Blog Feed Blog Tue, 3 May 2011 05:00:00 +0000 AMPS en hourly 1 Atlanta Workers Join PEOPLE in Droves, Prepare for Big Election Mon, 22 Sep 2014 12:00:00 -0500 ATLANTA – AFSCME Local 1644, which represents the City of Atlanta, Atlanta Public School (APS) and Sodexo workers, signed up more than 200 MVP members for the PEOPLE program this summer, shattering the status quo in a right-to-work state and setting a powerful precedent for the South moving forward

PEOPLE is our voluntary political action fund, which allows AFSCME to help elect candidates who support working families. To be an MVP, a member pledges $100 a year, or less than $2 a week.

During the past year, Local 1644 members became deeply engaged in improving services for Atlanta residents and improving their working conditions. APS workers recently won a breakthrough contract agreement, which included a 5 percent pay increase and the transfer of all part-time drivers to permanent full-time status, which gave them access to much-needed benefits and retirement security. They also resolved a 2013 pay dispute.

“The City of Atlanta and Atlanta Public Schools now know what we’re capable of. We fought to get politicians who stand up for working families elected and we held them accountable,” said Gwen Johnson, an APS bus driver. “It took hard work and commitment but we finally gained the respect we deserve.”

Although Georgia is a right-to-work-for-less state and AFSCME members do not have collective bargaining rights, they are still able to accomplish big things. For example, Local 1644 negotiated the strongest union contract to date with Sodexo last month, providing sick leave, paid bereavement, a 7 percent pay increase and life insurance.

Sandra Swint, a Sodexo worker in an APS cafeteria, explained, “Living in a right-to-work state can’t be an excuse not to organize. As Southerners, we’re resilient, we’re powerful and we know our histories of resistance. We’re accomplishing so much in Atlanta and we’re not stopping now.”

Several key elections loom this November, including races for governor, U.S. Senate and attorney general. The outcome of these elections will have a significant impact on AFSCME members and the services they provide to their communities.

"We have the chance to change Georgia from red to blue with the election of Jason Carter for governor,” said Tracey Thornhill, who has been in public works for the City of Atlanta for 23 years. “In the last couple of months, we signed up 20 percent of our members as PEOPLE MVPs and five bronze-level members. We know how serious this fight is and we're willing to put in the hard work."

AFSCME Partners with Thurgood Marshall College Fund Mon, 22 Sep 2014 12:00:00 -0500 WASHINGTON, DC ─ The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), AFL-CIO, the nation's largest public service workers union, announced today a partnership with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) in its Union Scholars Program to provide educational opportunities and scholarships to talented students of color from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and other colleges and universities.

"Our commitment to students of color at historically black and other colleges and universities is unwavering," said AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders. "AFSCME's partnership with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund enables us to continue a tradition of developing young leaders who are dedicated and passionate about making a difference in our society." 

"HBCUs have a history of educating minorities, which contributes to the diversity of today's workforce," said TMCF President and CEO Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.  "The increased cost of college, along with stricter grant and loan payments, make gifts like this more important. AFSCME is demonstrating a commitment to improve education and build a pipeline for tomorrow's workforce."

Named for Justice Thurgood Marshall, the first African American on the U.S. Supreme Court, TMCF is the only national organization providing scholarships and programmatic and capacity-building support to the 47 publicly supported HBCUs, medical schools and law schools. TMCF supports and represents nearly 300,000 students from its member schools, and awarded more than $200 million in financial assistance.

AFSCME launched its Union Scholars Program in 2003 and, since its inception, students from more than 40 institutions of higher learning participated. Students must be a second-semester sophomore or junior with a minimum 2.5 grade point average majoring in American Studies, Ethnic Studies, History, Labor Studies, Political Science, Psychology, Public Policy, Social Work, Sociology, Women's Studies and other fields of study.

The AFSCME Union Scholars Program provides students with an internship and the opportunity to earn money for college. They work on the frontlines of organizing campaigns, helping workers gain a voice on the job and better their lives for themselves and their families.

AFSCME has a long history of activism and a historic connection with civil rights. On April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed in Memphis, where he'd gone to support the 1,300 black sanitation workers of AFSCME Local 1733 in their strike for better pay, union recognition and respect.

Today, AFSCME represents 1.6 million members, including home care and child care workers, nurses, clerical workers, sanitation workers and countless others who work for cities, counties, states, the federal government and universities, non-profit agencies and private companies.  

TMCF was established in 1987 and through its scholarships and programs TMCF plays a key role in preparing the leaders of tomorrow.


A Message for AFSCME Members from Sen. Elizabeth Warren Mon, 22 Sep 2014 12:00:00 -0500 Senator Warren has a message for AFSCME members. She sent us this video for AFSCME Council 31’s recent PEOPLE conference, but it’s a message that speaks to us all.
As Senator Warren says, “AFSCME members know the challenges working men and women face.” While Senator Warren is not on a ballot this November, she reminds us why it’s so important that we get out to vote this fall. It may not seem like it, but the elections are just around the corner. We need more politicians who will fight the good fight for working people. Watch the video below, and pledge to vote this November.

Help us Register 1,000 New Voters Mon, 22 Sep 2014 10:19:06 -0500 Tuesday, Sept. 23, is National Voter Registration Day!  It’s important to make sure that your voter registration is up to date well in advance of Election Day, Nov. 4.  In many states, new registrations and changes to existing registrations must be made at least a month before the election.

Those restrictions are just one of the reasons that fewer than half of eligible Americans vote in midterm elections.  But with our livelihoods at stake in this election, we can’t let registration deadlines hold us back.  That’s why the Coalition of Labor Union Women is teaming up with the League of Women Voters to get people registered early.

On Monday evening, Sept. 22, the two groups are holding a teleforum to train volunteers.  If you want to take part in their effort, just visit this web page and click on the link at the bottom. Anyone is welcome to participate.

Thirty-six governors’ seats and more than 2,000 seats in state legislatures across the nation are up for grabs this November.  These are the people who make decisions about our jobs and the services we provide.  We want to make sure that working people are represented in government. Get involved!

Nuns on the Bus Rolling Out Again Fri, 19 Sep 2014 17:56:19 -0500 The nuns of NETWORK, a Catholic social justice lobby, are hitting the road this fall to educate voters about the destructive influence of unlimited spending on campaigns. The bus tour, titled “We the People. We the Voters,” kicked off in Des Moines on Wednesday.

On hand to send off the sisters were Vice Pres. Joe Biden and AFSCME Council 61 Pres. Danny Homan. The nuns will travel through 10 battleground states and 36 cities, holding voter registration drives and encouraging Americans to get active this election season.

With the gold dome of Iowa’s Statehouse in the background, Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK, said, “Money doesn’t convey truth. Everyone should be able to use their voice. Everybody should be able to come to the table. But you can’t buy the table — sorry, it’s wrong.”

Pres. Danny Homan, who is also an AFSCME International vice president, reminded the audience of AFSCME’s long history advocating on social justice issues, and condemned today’s vast disparity between the very wealthy and working Americans. He called on lawmakers in Iowa and Washington, DC, to increase the minimum wage.

“Nobody who works hard every day should have to live in poverty. Nobody who works hard every day should have to struggle to put food on the table,” said Homan. “But that’s the reality for the 7.5 million Americans earning minimum wage.”

This is the sisters’ third tour. The first, in 2012, raised awareness of Rep. Paul Ryan’s devastating federal budget proposal that would have turned Medicare and Medicaid into a voucher program, privatized Social Security and cut programs like Head Start and food stamps. Last year, the tour focused on immigration reform.

Vice President Biden praised the sisters for their activism, saying “I know no group of people who bring a greater sense of justice and passion to what they do.”

Senator Warren, Koch Sisters Lead Rally to Protect Social Security, Medicare Thu, 18 Sep 2014 12:00:00 -0500 Vowing that she and other Democrats “will not stand by and let Social Security be cut or allow Medicare to be gutted,” U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren rallied some 300 activists on Capitol Hill Thursday. She was joined by the anti-Koch brothers “Koch Sisters” and several other members of Congress who promised to stand strong against tea-party attacks on the social safety net.

“They are trying to create a crisis so they can cut Social Security and Medicare, but there is no crisis,” Warren said. “There may be a health care crisis in this country, but it’s Medicare – with the improvements brought by the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare – that is fixing our problem. Medicare is lowering health care costs not only for seniors, but for every American.”

The Koch Sisters, in Washington to work with the AFL-CIO on the campaign to support worker-friendly candidates this fall, said they received lots of support for calling out the billionaire Koch brothers, who support tea-party candidates nationally and at the state and local levels. “We’ve got a message for politicians who want to mess with Social Security,” said Joyce Koch. “Don’t even try it!”

Also addressing the boisterous rally was Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa), who is running to fill Sen. Tom Harkin’s open Senate seat. “I have voted against raising the retirement age several times, and I will never agree to it,” he said. “What we need to do is raise the minimum wage, which will add another $55 billion to the Social Security coffers.”

The rally was sponsored by Americans United for Change, the AFL-CIO and a dozen unions, including AFSCME. Senator Warren was introduced by Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. “We need more leaders like Elizabeth Warren who will stand with us to defend Social Security and Medicare,” she said. “Those are the leaders we will stand with on Election Day.”

Warren said she was happy to recite the numbers on Social Security “because the numbers are on our side. We have built a system that will last another 20 years before we have to make any changes. But this is about values, how we live and what we do together,” she said. “Our Social Security system says something about the dignity of human beings, that when you work a lifetime you deserve the dignity of a decent retirement.”

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage, Supporting Latinos Thu, 18 Sep 2014 11:52:00 -0500 During National Hispanic Heritage Month, AFSCME is proud to recognize the contributions of the nearly 53 million Hispanics living in the United States and to highlight the issues facing our Hispanic sisters and brothers.

Hispanic Americans have a profound and positive influence on our country through their strong commitment to family, faith, hard work and service. They enhance and shape our national character with centuries-old traditions that reflect the multi-ethnic and multi-cultural customs of their communities.

This is a time of many accomplishments for the Hispanic community. The past decade saw a rise in Latino leadership and political representation, and today we have a Latino serving as the Secretary of Labor, Tom Perez, who succeeded the first Latina to serve as the Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis.

But while there is much to celebrate, Latinos still face tough problems. The recession hit all workers hard, but Latino workers were particularly hard hit. The unemployment rate among Latinos last month was 7.5 percent, compared with 6.2 percent for the nation as a whole – and Latinos who are working disproportionately work in low-paying jobs.

Studies show Latinos also have the highest high school dropout rate, the highest percentage of people without health insurance, the highest occurrence of wage theft and are the most in danger of being killed on the job.

Today, millions of Latino workers are restricted to working in the shadows, subject to exploitation and abuse. We cannot restore job quality and the quality of life for all workers, without addressing the status of millions of Latino immigrants in the United States. We cannot accomplish this without real, comprehensive immigration reform.

AFSCME is committed to finding a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. Our immigration system is broken and this hurts all workers.

In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month, take a moment to send a letter to Congress asking them to pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform. It’s the right thing to do – and the time is now.

Private Prison Operator Sued by Texas Inmate for Allowing Sexual Abuse Tue, 16 Sep 2014 17:07:00 -0500 Last week, a civil rights lawsuit was filed in a Texas federal court by a former prisoner against Corrections Corporation of America, one of the nation’s largest private, for-profit prison operators, and two of its employees for allegedly allowing the defendant to be sexually assaulted by other inmates at a facility in Bartlett, Texas.

The incident occurred during a sexual hazing ritual in which inmates are routinely forcibly stripped of their clothing by other prisoners and slammed against a protective glass window, exposing the victims’ naked bodies to prison staff on the other side.

According to court documents, CCA and the facility’s warden were aware of the hazing practice, but did nothing to stop it. After the defendant reported the incident, CCA subsequently put him in solitary confinement, which according to the lawsuit, is a common practice by CCA officials in responding to rape survivors’ outcries.

“It’s well known now that these private facilities lack the oversight capacity, training programs and staffing to protect inmates and correctional employees,” stated Lance Lowry, president of AFSCME Local 3807. “With the ever-growing list of scandals and lawsuits, states are now starting to rethink the whole idea of contracting out prison operations to private enterprises.”

Officers Honored for Saving an Inmate’s Life Tue, 16 Sep 2014 12:00:00 -0500 TOMPKINS, N.Y. – Four corrections officers from the Tompkins County Corrections Facility were honored by the local Kiwanis Club as Officers of the Month.

The quick response and professional actions of Officers James Barrett, Robert Butcher, Mark Miller and John Talcott, members of AFSCME Local 2062, saved the life of an inmate who went into cardiac arrest during his intake. The officers each played a vital role in administering CPR and AED care to resuscitate the inmate and then took him to the hospital.

“These guys did what they do every day – provide exemplary service to our community,” said Matt Haney, president of AFSCME Local 2062. “Their quick response, effective use of their training and commitment to doing a good job saved a man’s life. They should be commended for their bravery and professionalism in a crisis situation.”

“We have corrections officers across the state who walk in jails and prisons never knowing if they will come out alive,” added James Lyman, executive director of AFSCME Council 82. “These dedicated women and men should be honored and recognized. These officers are prime examples of the high level of service our members provide to communities across the state.”

Wisconsin Governor’s Report Card Shows Failing Grade Tue, 16 Sep 2014 12:00:00 -0500 MADISON, Wis. – Gov. Scott Walker is known for setting records, just not the kind his parents could be proud of.

Between 2011and 2013, the Wisconsin governor cut public school funding by more per student than any other governor in the nation. His cuts totaled $1.6 billion during two years, reducing the revenue limit per student by 5.5 percent, the first time revenue caps were ever decreased.

With these massive cuts, 25 percent of Wisconsin’s schools reported increasing their kindergarten, first-, second- and third-grade class sizes, while 33 percent of schools increased class sizes for children in fourth through sixth grades.

But it doesn’t end there.  Twenty-six percent of school districts cut special education staff, 27 percent of districts cut library and media center staff and 16 percent cut drug and alcohol abuse staff.

We already reported that despite Walker’s promise to create 250,000 new jobs, Wisconsin is dead-last in job creation in the Midwest. Now his disturbing cuts in education. And somehow he managed to find money for a tax deduction of up to $10,000 that benefits millionaires who send their kids to elite private schools.

Watch this video to learn more.

Help For 9/11 Responders and Survivors Fri, 12 Sep 2014 17:46:50 -0500 Were you a responder or survivor in New York, Washington, DC, or Shanksville, Pennsylvania, after the terrorists struck on Sept. 11, 2001? If so, you may be eligible for free medical monitoring and treatment through a federal program that AFSCME helped create.

The World Trade Center Health Program is open to all workers, including but not limited to emergency health workers, fire or police responders (active or retired)  and others who assisted in the rescue, recovery, clean-up and support following the attacks in those three locations.

In addition, it also provides treatment for those who lived, worked or went to school in the New York City disaster area, or attended daycare or adult daycare, or performed cleanup or maintenance, or were exposed to the dust cloud on that fearful day.

AFSCME DC 37 in New York, working with AFSCME’s Federal Government Affairs Department in Washington, helped develop and lobby Congress for the passage of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010.

DC 37 received a federal grant to register responders and survivors for the health program, and created a website to inform members about it.

For information on the World Trade Center Program, go to or call (888) 982-4748.

Learn more at WTC Health Program, District Council 37 Facebook.

Michigan Lets Aramark Off the Hook Fri, 12 Sep 2014 17:43:00 -0500 Ignoring a pattern of inappropriate and unsafe handling of prison food, the director of the Michigan Department of Corrections withdrew a $98,000 fine against Aramark, telling Gov. Rick Snyder’s chief of staff, Dennis Muchmore, in an email: “Our corrective action was too harsh.”

The fine was imposed for unauthorized meal substitutions, not preparing sufficient meals for the inmates and employing workers who fraternized with prisoners.

“That’s outrageous,” Nick Ciaramitaro, legislative director for AFSCME Council 25, told the Detroit Free Press. “Things only got worse after the first fine.”

Aramark, the food service outsourcer that operates in a number of corrections facilities, was fined at least three times this year in two states for ongoing violations. These violations included maggots in prison kitchens, short staffing, unauthorized meal substitutions, failing to prepare sufficient meals for inmates, and employing workers who smuggled contraband and engaged in sex acts with prisoners.

Although the fines add up to nearly $400,000 to concerned citizens, the corporation’s ongoing violations were never about the money. The outrage is about the fact that privateers like Aramark will always look out for their own interests and those of their stakeholders before they do what’s in the best interests of taxpayers and the communities where they operate.

After all, Aramark has a three-year, $145-million contract with the state of Michigan alone. The fines levied against it this year represent one fourth of 1 percent of the value of just one of its contracts.

If public officials, including Governor Snyder, wish to do what’s right, they should begin by holding Aramark accountable for its ongoing violations. One way to do that would be to cancel its contract with the state and return public jobs where they belong – in public hands.

We Remember Thu, 11 Sep 2014 08:00:00 -0500 “I just had to go after those who would come after me,” recalled one New York City police officer who was digging in the rubble of the World Trade Center with his bare hands in the days after the terrorist attack on our nation. In this video, the frantic search for survivors that evolved into a somber search for victims is recalled by AFSCME-represented officers, paramedics, dispatchers and other public service workers on the anniversary of 9/11.

Video produced in 2011 on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

It was a profoundly emotional few days, and the wounds from that tragic event will haunt our nation for years to come. The workers at Ground Zero recall how they approached their jobs that day, when we all came together in the face of a national tragedy. We will never forget.

Mo’ne’s Coach: ‘I Have the Greatest Job in the World’ Thu, 11 Sep 2014 11:10:00 -0500 PHILADELPHIA – The world was watching Aug. 22 when Mo’ne Davis, a pitcher for the Taney Dragons, became the first girl to pitch a shutout in the 67-year history of the Little League World Series. Although the team would eventually fall short of its ultimate goal of winning the LLWS title, Mo’ne won the hearts of America and became an instant role model for countless young girls around the world.

Little was known about the man behind the superstar, her coach Steve Bandura, a Philadelphia city worker and member of AFSCME Local 2187, who works at the Marian Anderson Recreation Center in South Philly. Bandura began as a volunteer at the local recreation center in 1989, later to leave a marketing job to pursue a career with the Philadelphia Parks & Recreation Department, where he established a baseball, basketball and soccer league for inner-city Philadelphia kids.

“I took a pay cut, but I have the greatest job in the world,” said Bandura. “I look forward to going to work every day because I get to help kids. I am passionate about this – and when you follow your passion, you can make a difference in the lives of others.”

Throughout Philadelphia, members of Local 2187 work with children to develop skills in sports and life. They provide a safe haven to children who might not otherwise have a place to go after school or during the summer. Bandura even put his baseball team on the road to give them more experience.

“We open doors of opportunity. When we give kids opportunity – they excel,” continued Bandura. “Tax dollars are well spent on Recreation Centers. It’s a worthwhile investment, resulting in quality kids with outstanding character.”

Bandura discovered Mo’ne’s athletic abilities in 2008 when he saw her playing football at the recreation center. Mo’ne and her teammates play sports year-round, including soccer and basketball. She and her teammates have competed together for years.

Long Lines Lead to Child Care Organizing Opportunity Wed, 10 Sep 2014 12:00:00 -0500 MILWAUKEE – In the face of anti-union legislation that has left working people reeling from Gov. Scott Walker’s political agenda, family child care providers in Milwaukee and across Wisconsin have fought back and begun organizing with AFSCME/Child Care Providers Together Wisconsin.

The breaking point came when the state forced providers working in Milwaukee County to deliver their timesheets in person downtown at the Milwaukee Early Care Administration (MECA) offices in order to get paid in a timely manner. The result was hours-long lines extending out the building and down the block from the early morning through the afternoon –  time those providers could have used caring for children.

“This was a blatant slap in the face to the providers in Milwaukee,” said Glenda Haynes, a child care provider who was forced to wait in line for hours. “No provider in any other county was forced to do this.”

Those lines, however, resulted in an opportunity for AFSCME/CCPT organizers who visited providers in line to talk union and bring water to ensure none lost their place in line. Soon, activists inside and outside the building created the pressure needed to get a meeting with MECA leaders and the in-person requirement was lifted.

The time-sheet resolution – along with new accreditation courses offered at no cost to AFSCME/CCPT members – has spurred a growth in the local, tripling membership in just two months.

“The word is getting out about the resources and the unity the union can provide,” said Anneliese Sheahan, president of the AFSCME/CCPT local. “For just $25 a month for membership, the union provides so many resources that benefit all providers.”

Secretary-Treasurer Reyes Takes ALS Bucket Splash Tue, 09 Sep 2014 17:05:00 -0500 Challenged by AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders, Sec.-Treas. Laura Reyes took the plunge last week, taking a bucket of ice water on her head to benefit ALS research.

“As a union woman and proud AFSCME member, I accept the challenge,” she said. In turn, she challenged “my sisters at the Women’s Leadership Academy,” as well as Kathryn Lybarger of AFSCME Local 3299 in California, an AFSCME International vice president.

Secretary-Treasurer Reyes pledged to make a personal donation, added to the $1,000 already pledged by AFSCME for research to fight the neurodegenerative disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The “ice bucket challenges” helped raise nearly $100 million for ALS research since the end of July.

Chicago Taxi Drivers Demand Due Process Fri, 05 Sep 2014 16:41:00 -0500

CHICAGO – Frustrated by an unjust system that denies due process to taxi cab drivers cited for code violations, more than 400 members of Cab Drivers United (CDU)-AFSCME demonstrated this week outside the Chicago Department of Administrative Hearings (DOAH).

For Chicago’s drivers, a hearing date at DOAH is the last step in a process that efficiently and effectively strips drivers of their rights and hard-earned income.

According to a study released by Cab Drivers United-AFSCME in June, drivers pay thousands of dollars each month to lease their cab or finance a medallion, and work 12 hours a day, six or seven days a week. And yet they find their modest income in serious jeopardy over the slightest infraction, regardless of guilt, and typically without the opportunity to present evidence to an impartial judge.

“The system here at 400 West Superior is set up to prevent drivers from ever having our day in court,” said taxi driver and CDU member Maxwell Akenten. “The enormous fines and penalties are used by the city as leverage to pressure us into settling and paying a fine without ever making our case. It’s coercion. We are automatically guilty; there is no due process for taxi drivers.”

CDU drivers already met with Business Affairs and Consumer Protection Commissioner Maria Guerra Lapacek twice to highlight the areas her office can act on immediately to alleviate the impossible position drivers are in.

“We are asking for common-sense solutions to the problem facing taxi drivers,” said taxi driver and CDU member David Adenekan. “These are issues the commissioner could act on today.  She could work to create a fair system where drivers have the same expectation of justice and due process as the rest of Chicago.”

Quick Action Rescues Phoenix from Flooding Fri, 05 Sep 2014 12:00:00 -0500 Torrential flooding posed major problems for Phoenix in August, but public service workers rose to the challenge and saved the day.

Dennis Martinez, a fire emergency dispatcher and AFSCME Local 2960 member, reported 18 swift water rescue assignments in just a 12-hour period at their call center. Swift water rescues are very intense and can require up to 15 to 20 fire apparatuses and specially trained technical firefighters.

During a rescue, captured by Fox 10, one of Martinez’s team members remained on the phone with the survivors for more than 45 minutes, providing vital information for a successful rescue. The home moved more than 20-feet from its original address and the flooding forced firefighters to use a helicopter to land on the roof.

“We handled more than 6,000 calls during the hours of the flood, dispatching units to multiple emergency situations,” Martinez said. “Every second is a matter of life and death, we are grateful to have been prepared to play a huge role to ensure the safety of our residents. It was a great combined effort of city employees.”

Arizona is known for its monsoon season, which lasts from June to September and carries a severe threat of mudslides and aggressive flash floods. Improvised evacuations and rescue missions are common during this time period. The desert around Phoenix sees very little rain most of the year, so that in the event of an intense storm the water has nowhere to go.

For city employees at the Union Hills Water Treatment Plant, the first task was to close the intakes before the plant could be contaminated with unsanitary water spilling over the banks of the Skunk Creek Wash.  Their courageous efforts protected the health of many Phoenix residents and the infrastructure of the plant. The intakes remained shut down for nearly 15 minutes to let the mud flow by, safely out of the path of clean drinking water.

“We have a good response team at Union Hills. As soon as we realized the threat of the flooding, we took to the problem and closed off the intakes and relied on the other four water plants to supply clean water to our residents,” said Julian Marquez, AFSCME Local 2384 member and a building maintenance worker.

The Union Hills Water Treatment Plant intakes were reopened and no deaths or major injuries were reported due to the flooding; however, heroic stories of public servants and neighbors banding together to ensure the safety of their communities continue to surface.

Indiana City Workers Fight Back, Secure Contract Fri, 05 Sep 2014 12:08:00 -0500 The hard-working members of Local 2487, which represents city workers in Bloomington, Indiana, have a history of working cooperatively with city management for the benefit of both workers and city services. When they negotiated their last contract, which went into effect on Jan. 1, 2014, they had no reason to believe things would be different.

But five months later, on June 1, the city revised its personnel policy, limiting compensatory time and mandating that members use 10 days of compensatory time before using their sick time or paid time off. This change was made unilaterally without negotiating with the local.

AFSCME members knew that if they did not fight back, the integrity of the contract would be seriously eroded. If the city didn’t think it had to bargain with members on this, then they could start to make other policies outside the contract.

Local 2487 Pres. Rick Albright filed a grievance and met with management. But more importantly, he worked with Dave Robertson, his staff representative at AFSCME Indiana-Kentucky Organizing Committee 962, to organize his co-workers. Under the banner “Hands Off Our Contract,” more than 80 members signed up to take action during a City Council meeting on Aug. 21.

Having gotten wind of the members’ plan, the city called the local for a meeting and agreed to back off the changes to the personnel policy.

“They knew we had a lot of help coming, and they got scared,” Albright said. “Because we organized, we were able to move things forward.”



Missourians Back $11 an Hour for Home Care Attendants Thu, 04 Sep 2014 17:07:00 -0500 Missourians from St. Louis to Independence to Joplin called on Gov. Jay Nixon to set the home care attendant minimum wage at $11 an hour. In news events in seven cities and through videos on social media, home care attendants, their consumers, and political and community leaders said poverty wages for such valuable work isn’t right.

The state’s Medicaid-funded Consumer Directed Services (CDS) program enables a better life for 30,000 Missourians who are elderly or with disabilities, and who cannot remain in their own homes and communities without assistance. CDS attendants provide that care and make the program work. Earning an average wage of $8.56 and working spotty hours, attendants themselves cannot make ends meet, leading to a high turnover rate that leaves consumers with uncertainty about their future.

Governor Nixon can raise the program’s minimum wage to $11 with the current state allocation. Home care agencies are given $15.56 for each hour of attendant service. On average nearly half of that is taken up in administrative costs.

The call for a raise was backed by lawmakers and community leaders.

“We all know someone who needs in-home care,’” Missouri Rep. Kevin McManus said. “’You know how important it is that that person is able to remain in their homes and stay connected to communities and to their family. I don’t think it’s too much to ask to give them a wage that provides them with the same level of dignity they provide consumers.’”

The Missouri Home Care Union bargaining team will resume contract negotiations on Sept. 17.

Don’t Want to be Evil? Drop ALEC Thu, 04 Sep 2014 16:47:00 -0500 If Google wants to adhere to its “Don’t Be Evil” motto, AFSCME and other organizations are urging the Internet giant to stop funding evil and cut ties with ALEC, which pushes bills that advance corporations at the expense of working families.

ALEC brings state legislators together with corporate lobbyists to formulate legislation that busts unions, attacks voting rights and takes other extreme positions.

The coalition joins AFSCME with more than 50 unions and advocacy groups.

One of the groups, Common Cause, filed a complaint with the IRS in 2012 challenging ALEC’s status as a nonprofit charitable organization. The complaint says ALEC serves “as a vehicle for its corporate members to lobby state lawmakers and then deduct the costs of these efforts as charitable contributions.”

In a letter, the coalition reminds Google’s CEO, Larry Page, and other officers that hundreds of thousands of Americans signed petitions during the past year urging Google to cut ties with ALEC “because of their concerns about the harmful role ALEC has played in our democratic process.”

Just last month, Microsoft announced that it will no longer be a member or financial supporter of ALEC. That’s evidence of a growing backlash against the group. More than 90 companies and other members dropped their support for ALEC, including Coca-Cola and Pepsi, Kraft Foods Inc., General Motors and Walgreens. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation also ceased backing the organizing in 2012.


Shhh… Medicare Costs Are Going Down Thu, 04 Sep 2014 12:31:00 -0500 Contrary to conventional wisdom, Medicare costs aren’t a budget buster. The nonpartisan budget scorekeeper, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), reported last week that Medicare spending is declining.

In its published report, the CBO looked at actual costs and updated projections.  Thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and its ongoing changes to the health care system, the United States will spend $9 billion less on Medicare in 2014 alone (that’s billion, with a B). 

Over time, the savings are expected to multiply. The difference between CBO’s current estimate for Medicare’s 2019 budget and the estimate four years ago is approximately $95 billion less.   Paul Krugman nails it by explaining this Medicare Miracle.

To put that figure into perspective, the $95 billion in savings is more than double the amount of funding for Army military and National Guard personnel in fiscal year 2014.

How much are we saving in terms of each Medicare beneficiary?   In 2019, the United States is projected to spend $11,300 in today’s dollars to care for each person on Medicare. That’s down from $12,700 since 2010, the year the ACA became law.

Good news alert:  This means lower costs for beneficiaries, too.

The truth is our nation can afford Medicare – now and in the future.  And that’s a good thing because Medicare works for all Americans.  It affirms our commitment to caring for those who worked a lifetime, earned its coverage and deserve the peace of mind it provides.

From Labor Day to Election Day, 'These People' Are Ready for Action Sun, 31 Aug 2014 12:00:00 -0500 This Labor Day weekend, millions of Americans will enjoy the final stretch of summer. Most won't think about the 1.6 million hardworking public service workers of AFSCME who are on duty 24/7. But evidence of what we do for our communities will be everywhere.

You will see it on your drive to the beach as you travel roads and bridges built by AFSCME members. You will find it when you head to a barbecue at the park maintained by city workers and kept safe by police officers. It's at the hospital where our nurses and technicians are on the nightshift, ready to assist you in an emergency. As proud public service workers, we make America happen on Labor Day and every day.

But no matter how vital we are to the success of every community, it hasn't stopped anti-union politicians from scapegoating us to advance their extremist ideology. Instead of taking responsibility for their own policy failures, they whip up the animosity of those who don't trust government, as if those of us providing valuable public services are the enemy.

Read the full article here »

A Whopper of a Tax-Avoidance Scheme Thu, 28 Aug 2014 12:00:00 -0500 Next time you consider chomping into a Burger King Whopper, you might think about the bite this fast food giant is trying to take out of the American taxpayer.

The company announced it will purchase beloved Canadian coffee and donut shop chain Tim Hortons. That purchase could help it dodge its U.S. tax obligations, shifting its burden to the rest of us American taxpayers.

While the prospect of avoiding taxes and raking in higher profits may sound appealing to the company’s top brass, the rest of us know we’ll have to make up the difference, or do with less public service as the tax revenue pool shrinks.

Burger King is pursuing the purchase as a process called a tax inversion. That is, when a U.S.-based firm buys a company in another country, and relocates its corporate headquarters. Even if most of the company’s managers and employees remain in the United States, the firm can take advantage of the other country’s lower tax brackets.

It’s a decision that Walgreens recently mulled but dropped after American taxpayers came together in protest of the move. But since 1983, approximately 75 corporations abandoned America through inversion, and at least 10 more corporate inversions are currently underway.

AFSCME opposes these corporate tax evasion schemes. We are urging members of Congress to enact the “Stop Corporate Inversions Act of 2014” (S.2360), introduced by Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.). The measure would prevent U.S. corporations from claiming to be foreign companies unless they meet specified conditions. 

We also support the Bring Jobs Home Act, introduced by Sens. John Walsh (D-Mont.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.). The legislation would eliminate some tax incentives that corporate CEOs use to increase their profits by sending our jobs overseas.

To tell Congress to pass the "Stop Corporate Inversions Act of 2014," send them a message here!

Missouri AFSCME Members Aid Ferguson Community Fri, 29 Aug 2014 12:00:00 -0500 FERGUSON, Mo. – Community members in this St. Louis suburb saw an outpouring of support from labor, faith and other organizations following the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown earlier this month. Among those helping are members of AFSCME Council 72, representing public workers across Missouri and Kansas.

Council 72 members stepped up by providing much-needed diapers, toilet paper, bottles of water and meals for the community and businesses that were shuttered during the protests that followed Brown’s death, said Willie Donald, a steward of Local 2730 (Council 72) who works as a developmental assistant at the Bellefontaine Habilitation Center in St. Louis.

With the school year start date postponed in Ferguson until this week, these donations are making a real difference for families, many of whom receive meal assistance through their schools. AFSCME Council 72 members provided lunches outside of libraries offering educational programming for Ferguson’s children.

“We want to help the businesses so that they’ll open back up and go back to normal,” Donald said. “Everything’s still boarded up. We’re trying to help meet people’s immediate needs. We want to start building everything up into something better.”

AFSCME members also joined with the PICO National Network and other locally based organizations, this past Saturday, to launch a weekly voter registration drive to foster political empowerment and civic engagement in Ferguson.

“Our union stands in solidarity with the entire Ferguson community,” said AFSCME Pres.Lee Saunders. “And we stand with our labor and faith allies to urge a peaceful resolution to this tragic situation.”