Blog Feed Blog Tue, 3 May 2011 05:00:00 +0000 AMPS en hourly 1 CEO to Workers: I Want You to Be Happy Fri, 17 Apr 2015 16:00:00 -0500 The “Fight for 15” movement, led by fast food workers to raise our country’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, may seem ambitious to some, since it seeks to more than double the current minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. But it’s catching on across the country. And if you look at the issue from the perspective of Dan Price, $15 an hour is way too little.

The founder and CEO of a credit-card payment processing company based in Seattle, Price announced this week that the new minimum wage at his company is to be $70,000 a year. If you do the math, that’s nearly five times the current minimum wage and more than double the goal of the Fight for 15 campaign. AFSCME is a strong proponent of raising the federal minimum wage. To us, it’s a civil rights issue.

Price said his inspiration came partly from a study on happiness by two prominent social scientists. The study found that an individual’s emotional well-being increases with income up to approximately $75,000/year. After that, money doesn’t buy you happiness, but if you make significantly less you’ll tend to have low emotional well-being.

The current average salary of the 120-person staff at Gravity Payments is $48,000. To be able to raise his company’s minimum wage to $70,000 during the next three years, Price is lowering his own salary of nearly $1 million to the new minimum and using much of the company’s anticipated profits this year.

It’s unrealistic to hope that other CEOs will drastically raise their employee’s wages out of concern for their emotional well-being. But at least the Price is right in Seattle. 

AFSCME Urges Renewal of Zadroga 9/11 Law Fri, 17 Apr 2015 15:20:00 -0500 Supporters of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act are urging Congress to make the law permanent. Since 2011, it has helped thousands of individuals and their families cope with the aftermath of the terrorist attacks.

“Nearly 14 years ago, we relied on our first responders to lead the rescue and recovery work at Ground Zero, in Shanksville (Pennsylvania) and at the Pentagon,” said U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) at a Washington, DC, press conference. “We cannot turn our back now that they need us most.”

Gillibrand was joined by fellow members of Congress, as well as first responders and labor union representatives, in urging the full House and Senate to renew the legislation. Guillermina Mejia, director of AFSCME DC 37’s Safety and Health Department, was among those present.

The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act established the World Trade Center (WTC) Health Program and the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. Together, these have helped tens of thousands of individuals who responded to the attacks, or lived or worked near the attack sites, seek medical help for respiratory problems, cancer and other illnesses caused from exposure to toxic chemicals, dust and fumes.

Thousands have died from their exposure to the attack sites and more than 30,000 have an illness or injury directly related to it. They include many AFSCME members.

For several years after the Sept. 11 attacks, AFSCME affiliates in New York mobilized activists, testified at hearings and lobbied Congress to pass the 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. The fight to renew it and make it permanent began this week. 

First Responder: EMS Dispatcher Is Difference Maker Fri, 17 Apr 2015 10:28:41 -0500 SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Yolanda Matos-McClintock, an EMS dispatcher and AFSCME shop steward, comes to the rescue on a daily basis. Her story, recently featured in the Sacramento Business Journal, highlights the importance of emergency response and how being in a union provides strength.

“As a dispatcher, I am trained and accustomed to guiding people during their time of crisis,” she told the newspaper. “What may seem like a regular day for me is often the worst day of their life.”

Matos-McClintock is the first line of contact for people facing medical emergencies. She offers life-saving guidance and comfort until paramedics and EMTs arrive on the scene. These trained EMS professionals undergo a great deal of stress and know much about sacrifice – having a voice in their job is critical.

 “My (labor) union brings an incredible amount of kinship,” she told the newspaper. “We know that these are not normal occurrences to be exposed to every day but doing so together makes me realize we have the strength to not only do it, but do it well.”

Matos-McClintock, the mother of four children, is an advocate for her community. After attending an AFSCME leadership conference in 2014, she founded the nonprofit, Equipped Students Inc., to provide disadvantaged students with the resources to be successful. It is a cause she and her husband, Officer Kris McClintock, know much about. She worked as a pre-school teacher for seven years; he works as a resource officer for a local school district.

“We have schools that are burdened with crime and drugs,” said Matos-McClintock. “I just decided that these kids need some type of resource they can access on their own since the adults in their lives have failed them.”

Matos-McClintock, who works for American Medical Response, is a member of United EMS Workers-AFSCME Local 4911. Members are leading the charge to ensure EMS professionals always have the best tools for the job, a livable wage, health insurance and respect for the work they do. 

A Living Wage for NYC Public Workers Thu, 16 Apr 2015 15:18:00 -0500 After intensive negotiations, AFSCME District Council 37 and the New York City mayor's office agreed to provide a living wage for thousands of DC 37 members who make less than $10 an hour.

The mayor's office and the union signed a memorandum of understanding that raises the floor for three low-wage job titles to $11.50 an hour.

DC 37 Exec. Dir. Henry Garrido announced the agreement during the DC 37 delegates’ monthly meeting. He informed the delegates that up to 4,500 members will be "getting a raise immediately."

Effective April 1, new workers in three titles — school crossing guard, job training participant and city seasonal aide — are hired at $11.50 an hour.

The union's unprecedented victory is part of a major push for a living wage for all workers in New York City. The raise is above the state minimum wage of $8.75. "This is the start — only just the beginning of the fight for a living wage for all," said Shaun D. Francois I, president of Board of Education Employees Local 372, which represents the school crossing guards.

"We have been fighting for this for 10 years, through three local presidents. I want to praise Henry Garrido for working with us and the other locals. This proves that unity works, and it is what got this moving," Francois said. More than 350 school crossing guards are affected by this agreement.

The largest group benefiting will be 2,500 job training participants (JTPs). Many JTPs are struggling to rise from poverty while working hard to gain the experience to move into full-time civil service jobs through the JTP program.

The impact of the new $11.50 standard is a step up for these low-paid workers but also a step forward toward achieving the goal of a $15-an-hour living wage.

The historic agreement came at a critical time for working-class public employees. The high cost of living in New York makes it difficult for working and middle-class New Yorkers to live comfortably. The number of affordable neighborhoods is shrinking daily. Basic transportation and utility costs are rising.

Posted In: Economic Security, Labor Movement, Legislation, State & Local Budgets, Workers' Rights

Cab Drivers Among Thousands ‘Fighting for 15’ Thu, 16 Apr 2015 13:06:00 -0500 CHICAGO – Chicago taxicab drivers were among thousands of underpaid workers marching through the streets here April 15 making the case for raising the minimum wage to $15 – in Chicago and in 230 cities across the country. As members of Cab Drivers United/AFSCME Council 31 took their places among the protesters, solidarity was very much on their minds.

“Our struggle as cab drivers is no different than the struggle facing a low-wage worker at a fast food chain, or a janitor working late into the night to provide for their family, arriving home while their family is sound asleep, and leaving before they wake up,” said cab driver David Adenekan. “Workers across the spectrum and from coast to coast are standing united today, to stand up and demand a living wage.”

Protesting in major cities and in small towns across the nation, workers marching under the “Fight for 15” banner on Tax Day, made the case not only for raises that would help them feed their families, but also for a society that works to alleviate income inequality, a major political issue in the country today. Recent research shows that raising the minimum wage would benefit everyone.

Members of Cab Drivers United/AFSCME Council 31, earning less than minimum wage because of their expenses, now face a major new challenge that undermines their ability to earn a living wage, said Adenekan. 

“With so-called ‘rideshare’ operators arriving by the thousands without any of the safety standards, regulations or costs we face just to operate, drivers are working longer and longer hours just to pay our overhead, and feed our families,” he said.

“Driving a cab used to be a way to a good middle-class life,” Adenekan continued. “We are ambassadors for the city, but like so many other workers we aren’t treated with the respect we deserve.  We’re stuck between the City of Chicago squeezing every penny they can out of us, and billion-dollar companies that came in through the backdoor.


“We’re struggling, and we’re here to make our voices heard loud and clear,” he said.

Corporations Get Tax Breaks While Illinois Taxpayers Get Shaft Thu, 16 Apr 2015 12:58:00 -0500 Lawmakers in America hand out tax breaks to giant corporations with more than $80 billion each year, gifts intended to make their states and cities more attractive to companies. It’s a practice that has helped keep Illinois up to its neck in debt.

In a 2014 study, Subsidizing the Corporate One Percent, the nonprofit, nonpartisan research center Good Jobs First reported that three quarters of all such corporate tax breaks awarded and disclosed by state and local governments went to just 965 large corporations, most of them Fortune 500 companies. We examined this issue in further detail in the current edition of AFSCME WORKS.

The loss of revenue from such handouts often ends up hurting taxpayers where they live – in the loss of services, in closed libraries, in cutbacks to public service workers’ wages and benefits. In Illinois, Gov. Bruce Rauner decided that $100 million in business tax breaks promised to corporations by a previous governor must be honored.  Meanwhile, taxpayers will get the shaft.

The governor agreed to suspend more than $200 million in grants for social services and parks to help make up the difference in his corporate giveaways. News reports, quoting the governor’s spokesperson, said the tax breaks were green-lighted “because they have no impact” on current-year spending.

No impact? That would be funny if it didn’t hurt so much. In every practical way, robbing the state coffers of much-needed revenue means that someone else has to make up the difference – or something has to be cut. So, out with $26 million in health and social services grant awards. Out with $180 million in parks grants – and the state still is running a multi-billion-dollar deficit next year.

 “Since entering office,” says AFSCME Council 31, “Rauner has used the state’s fiscal woes as justification for his extreme agenda, which has focused on weakening union rights, gutting programs that help struggling families and slashing vital public services.”

When he refused to close the tax loopholes for eBay, CapitalOne and other corporations, Governor Rauner lost any chance of claiming cuts to public services was necessary.

“The governor’s willingness to put corporate welfare over people’s welfare is a matter of grave concern,” said AFSCME Council 31 Exec. Dir. Roberta Lynch, also an AFSCME International vice president. “His twisted priorities aren’t shared by the rest of Illinois. That’s why our union is working for a budget plan that is fair to all citizens of our state.”

Indianapolis Local Signs-Up More Than 300 MVPs in One Week Thu, 16 Apr 2015 12:26:00 -0500 Thanks to a new city ordinance championed by AFSCME, union members in one Indianapolis AFSCME local has already signed up more than 300 new PEOPLE MVPs.

The bipartisan Indianapolis City-County Council voted 22-7 last month to allow city employees to voluntarily donate money from their paychecks to their union’s political action committee.

Members of Local 725, who work in Indianapolis’ Department of Public Works, wasted no time in organizing their co-workers to contribute to AFSCME PEOPLE, AFSCME’s political action committee. Only AFSCME members and their families may contribute to AFSCME PEOPLE.

“The men and women of our local have seen the attacks on unions coming from across the country, so they know we need to fight back and protect our jobs, retirement, and communities,” Steve Quick, president of Local 725 and an AFSCME International vice president said.

The 300-plus PEOPLE contributors signed up by Local 725 are just the beginning. AFSCME members at Indianapolis’ libraries, fleet services and other locals representing city workers are fast at work signing up new PEOPLE MVPs.

Judge Blocks Rauner’s Confiscation of Union Fees Wed, 15 Apr 2015 17:20:00 -0500 Under an agreement reached last week, Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration will immediately begin sending “fair-share” fees to unions pending resolution of a lawsuit by AFSCME, the Illinois AFL-CIO and 26 other unions.

Fair-share fees are authorized by state law to ensure that bargaining unit employees, who choose not to join the union, pay a proportional share of the costs of the union representation from which they benefit.

The unions’ lawsuit, filed in March in St. Clair County Circuit Court, asserts that Governor Rauner violated state law and multiple collective bargaining agreements when he issued an executive order on Feb. 9, barring unions from collecting “fair-share fees” from state workers.

Questioning the order’s constitutionality, State Comptroller Leslie Munger refused to carry out the order, affecting approximately 6,500 workers’ paychecks to the unions representing public service workers. But Governor Rauner then directed state departments under his control to hold onto the deductions but not to spend the money until the issue is resolved in court.

On April 10, Associate Judge Christopher Kolker of St. Clair County Circuit Court issued an agreed order directing the Rauner administration to immediately resume sending the fees to the unions while the case works its way through the legal process. Unions also will receive previously withheld fees.

“We’re glad the fee confiscation has been halted,” said AFSCME Council 31 Exec. Dir. Roberta Lynch, also an AFSCME International vice president. “But we’re even more pleased that more than 1,000 state employees didn’t wait for the court to act. Since the governor issued his executive order they’ve signed up to be full dues-paying union members – and more fee-payers are doing so every day.” Read Lynch’s full statement here.

Beware the Fast Track Wed, 15 Apr 2015 16:38:00 -0500 A trade deal achieved in the dark, with no possibility of congressional amendment before it is set in stone, is a bad deal for working Americans. That is the message more than a 1,000 people sent to lawmakers at a Capitol Hill rally April 15. 

Opposition to a “fast track” process for a new trade deal with 11 other nations, called the ‘Trans-Pacific Partnership’ (TPP), has united the labor movement and other progressive groups. Among participants at the rally were members of AFSCME, the United Steelworkers (USW), the Sierra Club and many other unions and their allies.

Before many in the crowd headed off to meet their lawmakers to urge them to oppose fast-tracking TPP, USW Pres. Leo W. Gerard gave them advice. “You make sure you look that person in the eye and you make sure you’re giving them the truth and the fact — that these trade deals put downward pressure on wages, that they cause the destruction of communities,” he said. “You make sure you tell them if they vote wrong, we’ve got a memory.”

Speakers, including several members of Congress, said fast-track deals in the past have caused the loss of good American jobs, created incentives to outsource production to China, Vietnam and other low-wage countries, allowed nations to dump their products on American soil without permitting U.S. industries equal access to their markets, and a host of other problems that have hurt American workers.

“Fast track was dead on arrival in the House last year,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.). “We need to do that again. Make no mistake about it. We can defeat fast track. Congress responds to outside pressure, so you keep it up every day — rallies, mobilizing family and friends. Call on members of Congress and tell them to do the right thing or you’re going to do the right thing several months from now. … Do not take no for an answer!”

“Not no, but hell no!” thundered David Cox Sr., national president of American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE)

Congress may take up the fast-track legislation in the next few weeks. Sign up for an event near you now.

Also: Tell Congress to stop Fast Track

Learn more about why fast track is the wrong track for America.


Let Me Tell You About My Terrible Non-Union Job! Wed, 15 Apr 2015 15:37:00 -0500 Those of us who worked for a non-union employer, months or years ago, may remember what it was like. Do you?

Did you experience an abusive manager but could do nothing about it because you had no union contract to protect your rights?

Did you have to work overtime, with no compensation, because there was no union contract to prevent that?

Did your employer take away your sick leave, make you work in areas outside your job classification, or otherwise take advantage of you?

Were you fired for no good reason, or disciplined without recourse?

In other words, do you have a horror story about what it’s like to work in a non-union environment?

If so, we’d like to hear your horror story. We’ll review your story, and consider them with others we get, and possibly select yours to tell in a future issue of AFSCME WORKS magazine.

Click here to submit your story!

Don’t include names of individuals, to protect their rights and privacy. All we want are the facts, told in your own way. What can others learn from it about the benefits of being in a union?

Budget Victory Is Huge for Texas Correctional Officers Wed, 15 Apr 2015 13:03:00 -0500 AUSTIN – After months of intense lobbying by AFSCME Texas Correctional members, the House and Senate both approved budget plans that provide badly needed pay raises for correctional officers, and addressed the chronic underfunding of the state’s Employees Retirement System (ERS).

The House plan, championed by House Appropriations Committee Chairman John Otto, fully funds the state’s pension obligations for the first time in the past 21 years, with no cuts to the hard-earned retirement benefits of state employees. The plan also recognizes that correctional officers are woefully underpaid in Texas, calling for a 12.5 percent increase in officer pay.

Currently in Texas, an officer just starting the job only earns a $29,000 salary for this difficult and dangerous job. This extremely low pay helps contribute to the state’s inability to fully staff the department. At any given time, there are 3,000-4,000 unfilled positions for correctional officers in Texas.

The Senate plan, passed on Tuesday, April 14, provides a pay increase to officers, but the proposed 5 percent raise during two years is not adequate to address the financial needs of officers and their family or to provide an incentive for new hires.

Also at issue is the badly underfunded ERS, which for 19 of the past 20 years the Legislature has failed to properly fund the state’s obligation. Both chambers committed to address the system’s $7.5 billion unfunded liability, but the House plan comes closer to reaching the necessary level of funding. Next step is the appointment of a conference committee, which will hammer out an agreement.

“This is a great victory in our fight for fair pay and true retirement security, but the work isn’t done,” said Samuel Bangura, a correctional officer. “We know that the House plans are better for officers and our families. We did good work, but now it’s our job to make sure negotiators see the light and follow the path the House has laid out. When the time comes you can bet our members will be back making sure our voices are heard.”


What?! Another Tax Break for the Rich?! Wed, 15 Apr 2015 10:18:00 -0500 Most Americans believe our tax codes favor the wealthy, and they would be right. However, that isn’t stopping right-wing lawmakers in Congress from taking one more step in that direction — repealing the estate tax.

As early as next week, the U.S. House of Representatives will vote on a measure to repeal this tax, which would benefit just 5,400 wealthy estates that owe the tax this year, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP).

What is the estate tax? Those who want to repeal it call it a “death tax” and say it will hurt owners of family farms. That’s an exaggeration designed to confuse the issue. Just about 20 small business and small farm estates owed any estate tax in 2013, the CBPP said.

In fact, the tax hits estates of just the wealthiest 0.2 percent of Americans. That’s about two of every 1,000 people who die in America. Repealing the tax would save those few families an average of approximately $2.5 million each, reports the CBPP.

The tax applies only on a deceased person’s estate or assets — and then only if they’re worth more than $5.43 million. Married couples can exempt assets of up to $10.9 million. That’s a pretty big family farm.

Repealing the tax would add $269 billion to the federal budget deficit over the next decade, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation.

Besides further enriching the wealthiest Americans, repeal would put another stranglehold on America’s ability to raise the revenue needed to fix our crumbling highways and bridges, or to pay for many other priorities now being short-changed.

Repealing the estate tax is simply bad public policy. To learn more, read this analysis by Citizens for Tax Justice

VIDEO: Today’s Important Step to Strengthen Retirement Security Tue, 14 Apr 2015 16:54:00 -0500 Please see and share the blog post below from Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez and Jeff Zients, Director of the National Economic Council and Assistant to the President for Economic Policy. 


Today, we are taking the next step in President Obama’s historic push for the strongest consumer protections in America’s history. As the President called for in February, the Department of Labor is proposing to update rules to protect Americans saving for retirement and crack down on conflicts of interest in retirement advice that are costing middle-class and working families billions of dollars every year.

The President takes a backseat to no one when it comes to strengthening consumer protections. That’s why he fought to create the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), an independent watchdog that has already enhanced safeguards across mortgage, credit card, debt collection, and student loan servicing markets, while putting more than $5 billion back in the pockets of more than 15 million wronged consumers through enforcement actions. Recently, the CFPB took an important step toward cracking down on abusive practices in payday lending, yet another example of how this critical consumer watchdog is delivering for the American people.

The Department of Labor’s proposed rule adds to those protections, by reflecting a simple, commonsense principle: Retirement advisers should put their clients first and give advice that is in their clients’ best interest.

Too often today, that’s not the case. Retirement advisers and Wall Street brokers can direct their customers to products with higher costs and lower returns simply because they get backdoor payments or hidden fees, often buried in fine print, that encourage them to recommend these bad investments. As hard as it may be to believe, under the current rules, advisers can recommend products that are good for their bottom line but not as good for their clients.

That’s because the safeguards in this area have fallen woefully behind the way people save for retirement. When the rules were last overhauled almost 40 years ago, Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) had just been created and employer-based 401(k)s did not even exist. Today, American workers have more than $7 trillion invested in IRAs and more than $4 trillion in 401(k)-type plans. For that reason, getting workers good advice is more important than ever.

To be clear, many advisers are hardworking women and men who got into this line of work to help families achieve retirement security, and already provide high-quality advice that is in their clients’ best interest. Nonetheless, the losses to some middle-class and working families from the existing loopholes are huge.

Poor investment advice stemming from conflicts of interest sap about 1 percentage point of returns every year, and — like compounding interest — these compounding losses mount over time. Over the course of 35 years, a person getting conflicted advice could lose more than a quarter of their expected savings relative to someone getting advice in their best interest. In other words, instead of a $10,000 retirement investment growing to more than $38,000 over that period after adjusting for inflation, it would be just over $27,500.

That’s unacceptable and it has to change.

Today’s proposed rule would ensure that the people providing you with retirement investment advice are working in your best interest. And it includes streamlined, flexible ways to comply with that goal, for example by allowing advisers to enter into a new and enforceable best interest contract before they can receive any payments that might bias their advice. It’s a straightforward agreement so you know you’ll get advice on investing your retirement savings that puts your interests first.

The many advisers already putting their customers’ best interest first deserve the level playing field for offering quality advice that this rule will provide. In 2010, the Department of Labor put forward a draft of a rule to attempt to create that level playing field — but after significant feedback on how the proposed rule would impact the market for retirement advice, DOL withdrew that proposal and went back to the drawing board. Since then, we’ve worked with industry, consumer groups, retirement advocates, academics, and the public to gather feedback and rework the rule.

Today’s proposal, through enhancements like the best interest contract exemption, makes major strides toward addressing the concerns that were raised. We look forward to receiving additional feedback over the 75-day comment period that will help shape a better, stronger rule that minimizes burdens for those giving good advice. We are committed to getting it right.

But while we expect plenty of good faith input from all manner of commenters, for some special interests and their allies in Congress, the only good rule would be no rule at all. We want to make very clear that inaction is not an acceptable outcome of this process. We believe that any adviser acting in their clients’ best interest should support this rulemaking. And those who aren’t already committed to those same high standards will have to start putting their clients best interest first.

America’s families are losing $17 billion of their hard-earned retirement savings annually — representing tens of thousands of dollars for many individual families over the course of a lifetime of saving. We should all agree that financial advisers should always act in their clients’ best interest. Today marks an important milestone toward that change.

Ed. note: This is cross-posted on the U.S. Department of Labor's blog. See the original post here.

Libraries Still Essential Resources Mon, 13 Apr 2015 17:26:00 -0500 With its rich history dating back as far as 2600 BC, libraries have continuously evolved with civilization, expanding access to information from books, to the World Wide Web and other resources.

The week of April 12 is National Library Week, a good opportunity to educate communities about the importance of libraries and the challenges they’re facing to provide information resources to the reading public. Library workers today, many represented by AFSCME, are fighting to protect libraries even as resources are being cut in cities and states across the country.

When the Seattle Public Library needed support to restore library operations and services Local 2083, Council 2 members mobilized community allies, testified at city council meetings, and educated the public to urge voters to vote in favor of maintaining and improving library services for all.

After all was said and done, the library’s maintenance and preservation budget increased by $1 million and the operating budget rose by $100,000.

“We are known as the great equalizers,” said Meadow Pederson, Library Clerk and Treasurer of Local 2083, “There are a lot of people that want to make an impact on their community through their work, but don’t know where to start. Libraries bridge the gap between people and unbiased information sources they can trust, that’s why I can say I’m proud of the work I’ve done helping others create strong communities.

Librarians not only find books for people looking for something good to read, but also provide access for people without computers or Internet service to research a particular topic or search for employment for free. They also promote civic engagement by providing information about how to register to vote, support a bill or write a letter to their legislators.

AFSCME librarians and library workers serve thousands of patrons every day. Join us as we salute the library workers who make hundreds of thousands of libraries across the country happen.

Inequity Follows Women into Retirement Tue, 14 Apr 2015 07:41:00 -0500 You may have heard that women earn less than men for the same amount of work. To be exact, 78 cents for every dollar a man makes.

But what many people don’t know is that inequity follows women into retirement, where it gets even worse.

According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the median retirement income for women in 2010 was just 59 percent that of men. That means if a man is receiving, say, $2,000 a month in Social Security payments and other retirement benefits, a woman retiree must make ends meet with just $1,180.

What’s even worse — as Bailey Childers, the executive director of the National Public Pension Coalition (NPPC), points out — is that many women in public service are seeing their retirement pensions and other benefits taken away. Since the economic crisis of 2008, many states and localities have made ill-advised attempts to fix their fiscal problems on the backs of their workers, throwing many working class families into uncertainty.

They are turning retirement security into insecurity, and this is disproportionately affecting women, who make up a majority of the public workforce in state and local governments.

Women are almost twice as likely as men to live below the poverty line during retirement. Today, Equal Pay Day, we must not forget that women continue to be undercompensated for the work they do. But we must also remember that they face even greater inequity in retirement.

A woman’s ability to make ends meet in retirement depends on her being compensated fairly at work but also her access to a retirement plan and reliable benefits. A defined-benefit retirement plan like a public pension is still the best way to ensure a safe retirement for both men and women.

VIDEO: Small Business Owners are ’Friends of WFSE’ Mon, 13 Apr 2015 15:07:00 -0500 SEATTLE — As local economies struggle to recover from the Great Recession of 2008, small businesses and state employees have turned to each other for support, embarking on “Friends of WFSE”, a growing group of local small businesses across the state that have partnered with state employees and their union.

“When essential public services are cut, our economy suffers, people lose their jobs, and small businesses lose their customer base,” said Sue Henricksen, president of WFSE, Council 28. “This is why our union is working to build this natural partnership between state employees and our local small business community to urge legislators to make decision in the best interest of all.”

WFSE members recently ratified contracts that include the first raises for most employees in seven years. Gov. Jay Inslee has recommended funding the package, but the Washington Legislature has stalled on the proposals during debate this session. Small businesses value the cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) for state employees now being debated in Olympia.

“State employees and their consumer spending are key to keeping small businesses in the state as the engine of our economy, employing some 1.5 million Washingtonians,” said Cheryl Selby, owner of Vivala, a clothing boutique in the Farmers’ Market district of Olympia.

“They’re my friends, they’re my neighbors, they are not the villains in the budget debate and should not sacrifice pay raises for another two years,” added Selby. “State employees are an amazing asset for any community to have and they need to be supported.”

Learn more about the innovative ‘Friends of WFSE’ in this video.

We Know Why this Photo is Taking Off on Social Media Fri, 10 Apr 2015 14:38:00 -0500 People get it – the gap between the super-rich and everyone else keeps growing, in America and around the world. That’s why this photo was tracking at #1 on reddit just hours after it was upvoted, according to The Washington Post.

There is a reason that this image is getting so much traction on social media. It makes a simple point about a huge issue that we have been talking about repeatedly – income inequality and the ways that the rich shield their money from taxes.

AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders, in response to President Obama’s State of the Union address last year, said combatting income inequality “means empowering workers to bargain for better pay and secure benefits. When unions are strong, all workers benefit. Sadly, the nationwide attacks on collective bargaining persist, as deep-pocketed, anti-worker forces systematically target unions. Their efforts to undo collective bargaining weaken all workers.”

The Post’s story that ran with the yacht photo noted that some state lawmakers “are seizing on popular resentment over anecdotal stories of extravagant spending by welfare recipients to limit what the poor can do with food stamps or other government aid. … Meanwhile, the wealthy continue to see advantages in wealth and economic opportunity, thanks in part to economic policies that favor them.”

We’d like to think that the owner of this yacht pays his or her fair share of taxes, here or in some other country. But the popularity of this image on social media suggests that it’s hit a nerve, and it’s painful.

Consider this: The U.S. led the world in billionaires (492), according to Forbes’s 2014 ranking. The U.S. also ranked fourth among countries with the worst income inequality according to Forbes. That’s the largest disparity in income since 1928.

When it comes to boats, we’d like to think that a rising tide lifts them all. Unfortunately, it’s only lifting the yachts (and what may be hidden inside). The decline of unions in America is one cause. When unions are strong, the middle class is stronger.



Going the Extra Mile: N.Y. Sanitation Workers Save a Life Fri, 10 Apr 2015 14:22:48 -0500 Two sanitation workers from Elmira, New York, Mike Waters and Ed Wood, took time out from their early morning route to save a life.

Joseph Myers, 73, lay unconscious in his driveway for more than five hours in 10-degree weather before the two CSEA Local 808 members pulled up in their garbage trucks on their morning run. Waters noticed Myers lying in the snow under his car, jumped into action and ran over to lend a hand.

While waiting for the emergency personnel to arrive, both heroes took off their coats to try to keep Myers warm, and moved their trucks out of the way to allow for access to the driveway. Once the ambulance arrived, Waters and Wood helped load Myers onto a stretcher where he was taken to a nearby hospital and later released.

In below-freezing temperatures, minutes can be the difference between life and death. "They said if he was out there about another 20 minutes, it wouldn't have been good," Waters told the Star-Gazette.

“CSEA members like brother Waters and Wood go to work to do a job, often overlooked and taken for granted, and they do amazing things to improve the lives of everyone in their communities,” said CSEA President Danny Donohue, also International vice president. “Their heroic action saved this man’s life, but also serves as a reminder of the commitment and dedication we take to work every day. They went the extra mile and saved a life.”

Drivers Call Out Police Over Unfair Enforcement Fri, 10 Apr 2015 12:21:00 -0500 CHICAGO – Cab Drivers United members in March met with Chicago Police Department representatives to complain about policing practices that cost drivers thousands of dollars in fines, put their licenses at risk and create hostility and distrust between drivers and law enforcement. Drivers took their concerns to CPD representatives from each downtown police district, and to two deputy chiefs responsible for police actions.

Chad Small, a veteran cab driver and Cab Drivers United member, told police officials he was subjected to racial slurs during a routine traffic stop and complained to the officer’s supervisor. “I raised the issue with his captain and instead of seeing justice for the racial slurs … I was written two tickets, one for unsafe driving and another for disobeying an officer,” he said.

“I tried to stand up for myself within the system as it’s currently set up, but when I’m alone, it’s just me against the entire Chicago Police Department,” Small told the police officials. “It’s one reason I’m involved with this union.”

Drivers spoke at length about the injustices they face on a daily basis.  Whether it’s helping a passenger unload suitcases and being cited for “obstructing traffic,” or asking an officer why they were pulled over and ticketed for “discourteous conduct,” Cab Drivers United members outlined numerous examples of being targeted by CPD officers, and finding no justice fighting alone in the system.

“I never would have been able to sit here, across the table from CPD deputy chiefs had I written a letter by myself. We’re here today because we have the power of thousands of cab drivers joined together with Cab Drivers United/AFSCME,” continued Small.

Cab Drivers United/AFSCME Council 31 will follow up to focus on specific problems and recommend systematic changes to the Chicago Police Department's policies toward cab drivers.


UC Doctors Strike Again Over Unfair Labor Practices Fri, 10 Apr 2015 11:24:00 -0500 University of California doctors at the northern campus student health centers went on strike over Unfair Labor Practices (ULPs) April 9, and doctors at the Southern California campuses were set to strike April 11.

The doctors, members of AFSCME’s Union of American Physicians and Dentists, voted to strike from April 9-15. It is their second strike this year because of ULPs. Negotiations started in 2013, but UC has not bargained in good faith, the union says.

“The students deserve better health care and the costs should not be put on the backs of the students,” said Dr. Jeff Nelson, a UAPD bargaining team member and physician at UC Berkeley.  “Last year in one day UC Berkeley raised $5 million in what they call the “Big Give.” But less than $500 was raised for student health. They could have raised much more than that for student health, but they didn’t even ask.”

Bad-faith bargaining tactics by UC forced UAPD to hold a one-day ULP strike in January. Shortly after UAPD returned to the bargaining table, UC continued with their old tricks, unfairly withholding financial information needed to reach their first agreement.

“A ULP strike is the only way to compel UC to follow the laws that govern bargaining,” explained UAPD Pres. Stuart A. Bussey, M.D., in an interview with a local news outlet. “Unfortunately, UC has a history of disrespecting workers during negotiations, and we’re no exception to that.”

Doctors, students, parents, community supporters and other UC employees gathered on UC campuses in Northern and Southern California to urge the university to prioritize student health and give students access to the care they deserve.

Ohio U ‘Batty’ as President Would Get $1.2 Million New Home Thu, 09 Apr 2015 12:34:00 -0500 Ohio’s brown bats are shaking off their winter hibernation and so are Ohio University’s big spenders who responded to a bat “infestation” at the university president’s residence with a proposal to buy a $1.2 million replacement home. Meanwhile, OU has deferred $400 million in maintenance needs on residence halls, classrooms and university systems, and laid off 73 employees.

After a single bat invaded the residence of Pres. Roderick J. McDavis and his wife, the university moved the family to a gated development three miles off campus, spent $75,000 to furnish the new home and began to pay $4,318 per month in rent. And the university proposed spending $1.2 million to buy the home and surrounding property.

The president’s old “bat shack” was appraised at $931,120, has 8,034 square feet and received $620,000 in renovations in the 1990s.

Once news leaked of the administration’s plan, however, more than 400 students held a “bat rally” outside the former presidential residence and voiced their anger at the decision. Students complained that student debt, high tuition and fees, lack of upkeep on academic buildings and the layoff of 73 employees are more important issues than a million bucks spent on a fancy home for a president who made $465,000 and a bonus of $85,000 in 2014.

“They’re moving our president to an extremely luxurious location and asking us to foot the bill,” OU senior and protest organizer Ryan Taylor told the crowd of students, professors and employees at the rally held outside the president’s former “bat cave.”

The new house’s price tag would be enough to cover a four-year full tuition scholarship for 25 students.

Workers are also fed up with the out-of-touch priorities of the administration. “We’ve removed maybe a dozen bats from the residence over the last 10 years, so it’s hardly an out-of-control infestation,” said Dave Logan, president of AFSCME Local 1699, which represents 630 service, technical and maintenance workers at OU.

 AFSCME Local 1699 members are in the final year of a three-year contract and will go to the bargaining table with the administration later this year. 

On Flight Home, AFSCME Member Comes to the Rescue Thu, 09 Apr 2015 12:17:00 -0500 One moment, Sami Abed, president of United EMS Workers-AFSCME Local 4911, was just a passenger on a United Airlines flight. The next moment he was a central figure in a medical emergency.

Thanks to Abed and an unnamed doctor also aboard that flight, a 68-year-old, unidentified man who might have died in the aisle was revived so that he could be taken to a hospital for treatment.

A paramedic with more than 13 years of experience in Santa Cruz County, California, Abed was returning home from New York on April 3 – Good Friday – when an intercom announcement called for anyone with medical training to help a man lying unconscious in the aisle.

Within seconds he was on his feet, along with the doctor. The two began helping the man get oxygen. “I couldn’t feel the (heart) beat on his wrist,” Abed said. There was a “very faint one on his neck,” so they placed an automated external defibrillator (AED) on the man’s chest to check his heart rhythm. The device can also shock the heart back to a normal beat. Next, they placed an IV on the man.

The passenger, who had been unconscious about a minute, revived.

Less than an hour into the flight – the second leg of his journey home – Abed learned they would be diverted to Omaha, Nebraska, so the passenger could get prompt hospital care.

A fire crew at Eppley Airfield boarded to take the passenger to a hospital. Abed learned nothing more about him, including his name.

His journey home resumed with no further incident.

“I’m really thankful for all my training, that’s for sure,” he said. “It’s all kind of reflex for me.”

Crediting the crew and the unidentified doctor for their efforts to save the passenger, Abed is grateful that it worked out so well. “Everybody came together to help this guy,” he said.

The lesson, he adds, is that “emergencies can happen anytime.”

We’re glad this public service hero was there to help save a man in need of his medical skills. We’re also proud of Abed and the thousands of such everyday heroes who are also members of AFSCME.

Atlanta, Leading Nation in Income Inequality, Needs Unions Thu, 09 Apr 2015 11:08:00 -0500 For the second year in a row, Atlanta ranks No. 1 among American cities with the highest level of income inequality, according to a recent study released by the Brookings Institution, a prominent Washington-based think tank. 

The study, which compared income statistics among the 50 largest American cities, shows that Atlanta's top 5 percent of household earners make an average of $288,159 per year compared to the bottom 20 percent of households that make $14,988 on average.

While income inequality in Atlanta tops the charts, the city's staggering income disparity between haves and have-nots does not exist in a vacuum. Across the country, income inequality continues to grow at a troubling rate, while union membership falls. The two are inextricably linked: As union membership across the country falls, fewer and fewer Americans make middle-class wages.

Nationally, union members make on average $207 more per week than non-union workers. The same is true in Atlanta, where the median union income has been approximately $10,000 more per year than non-union incomes, according to Economic Policy Institute data detailed in a Georgia Policy and Budget Institute report. For households in Atlanta earning $14,988 a year, $10,000 more in annual income is life changing, and that's not even factoring in health care benefits and the job security that come with union membership. Yet, only 4.3 percent of Georgians belong to a union.

"No one is going to pay you more if you don't negotiate for it," said Carlton Hamm a City of Atlanta water service technician. "Unions give people the power to negotiate for wages they need to live on. Wake up, Atlanta – join a union."

Valerie Belk, an APS bus operator, knows the benefit of being in a union. Last year, her local, AFSCME 1644, won a 5 percent raise and negotiated full-time, permanent status for part-time school system workers like her so that they could have access to benefits and retirement security.

Before negotiations, "It was hard to make ends meet," said Belk. Since negotiations Belk said thing have "changed a lot… I'm making it. The union helped us a lot. If it wasn't for the union, a lot of us wouldn't be where we are now. The union fought for the bus drivers."


Cab Drivers Deliver Thousands of Petition Signatures on ‘Rideshare’ Inequities Thu, 09 Apr 2015 10:53:00 -0500 CHICAGO – Cab Drivers United/AFSCME Council 31 (CDU) members are making their voices heard about the separate and unequal system the city set up for so-called “rideshare” services like UberX and Lyft.

On Wednesday, April 1, Cab Drivers United/AFSCME Council 31 members delivered to the offices of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Alderman Anthony Beale, chair of the Committee on Transportation and the Public Way, the signatures of more than 3,300 Chicago cab drivers on a petition urging the city to apply the same safety rules and regulations to Uber and other transportation network providers as are already applied to cabs. 

“As cab drivers in the city of Chicago, we are licensed professionals,” said Macarl Johnson, a veteran Chicago cab driver and Cab Drivers United/AFSCME Council 31 member. “We are urging the city to act now to level the playing field for cab drivers and protect the public.” 

“The recent reports of sexual assault by an UberX driver show that Uber can’t be trusted to police itself,” Johnson added. “It’s a serious public safety hazard, and one the city needs to address.”

Fellow cab driver Ghazi Abutaa pointed out that professional drivers “count on our earnings to support our families, yet we are facing economic devastation because of the out-of-control number of non-professional drivers on the road. The city limits the number of cabs on the road to relieve congestion. But with UberX, there’s no limit. Some say there are 15,000 vehicles, many from out of state, on the road, just to drive UberX for a couple hours a week.”

Retirees Demand Real Retirement Security at White House Events Wed, 08 Apr 2015 16:30:00 -0500 Seniors called on officials to stand up and protect programs that offer real retirement security for Americans as regional White House forums continued in Phoenix and Seattle.

The White House Conference on Aging has been held every decade since 1961 and provides an opportunity for seniors to influence policy. This year also marks the 50th anniversary of Medicare and Medicaid in July and the 80th anniversary of Social Security in August.

AFSCME retirees and members of the Alliance for Retired Americans showed up in full force to stress the importance of Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare and defined-benefit retirement plans.

Roman Ulman worked for the City of Detroit for 30 years before retiring to Phoenix, where he continues to fight for workers’ rights as the president of Arizona AFSCME Retiree Chapter 97. Ulman attended the forum and said that real retirement security is what allows aging Americans to remain active in their communities.

“We built this country – we defended this country," Ulman told CBS Phoenix affiliate KPHO on Tuesday. "We earned the respect and support of our community and we ought to get it."

The rain did not stop retired social worker, Ellen Carmody, from distributing flyers outside the event in Seattle on Thursday. Carmody worked for the Washington State Division of Children and Family Services for 27 years and is a member of the Washington Retired Public Employees Council. She wants to make sure her children and grandchildren have the same access to retirement security that she now enjoys.

“We need to make sure future generations can retire with security,” said Carmody. “That starts with speaking the truth about programs like Social Security – they work.”

AFSCME retirees will attend the White House Conference on Aging forums scheduled in Cleveland on April 27, and Boston on May 28.