, his union health insurance continued. Sharon said that was a “great relief” for her.

Asked why she decided to tell her family’s story now, through her play, Sharon said, “I want to preserve the history for me and everyone else.” Memories were fading even for her, she explained, and wanted to “keep the story alive” through her writing.

Her father’s story is an important part of the history of working families in New York City, one that far too few know about. If not for that job, her family may not have had a place of their own to live. If not for the children’s librarians reading to Sharon, she might never have become a storyteller.

Sharon’s play, “Feeding the Dragon,” will have its world debut at the Pittsburgh City Theatre in Pennsylvania, on Oct. 22, 2016. It is as if Sharon’s new furnace is the life and legacy of her loving union parents. Even though technology has rendered the coal furnaces and the live-in maintenance worker obsolete, Sharon remains committed to sticking to her family’s motto, keeping the story alive and not letting the furnace go out.

Workers and Community Stand United to Save Howard University Hospital Wed, 28 Sep 2016 15:04:00 -0500 On Saturday, hundreds of Howard University Hospital (HUH) employees and community members rallied to highlight the important role the hospital plays in the community. From providing healthcare to freed slaves during the Civil War to its current role as the  only teaching hospital attached to a historically black college or university, the HUH, formerly Freedmen’s Hospital, has a rich history of addressing the needs of under-served communities with high quality healthcare.

Attendees demonstrated their continued commitment to their community with free health screenings and information about the services available at HUH. Members of 1199DC National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees (NUHHCE), AFSCME, which represents over 600 workers, are working together with hospital management to enhance hospital operations and improve the quality of care for DC residents.

“The women and men who work in Howard University Hospital understand the significance of the vital services they provide to their community and are committed to preserving and improving them. We have worked with the hospital administration to turn around the hospital,” said Wanda Shelton-Martin, District 1199DC NUHHCE, AFSCME, area director. “It is important that we spread the word that the hospital is open and provides high quality care to the surrounding community.”

The hospital faced tough economic times, resulting in lay-offs. Shelton-Martin warned, “if the community doesn’t return to the hospital, they will continue to have cuts and eventually close. It would be a disgrace to the legacy of one of DC’s most important foundations to have it close and hurt the surrounding community.”

Emergency services in the District are outsourced and patients select where they want to be taken, unlike the rotating system that previously existed. Workers and management alike realized how important it is that the community know that top-notch services are available right in their own neighborhood. Following the rally, the union and hospital management intend to launch their next campaign ‘Take Me to Howard’ to encourage residents to choose HUH. Often EMS drivers pass HUH on their way to other city hospitals.

“If we are going to survive and preserve the amazing history of Howard, we must all come together,” said Henry Nicholas, president of NUHHCE and an AFSCME international vice president.

Presidential Debate Reaffirms Clinton as Choice for Working Families Tue, 27 Sep 2016 12:36:00 -0500 Working families across the country tuned in to watch last night’s presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, and what they saw should reaffirm their choice of Hillary Clinton for President of the United States.

In her answers, Secretary Clinton shared a vision for our country that is aligned with the values, hopes and economic interests of American middle class families. She would make the wealthiest in our nation pay their fair share of taxes to invest in the future of our communities; she would make college education more affordable and alleviate the burden of student loan debt; she would raise the federal minimum wage and add protections for workers who have no paid sick days or parental leave.

“The central question in this election is really what kind of country we want to be and what kind of future we'll build together,” she said. “Today is my granddaughter's second birthday, so I think about this a lot. First, we have to build an economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top. That means we need new jobs, good jobs, with rising incomes.”

Trump, by contrast, would give the very rich a tax break, promoting a failed theory that when the rich get richer the rest of us somehow benefit as well. Called trickle-down economics, it’s a failed theory that has contributed to income inequality over the past three decades.

“I don't think top-down works in America,” Secretary Clinton said. “I think building the middle class, investing in the middle class, making college debt-free so more young people can get their education, helping people refinance their debt from college at a lower rate. Those are the kinds of things that will really boost the economy. Broad-based, inclusive growth is what we need in America, not more advantages for people at the very top.”

AFSCME members support Hillary Clinton because she is committed to fixing our out-of-balance economy and to raising incomes for hardworking people. We want a President who will make it easier instead of harder to join together in strong unions and stand together for wages and benefits that can sustain our families.

Hillary Clinton will tackle the issues that affect ordinary Americans’ quality of life, and last night’s presidential debate reaffirmed that. She shares AFSCME’s values and is a proven champion for working families.

Corporations Rake in Profits, so Trump Wants to Lower their Taxes. Huh? Mon, 26 Sep 2016 15:36:00 -0500 Even though corporate profits are way up, taxes collected on those profits are at near record lows, according to research compiled by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) and Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF). This is a recipe for damaging the nation’s economic wellbeing at a time when we need to lift the middle class the most.

Tax loopholes allow corporations to both rake in tons of money and decrease the tax they pay on those profits. Among the biggest loopholes, according to EPI and ATF, is a legal scheme called deferral. Through it, “American multinational corporations can indefinitely postpone payment of taxes owed on profits held offshore.”

The EPI/ATF report said corporations stockpiled $2.4 trillion in profits in foreign subsidiaries. Just four companies – Apple, Pfizer, Microsoft and General Electric – control one-quarter of those profits,” the report states.

If taxed in the U.S. those offshored profits would add $700 billion to the national treasury.

Corporations Rake in Profits, so Trump Wants to Lower their Taxes. Huh?

“These large multinational corporations can certainly afford to pay the taxes they owe,” said EPI budget analyst Hunter Blair.

Yet billionaire real estate mogul and Presidential candidate Donald Trump wants to give himself and his corporate buddies an even bigger tax break. Under Trump, the corporate tax rate would be cut from 35 to 15 percent. That would reduce federal revenue by $1.9 trillion over the next decade, reports The New York Times.

Why should we care?

“When corporations avoid paying billions of dollars of U.S. taxes they would otherwise owe, the tax burden on responsible corporations and citizens is unfairly increased,” states a resolution passed at AFSCME’s national Convention this July.

Trump says he wants to help working families, but in the topsy turvey world of Trumponomics, it’s the wealthiest Americans and corporations whose profits are already at record high levels that would profit the most from his ill-conceived tax-cutting scheme, according to EPI’s Blair.

The EPI/ATF report is a wake-up call for voters and lawmakers who think Trump’s plan to slash the corporate tax rate is the solution for the nation’s economic ills. In reality, it will only add to them.

Your Newest Union Benefit: Free College Fri, 23 Sep 2016 13:24:00 -0500 Working families are getting squeezed in all kinds of ways these days, but few expenses are more frightening than higher education. Whether you’ve got kids graduating high school or you’re looking to move forward in your own career, you’ve probably wondered how you’ll manage to keep up with skyrocketing tuition costs.

There’s less to worry about thanks to a new benefit for AFSCME members and families. Starting this summer, every member or retiree member, as well as spouses, children, grandchildren and dependents of AFSCME members, can earn a two-year degree online for free. That’s right — free college just for being a member in good standing.

Flexible Options for Working Families

AFSCME is partnering with Eastern Gateway Community College to provide all members and families access to their classes online. Eastern Gateway is an accredited, non-profit public institution with campuses serving eastern Ohio, but AFSCME members can enroll in the distance learning program from anywhere in the country. Right now you can earn an associate degree in Business Management or Criminal Justice, or you can complete an Associate of Arts program that can be transferred to a four-year college.

The enrollment process is simple. Just visit and verify your AFSCME membership. From there, you can fill out a simple Eastern Gateway application form and an online financial aid form. You will be contacted by an enrollment advisor to help you with any questions you may have about enrollment. You may also contact your local or council. AFSCME members around the country are being trained to help one another through the process.

This program has been running in Ohio for a year now, and hundreds of AFSCME members and their families are already taking advantage of it.

Beverly Payne, a member of Local 416, OAPSE/AFSCME, has been working full time as the secretary and transportation coordinator for a preschool for 30 years. She spends her days helping children get a start on learning. But her own educational goals were on the back burner until now.

“I had wanted to go to college a long time ago, but with four children I never had time,” she says. “When I heard about this program I decided to finally get my degree at 71 years old.”

Learning Without the Price Tag

Payne wasn’t sure how she’d adjust to student life after 50 years in the workforce. But the program allows her to take one class at a time, and her professors have been very supportive. The online, self-paced classes offered in the program are broken into two eight-week sessions each semester.  She’s acing her classes so far — and her positive experience has encouraged her family members to enroll, too.

“My daughter is enrolled right now, and another daughter is looking into it, as is my granddaughter,” she says. A third daughter has her bachelor’s degree but is thinking of taking additional courses to further her career.

The Department of Education estimates that the average associate’s program costs $3,440 per semester. It would ordinarily cost tens of thousands of dollars to put six family members through school — but thanks to AFSCME, Beverly Payne can do it simply by keeping up-to-date with her union dues.

“Public service workers are passionate about their jobs. They strive to do better for their families and their communities, and they want their union’s help to grow personally and advance professionally,” said AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders. “We know the important role education plays in the lives of so many working-class families — helping them learn new skills and climb the ladder of opportunity. This partnership will help public service workers and their families prosper, and live their best lives.”

AFSCME Free College
Standing Strong in Illinois Thu, 22 Sep 2016 11:46:00 -0500 Glenn Sago has been fighting for his union rights for 10 years, and he’s been through plenty. “It’s a lot of work,” he said. “It’s all worth it to know that your rights will be respected. I became a steward to stand up and make sure the contract was followed.”

But he’s never seen anything like the current situation in Illinois, where he works for the state in law enforcement support services.

Since Gov. Bruce Rauner was elected in 2014, AFSCME members there have been under fire like never before. “I’ve done negotiations with the previous governor, but this is a different battle,” says Sago, an executive board member at Local 448 (Council 31) in Rockford who also serves on the state bargaining committee.

The list of attacks is unprecedented. The governor has held the budget hostage for more than a year, blocked the state from fulfilling its promise to issue back pay to thousands of state workers, and wants to double health care costs and freeze wages for four years to implement his extreme agenda.

AFSCME Council 31's bargaining team members have told the Rauner administration repeatedly that they want to continue bargaining, but he walked away from the table in early January, seeking instead to impose his extreme demands. It seems reasonableness, compromise and collaboration are not in the governor's playbook. He's a billionaire bully, blaming the state's budget situation on working families and contending state workers make too much when, in fact, politicians in Springfield mismanaged the state's funds.

We Won't Back Down

In July, the state Labor Relations Board rejected Rauner's attempt to fast-forward a hearing process that will decide whether the parties are ordered to resume bargaining. Roberta Lynch, Council 31's executive director and an AFSCME International vice president, applauded the decision.

“We have been and remain ready to return to the bargaining table, to do the hard work of compromise,” Lynch said. “We want to reach an agreement that is fair to all. The fact that the Rauner administration pushed for this unprecedented short-circuiting of board procedures demonstrates just how fiercely determined the governor is to try to impose his own harsh terms on state employees.”

In the face of Rauner’s anti-worker agenda, Sago and his colleagues are working harder than ever to connect with their co-workers, face-to-face. These conversations are a powerful tool against Rauner’s misinformation campaign.

“Every time Rauner makes statements about us, we are out talking to members and telling them the truth,” said Sago.

National Support

AFSCME members nationwide are standing in solidarity with their sisters and brothers in Illinois. “Council 31, your fight is our fight,” Pres. Lee Saunders declared during his keynote address at AFSCME’s 42nd International Convention in July. “Your struggle is our struggle.”

Thousands of Convention delegates agreed. They voted to “stand in solidarity with AFSCME Council 31 members in state government who are directly confronting one of the most fiercely anti-union governors in the country today.”

Members of Council 31 are ready to meet whatever challenges come next. “We’ve stayed the course this long,” said Sago. “We’ve fought over a year and a half at the bargaining table and in the Legislature. It may get to the point that we have no choice but to go on strike, but the members have to vote and make that choice.” 

Over 10,000 Rally in Illinois, Demanding Governor Rauner Stop His Hostage-Taking Ten thousand rally in Springfield, demand Governor Rauner stop hurting Illinois. (Photo by David Kreisman)
Just Doing My Job Wed, 21 Sep 2016 13:34:00 -0500 It was a clear, sunny September day when the unthinkable happened. But for Maryland school bus driver Renita Smith, the unthinkable was something she was well-prepared to handle.

Smith, a member of Local 2250 (ACE-AFSCME in Prince George’s County), had just made her third stop of the afternoon, dropping students off at their homes. Then, she said, “My bus started making noise,” and she prepared to pull over and notify her office. It appeared to be an inconvenience, but not a life-threatening emergency.   

That’s when she began to smell smoke. And the children did too.

“Miss bus driver! Miss bus driver! We smell smoke!” her students cried out, Smith said. “Miss bus driver, we see smoke!”

Smith immediately pulled over, seeing flames in her rearview mirror. Calling in to her supervisor wasn’t going to help solve this crisis. “I put my radio down and got my babies up and in a straight line in the aisle. I had them hold hands.”

As the fire intensified, Smith led all 20 children safely off the bus and to a neighbor’s yard away from the smoke and fumes. Smith then did the incredible. She went back onto the bus — its windows melting around her — checking every aisle for a sleeping child, making sure all of them had gotten off.

“There wasn’t a bus attendant with me that day to do the count,” she explained of her heroism. “So I knew I had to go back on the bus to make sure I got all my babies.” Because that’s what her instincts and training told her to do.

That’s the “never quit” spirit that AFSCME members bring to their jobs every day, whether they’re bus drivers, first responders or other public service workers. And they do it without expectation of special recognition.

“I was just doing my job and what’s expected of me,” said Smith, herself a mother of two. “Serving my community means that you’re not being selfish. You’re thinking of how to do something for others and not expect anything in return. For God to give me a supernatural power to do what I did and save those babies, I pat myself on the back and say, ‘Job well done.’ I’m proud because my babies are all home.”

And we’re proud she’s a member of our AFSCME family.

Burned school bus The charred remains of driver Renita Smith’s school bus. (Photo by Kevin Kennedy, Local 2250/ACE-AFSCME, Prince George’s County, Maryland)
Your Vote: Protect Your Power Wed, 21 Sep 2016 11:00:00 -0500 Fighting for justice and fairness is a part of AFSCME's DNA. Throughout our history, our sisters and brothers fought for workers’ rights, women’s rights and immigrants’ rights, among others, to advance justice for working families in our union and around the country.

So it’s no surprise AFSCME supported the Voting Rights Act (VRA), signed by Pres. Lyndon B. Johnson in August of 1965, to erase barriers that prevented Americans from exercising their right to vote.

Yet 51 years after this landmark law, some politicians still seek to drag us back to the old days.

This will be the first Presidential election in 50 years without the full protections of the VRA, thanks to a Supreme Court ruling that said a provision of the VRA was no longer necessary. And a rash of voter ID laws enacted to combat so-called voter fraud quickly followed that ruling. The result could be more requirements for people to vote, fewer days of early voting, long lines at the polls on Election Day and more voters turned away.

Labor Rights and Voting Rights: the Same Fight

Voter ID laws make a mockery of our democracy. As Rev. Dr. William Barber said so powerfully during his address to AFSCME delegates at the 42nd International Convention in July, “…labor rights and the fight for voting rights are the same fights.”

At AFSCME we don’t let injustice go unaddressed.

Quentin Hutchins of Local 1644 is a school bus operator in Atlanta. But that’s not all: He also sees the effects of Georgia’s voter ID laws, one of the strictest such laws in the country, and is speaking out.

“Thousands of voters were given the wrong information about where to vote,” Hutchins told the assembled delegates at Convention, adding some who arrived at the correct voting site were not allowed to vote, even if they were in line before the polls closed.

Hutchins won’t allow attempts to silence his family, friends and neighbors. And we shouldn’t either. We need to make our voices heard against voter ID laws. That’s why delegates at Convention passed a resolution calling for the expansion of voting rights throughout the country.

Voter Fraud Is a Myth

Let’s be clear: Voter fraud is a myth.

The facts back it up: The Department of Justice found “no apparent cases of in-person voter impersonation” when it reviewed its databases and other sources. Academic studies, investigative reports by journalists and court rulings draw the same conclusions.

Appropriately, the courts have blocked some of these voting restrictions. A federal appeals court recently struck down North Carolina’s voter ID law, saying the state’s General Assembly enacted it after “unprecedented African American voter participation in a state with a troubled racial history and racially polarized voting.”

Similarly, a federal court found Texas’ voter ID law violated the VRA. North Dakota’s voter ID law was blocked by a federal judge who said it unfairly burdened Native Americans. And a Kansas judge blocked the state’s two-tier voting system, which required proof of citizenship to vote in local and state elections, but not in federal elections.

Our Democracy’s Sacred Cornerstone

The right to vote is the sacred cornerstone of our democracy. It is your voice. And your vote should be exercised unimpeded.

“We cannot sit silent while the forces against us try to chip away at the progress that was made,” Hutchins said.

He’s right. AFSCME members fight for what is right. That’s our tradition.

Meet AFSCME’s Never Quit Innovation Award winners Tue, 20 Sep 2016 12:00:00 -0500 As AFSCME members, we’re committed to providing the best possible public services for our communities. That commitment is reflected in the creative ideas and innovations we bring to our jobs, making our communities even better.

Innovation sometimes means sticking your neck out to offer a new solution to a problem that nobody else has thought of, and it can be risky. But the rewards — in the pride that comes from finding ways to bring public services in-house, makes the risks worth taking. Through their innovations, AFSCME members have earned the respect of their employers and their neighbors.

Innovation not only makes our communities better, it makes our union stronger. That’s why we’re honoring four of our sisters and brothers with AFSCME’s first-ever Never Quit Innovation Award. It honors members who have made a difference to their union, their community and even to their state — and beyond.

Saving Lives

Melvin N. Puu Melvin N. Puu

As a lifeguard and surfer in Hawaii, Melvin N. Puu’s job is to save lives, and he’s saved many. Because saving lives is his calling, he helped create an innovation that will save thousands of lives worldwide.

Oahu’s North Shore has the reputation of having some of the biggest waves in the world, and the surfers who tackle them face serious injury and even death without quick rescue. Watching surfers being knocked off their boards, Puu — alongside a group of other “big wave” surfers and lifeguards — helped pioneer the development and use of personal rescue watercraft.

Their innovative and life-saving idea: attach a “boogie board” to a WaveRunner, produced by the Yamaha Motor Company. They also developed a rescue program and advocated in court for permission to use jet skis in rescues conducted by public lifeguards.

They succeeded. By 1991 the city and county of Honolulu made the use of rescue craft part of its daily operations. Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi also became interested in using the techniques and equipment as a public service. In 2014, the Ocean Safety Division launched the service with a $320,000 budget.

Today, Puu is a water safety officer for the City and County of Honolulu's Emergency Services Department, working in the Ocean Safety Division on Oahu. His union, the Hawaii Government Employees Association (HGEA)/AFSCME Local 152, represents the state’s lifeguards. He is HGEA’s Unit 14 director. And Puu's dedication to water safety doesn't end at Hawaii shores.

Puu helps train lifeguards in the use of the watercraft in rescues, at home and around the world.

Building Unity

Terry Magnant Terry Magnant

Who would have thought that gardening would strengthen a union?

Terry Magnant did.

A certified nursing assistant (CNA) working at the Wisconsin Veterans Home at King, Magnant saw her union devastated after Gov. Scott Walker succeeded in 2011 in stripping away the rights of public service workers to come together in union to negotiate collectively.

Membership declined in the wake of Walker’s destructive Act 10. Magnant knew she needed to keep her sisters and brothers in Local 555 (Council 32) united. They joined together, and as a group they were able to beat back unilateral scheduling changes.

Magnant, who became the local’s president in 2014, then came up with her innovative idea to maintain her co-workers camaraderie: gardening.

So last May, Local 555 members dug in — literally — to revitalize a long-neglected garden on the grounds of the Veterans home. They pitched in to buy and plant hundreds of new perennials. They created a garden that has since come into its second season.

Magnant and her fellow members of Local 555 continue to work with pride to maintain and revitalize the garden. It’s the same way they work with pride to keep their union flourishing — an innovation that has sprouted its own blossoms in a garden of public services.

Safety First

Eric Wisner Eric Wisner

Necessity is often the mother of invention — and so it was for St. Louis sanitation worker Eric Wisner.

Wisner, a heavy equipment operator II in the city’s Refuse Division, sits on the city’s Accident Review Committee/Safety Steering Committee. With 17 years of experience under his belt, he is uniquely qualified to see shortcomings that could lead to injury or death on the job.

As a steward of Local 410 (Missouri Council 72), Wisner is always on the lookout for safety measures to protect his co-workers. Realizing that newly hired employees in his division lacked an adequate training program, he innovated.

In 2014, Wisner led an effort to improve the city’s training program to more safely, efficiently and effectively collect commercial and residential refuse. Today, new hires get two weeks of training on equipment they must operate, and more for more complicated operations.

This year, he also led negotiations to win a 10 percent bonus for workers in training.

Wisner and his fellow AFSCME members work relentlessly to improve safety and increase fairness within his division. That effort involved building strength on the job through organizing, then using that strength in innovative ways to improve the vital public services they provide.

Doing It Better, Smarter

Barbara Cooper Barbara Cooper

West Chester University custodian Barbara “Bunnie” Cooper didn't give in to outsourcing — she fought back.

Cooper knew that the employees of her eastern Pennsylvania campus could do their work better and for less money than companies hired from outside. She set about to prove it.

As president of Local 2345 (Council 88) and treasurer of Council 13, Cooper understood the threat that outsourcing (sending jobs to an outside company) posed to her co-workers and fellow AFSCME members. Many were already unhappy that the university often hired outside of the system, rather than promote from within. Now their work was on the line.

It was time to take matters into their own hands. So Cooper identified work slated to be outsourced — including carpentry, heating and air conditioning and cement repair — and had her co-workers select which projects they would like to do. Then she gathered the evidence needed to persuade the university to let her co-workers carry out the work.

The university agreed. Cooper and her co-workers saved the university considerably, even with overtime. In 2015, they saved more than $250,000 on projects that would otherwise have been outsourced.

Lighting Up Las Vegas Tue, 20 Sep 2016 12:00:00 -0500 Never Quit. That’s the spirit of AFSCME members. It’s who we are — proud, resilient hard workers who get up early and stay up late to keep our communities running.

At our 42nd International Convention this summer, that Never Quit spirit was downright electric, with enough wattage to light up the entire Las Vegas Strip. Several thousand delegates and alternates convened to strengthen public services and our union, preparing to fight for a better future for all working families.

We voiced our solidarity with AFSCME members in Illinois, passing a resolution denouncing virulently anti-worker Gov. Bruce Rauner, who has made the annihilation of labor unions his number-one priority. We pledged the national union’s support in the event of a strike.

We also passed a resolution in support of our sisters and brothers in Puerto Rico and their pension and labor rights. We passed a resolution demanding a Senate vote on U.S. Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland. And recognizing the importance of two of the nation’s most powerful union’s collaborating together more closely, delegates passed a resolution embracing greater coordination between AFSCME and SEIU on organizing, political and communications efforts.

We also announced the AFSCME Free College Benefit. AFSCME members, their families and retirees can now obtain an associate degree online — at no cost.

Why We’re with Her

It’s not every day you get to be in a room with the next President of the United States and hear her share a vision of an economy that works for everyone. It was an honor to welcome Sec. Hillary Clinton to our Convention, to hear her speak with passion about her plans to stand up for working families.

“I can’t imagine how we could run our country if we didn’t have people like you,” she told us, promising, “I will be by your side in this fight every step of the way.”

AFSCME members nationwide will work their hearts out this fall, pounding the pavement to ensure she wins. No question about it: We’re with her.

We have to be. Consider the alternative. This election is a choice between an unstoppable champion and an unstable charlatan. Hillary Clinton is a champion for the middle class, for union rights and equal pay, for affordable health care and retirement security. Donald Trump is a scam artist and hatemonger, whose agenda will destabilize our economy and our country.

We didn’t leave Las Vegas without getting in Trump’s face. He refuses to negotiate a union contract with employees at the Trump International Hotel. So AFSCME went out in the blistering desert heat to rally with our sisters and brothers in Culinary Union Local 226 and Bartenders Local 165, saying loudly and clearly that you don’t make America great by busting unions and attacking working people.

Trump has since settled a dispute with two culinary workers, and the National Labor Relations Board has reaffirmed the union rights of Trump's Las Vegas employees.

“What Happens Here…”

You know the famous Las Vegas slogan: “What happens here, stays here.” Well, not in our case. Because what happened at our Convention — a renewed commitment to our union, to never quit fighting for our rights, for public services, and for each other — doesn’t stay there. It comes home with us. We will bring it to life every day in our communities.

Keeping Our Children Safe Mon, 19 Sep 2016 07:07:00 -0500 Rebekah Wright works for the Ohio State School for the Blind. She’s worn different hats there, including in its music department, which is home to the nation’s only blind marching band.

“Those kids are absolutely amazing!” she boasts.

Wright, a maintenance repair worker for the school and member of the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association (AFSCME Local 11), cares about the children she serves and does her best to improve her community one day at a time.

As a mother of three children who is married to a police detective, community safety is also a top priority for her. So when her children’s school several years ago invited parents to fill out child identification kits from the National Child Identification Program, she didn’t hesitate.

“I thought it was a great way to keep track of your children in the event of a crisis,” she says.

AFSCME is partnering with the American Football Coaches Association and National Child Identification Program to provide free ID kits to all of our members nationwide (they will be mailed with the next issue of AFSCME WORKS magazine). The kits come with easy-to-follow instructions for collecting your child’s personal information, including fingerprints and DNA. The completed kit should be kept in a safe place in the home.

A Close Call

Dianne Glasco’s children are all grown up. But when she heard that AFSCME was sending free child ID kits to all its members, she thought of her three young grandchildren.

“I would feel safer if my son and daughter did it for their children,” says Glasco, a member of AFSCME Local 3400 (Council 5). “It sounds like it would be easier to find them wherever they were.”

As a child care provider for 11 years, Glasco knows a thing or two about keeping children safe. She works out of her home, where the older children play in an outdoor fenced-in area. From a deck by the kitchen window, she can both keep an eye on the older kids while keeping an ear out for the little ones napping inside.

One day, some of the children were playing outside when a man showed up riding a bicycle. He was a father of one of the children. The child’s parents were divorced.

“He just showed up out of the blue to take the child,” Glasco says. “He wasn’t supposed to be there. And he would have taken the child if I had just gone inside to get water a few minutes before. I had to call the police. It was scary!”

‘It’s Better to Be Prepared’

It is estimated that as many as 800,000 children are reported missing in the United States each year. More than half of these children run away from home, while others are abducted by family members or even strangers. Child ID kits can help law enforcement locate a missing child by using key pieces of personal information contained in them. The kits are also the FBI’s preferred method of child identification.

More than 26 million kits have been distributed since the program began in 1997.

“Unfortunately, in this day and age, it’s better to be prepared,” Wright says. “Hopefully there’s never a crisis, but in the event that there is, you have everything compiled in one place to expedite the process in case a child goes missing.”

In partnering with the National Child Identification Program, AFSCME joins several unions and dozens of community, faith and athletic organizations to make sure that every family is prepared and every child is brought back home. It’s easy to gather your child’s or grandchild’s information—and it could make all the difference in the future.

15 Years Ago: Remembering 9/11 First Responders and Victims Sun, 11 Sep 2016 09:00:00 -0500 As we pause to reflect on the tragedy of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks 15 years ago, let’s not forget that of the nearly 3,000 lives lost – in New York City, Washington, DC, and Shanksville, Pennsylvania – more than 400 were first responders who placed their own lives at risk to save others.

Many first responders and other workers who rushed to Ground Zero to rescue victims and clear debris survived the initial attacks, only to be struck down later with illnesses – and death – related to the lead, asbestos and other toxic materials they breathed after the towers collapsed.

The victims included James Zadroga, a New York City Police Department (NYPD) officer and 34-year-old father of a 4-year-old girl. He died after inhaling toxic substances during the hundreds of hours he spent at Ground Zero searching for victims’ remains. The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, named in his honor, is the most important of the programs created for victims in the aftermath of 9/11.

AFSCME fought hard for the Zadroga law’s renewal. Congress voted last December to extend the program so that people will continue to receive monitoring and treatment for 9/11-related health problems for the next 75 years.

AFSCME’s DC 37 – whose office sat in the shadow of the World Trade Center – was a leader in the campaign to create and renew the Zadroga law, as well as other health support programs.

Several AFSCME DC 37 members and first responders died in the attacks. One of the first was Father Mychal F. Judge, 68. A New York Fire Department chaplain (Local 299), he rushed to the World Trade Center after the first hijacked plane struck it. “Father Mike,” as friends called him, was killed by falling debris while administering last rites to a mortally injured firefighter.

Five members of Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA)/AFSCME Local 1000 also perished that day. They were employees of the state Office of Taxation and Finance, based at the World Trade Center.

For more about AFSCME first responders and other members in New York in the aftermath of the attack, click here.  Also, visit to view the video, “We Remember 9/11: A Decade Later,” honoring the workers who responded to the terrorist attacks, and in the aftermath.

AFSCME salutes the first responders to any natural disaster or human attack. They never quit serving their communities, even at the risk of their own lives. They are true heroes, doing what they do every day not because of a paycheck, but because it is a calling.

Thank you.

AFSCME Rallies with Mine Workers to Keep the Promise Fri, 09 Sep 2016 11:57:00 -0500 AFSCME joined thousands of coal miners on Thursday to demand that Congress approve legislation to secure their retiree healthcare and pension benefits.

Seventy years ago, U.S. Pres. Harry Truman brokered an agreement with the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) to create the UMWA Health and Welfare Funds. Known as “The Promise of 1946,” it guaranteed lifetime retirement benefits to coal miners, their spouses and dependents. And the promise has been kept – until now.

Private companies in the coal industry that have declared bankruptcy have shirked their obligation to provide retiree healthcare benefits to coal miners and contribute to the UMWA pension fund. If Congress doesn’t act to secure these benefits, thousands of coal miners and their families could lose them by the end of the year.

The rally was led by UMWA Pres. Cecil Roberts, who introduced several speakers including Ohio Sens. Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman, Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey Jr. and West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito.

The speakers underscored that the miners are asking for earned benefits, not handouts, and that the federal government must keep its promise to them.

“We need to pay our mine workers back for what they did for the United States of America,” said Senator Brown.

“A promise made is a promise kept,” said Senator Moore Capito. “It’s a fairness issue. It’s about family and hard work.”

AFSCME was among other unions and progressive organizations that joined the rally, including members of the Ironworkers, the Teamsters, the Kentucky AFL-CIO, Jobs with Justice and Unite Here.

Congress is expected to take up the legislation next week.