Thu, 20 Aug 2015 05:00:00 +0000 AMPS en hourly 1 AFSCME Blog Feed Recent posts on the AFSCME Blog. Contract Ratification Boosts School Employees Tue, 24 Nov 2015 12:00:00 -0500 MIAMI – The bus drivers, maintenance and food service workers – and all the other hard-working men and women of AFSMCE Florida Local 1184 who make the country’s fourth-largest school system happen every day – have approved a new three-year contract with the Miami-Dade Public School system.

The contract, overwhelmingly ratified in votes cast at 10 worksites, is retroactive to July 1. The agreement includes a $10 minimum hourly wage that will help battle the county’s growing economic inequality. It also includes step increases, which workers have not had in nine years. Together, they should help the district attract more applicants to available job openings.

The union also won a key provision to limit the school board’s ability to outsource current and future jobs. AFSCME negotiators also were able to include language that will help stabilize health insurance costs, providing long-term certainty on a critical issue to both employees and the school board.

The ratification vote culminated months of intensive member-to-member outreach to learn about the workers’ priorities leading up to the negotiations. Local 1184 members also rallied and held other public events to explain why this contract matters. More than 100 workers joined the union during the ratification campaign.

“This is not just more of the same from us or from the school board,” said AFSCME Local 1184 Pres. Vicki Hall, a district school bus driver. “Thanks to our strong and united voice, this contract ensures that our jobs and rights are protected and that we are making real progress for our families and our communities.”

Noneconomic provisions will be in effect for the length of the contract, while economic issues will be subject to bargaining again at the end of this school year. During this time, AFSCME members will continue organizing their co-workers, focusing on the need for stronger job protections, retirement security and ensuring that hourly employees can qualify for employer-provided health care coverage.

“I voted yes on this contract because it is moving us in the right direction,” said Lovedes Perez, a food service worker and Local 1184 member.

“It is important for all of us to vote for this, but also to keep united as we keep working to grow and advocate for our jobs and our families,” added co-worker Aurora Soza.


States Back Working People in Friedrichs Case Women Need Economy that Works for Everyone Fri, 20 Nov 2015 12:11:58 -0500 Did you know that the wage gap between men and women workers has been narrowing for the past three decades? Great, right? Well it’s not for the reason you might think. It turns out that women’s wages have been stagnant since the 1970s, while men’s wages have been falling!

Dr. Elise Gould of the Economic Policy Institute joined members of Congress and labor leaders on Wednesday to call for progress that goes beyond closing the wage gap. “Gender wage parity will not improve women’s economic prospects if men’s and women’s wages are equal but both are stagnant,” she told a crowd at the U.S. Capitol. Instead, the EPI is proposing a 12-point Women’s Economic Agenda that addresses the many different pressures that women face in today’s economy.

Among the priorities is better access to child care and paid leave for personal or family illness. Women still bear the brunt of child care duties in the United States, but only 12 percent of private-sector employees can take paid time off to care for a family member. And few can afford regular child care. While the costs of child care are skyrocketing – it’s more expensive than rent in most parts of the country – the largely female workforce that provides this service is still struggling to get by.

Child care provider Janell Lankford told the crowd that she is barely getting by even though she works about 70 hours each week. But she strongly believes in the value of her work. “I have a passion,” she said. “I’m not going to walk away from somebody else’s children – they still need to be taught and they still need to be loved.”

Lankford is part of the Fight for 15, which is working to secure a $15 hourly wage and union rights for child care providers. The right to form a union is another important part of the Women’s Economic Agenda. Women in unions are much more likely than their nonunion counterparts to earn a living wage and benefits.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren heartily endorsed the economic agenda. She says that she owes her own success in life to the economic policies of postwar America, in which union rights were strong and the minimum wage was high enough that her mother was able to support a family with an entry-level job at Sears.

"I always get applause when I say I'm for equal pay for equal work," she said. "But real economic equality will take more changes in America's economic policies.”

New Contracts Boost Workers, Energize Local Fri, 20 Nov 2015 12:02:28 -0500 Hundreds of hardworking men and women of AFSCME Local 2227 recently ratified three new contracts, providing not only a boost to members’ paychecks but also serving to protect public service jobs in the future.

The members, who proudly make Florida’s Polk County Public Schools happen, united to pass strong contracts for bus drivers and bus attendants, food service staff and for maintenance, custodial and vehicle services employees.

Along with stopping any harmful changes to employee health care and retirement plans, the contracts will help the local make good progress toward its goal of adding 100 new members by the end of the year. More than 60 new members have already joined and a new membership committee kicked off with the new school year.

Increasing wages was a priority for the union, not only because it puts more money into members’ pockets, but because it will help recruit new employees.

“In recent years we’ve had a problem filling open positions because starting pay in many positions was just not competitive,” said Local 2227 Pres. Larry Milhorne, a carpenter in the maintenance department’s Lake Wales Shop. “When you can’t fill positions, you open yourself up to outsourcing. And when you start getting your jobs outsourced that really could be the death of your union.”

Each contract’s step increases were improved to ensure that all workers will get a pay raise. Also, starting pay is higher, especially for food service employees who saw their starting pay jump from $8.05 an hour to $10 an hour. That increase is expected to entice more people to apply for openings, thereby reducing the threat of outsourcing their work to for-profit companies.

Besides protecting retirement and health care plans from cuts, the contracts included new worker participation provisions -- a new field trip committee for bus drivers and worker input on testing for open maintenance positions.

“We did some good things with these contracts,” said Milhorne. “We saved some jobs, and we’ve already seen the hiring pick up. So I’m confident in saying we met our goals.”

‘Lunch Ladies Rock’ and Win Big at the Polls Fri, 20 Nov 2015 10:40:27 -0500 This past Election Day, school cafeteria workers sent a clear message that there are consequences to putting corporate profit ahead of children’s nutrition, voting out a majority on the Bristol (Connecticut) Board of Education that tried to outsource school lunch service.

Proponents of the outsourcing plan held a 5-4 majority, but failed to garner public support for the measure when they introduced it in 2013. Mobilizing under the name “Lunch Ladies Rock,” the hardworking cafeteria workers helped elect a new board with a 6-3 majority adamantly opposed to privatizing school nutrition services.

“Bristol voters, by their overwhelming rejection of outsourcing, sent a powerful reminder that when people really know what’s going on, they will stand up for other working families and demand fairness from elected officials,” said Sal Luciano, AFSCME Council 4 executive director and also International vice president.

The hardworking women and men went beyond traditional means of rallies and Board of Education speak-outs to build a community to disseminate their message and garner public support for their fight. The Lunch Ladies Rock Facebook page proved to be an important tool to inform the community of the dangers of outsourcing. It also allowed workers to communicate their commitment to the students they serve to parents and neighbors alike.

“It’s been a long, hard struggle, but justice finally prevailed,” said Local 2267 Vice Pres. Kathy Martin, who spent 15 years as a cafeteria worker before becoming a paraprofessional this month. “Our members saw outsourcing as a threat not only to the jobs we love but to the children we serve. We stopped this recklessness by connecting with our community.”


Thank a National Education Support Professional Today! Wed, 18 Nov 2015 16:16:00 -0500 Thank a National Education Support Professional Today!

Today is National Education Support Professionals Day. It’s a day we thank school secretaries, classroom aides, cafeteria workers, maintenance workers, bus drivers and all other school support staff that contribute to the education, well-being and safety of our children in schools across the nation.

This year it is especially important to be thankful to these public service workers, many of whom are members of unions. Through their unions, they not only bargain for fair wages and benefits but ensure they have the proper tools to give the best possible services to their communities. All that’s at stake in an upcoming U.S. Supreme Court case.

Opponents of public sector workers in the case, known as Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, seek to take away workers’ ability to form unions and bargain for the very things that allow workers to do their jobs and provide valuable services to the public. Who wouldn’t want great public services for their communities? The forces behind the Friedrichs case are the super wealthy who want more power for their big businesses.

In an economy that already favors corporate CEOs and the rich who can afford to manipulate the rules, Friedrichs threatens to make an already out-of-balance economy even worse. A group called the Center for Individual Rights, which the American Prospect recently revealed has been funded by right-wing 1 percenters including the Koch brothers – and even white supremacists – is trying to make it even harder for public service workers like teachers, nurses and social workers to band together at work for better wages, benefits and standards that improve the lives of all Americans.

The best way to thank a school support professional today is to stand with them in this fight. And you can stand with them by taking action.

Thousands of working people have already signed a petition telling the Center for Individual Rights to stop attacking working people.

Make sure you sign the petition and get in on the conversation on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag: #WorkTogether.

Take Action on Friedrichs this Week: Stop the Attacks Wed, 18 Nov 2015 10:47:00 -0500 AFSCME members know all too well what’s at stake for America’s working families when the U.S. Supreme Court takes up Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Association in January. That’s why this week, AFSCME and labor, civil rights and community partners in the America Works Together coalition are raising awareness through a “week of action.”

In an economy that already favors corporate CEOs and the rich who can afford to manipulate the rules, Friedrichs threatens to make an already out-of-balance economy even worse. A group called the Center for Individual Rights, which the American Prospect recently revealed has been funded by right-wing 1 percenters including the Koch brothers – and even white supremacists – is trying to make it even harder for public service workers like teachers, nurses and social workers to band together at work for better wages, benefits and standards that improve the lives of all Americans.

Thousands of working people have already signed a petition telling the Center for Individual Rights to stop attacking working people.

Make sure you sign the petition and get in on the conversation on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag: #WorkTogether

Through their unions, working people are able to speak up together for wages and benefits that sustain their families and set standards for everyone. But the benefits of union members banding together and speaking with one voice go beyond better wages for everyone. Strong unions mean teachers can negotiate for smaller class sizes, nurses can come together to ensure hospitals provide safe staffing, and first responders can speak up for the things they need to keep the public safe.  

“My co-workers and I help keep drinking water safe, make sure air quality doesn’t promote sickness, and clean up land and water for recreation and sustainable development,” said Karen Williams, a water quality analyst at the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and member of AFSCME Council 75. “That’s why we need to maintain our voice on the job – to be able to speak up together for training, safety standards and best practices to do our work properly and more efficiently for the benefit of everyone in our state.”

This week, join fellow AFSCME sisters and brothers and working people across the country to say enough is enough! We’re not going to let CEOs and special interests silence the voices of working people by using this case to attack public service workers.

Sign the petition: Tell Center for Individual Rights: Stop Attacking Working People


Documentary Film Shows Threat to ‘Right to Unite’ Tue, 17 Nov 2015 15:43:00 -0500 “The Right to Unite” is a 19-minute documentary film by Alliance for Justice that captures exactly what’s at stake if rich, powerful interests have their way in an upcoming U.S. Supreme Court case known as Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association.

Narrated by Bradley Whitford, an American actor and union member best known for his role in the TV drama, The West Wing, the film tells the story of two American women, Lidia Rodriguez of AFSCME’s United Domestic Workers and Alantris Muhammad of SEIU.

Rodriguez and Muhammad demonstrate extraordinary self-sacrifice in the face of tragedy and adversity. Like many home care providers who give up their careers and personal goals to care for loved ones at home, these two women are models of compassion and loving care.

They are also, as home care workers, what our society needs to provide for our aging population in the best and most cost-efficient way. Unfortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court doesn’t see it that way.

In 2014, the conservative majority on the bench voted to limit the collective bargaining rights of home care providers, many of whom make just above the minimum wage. As Rodriguez herself points out in the film: “I get paid $10.10 an hour…. Animal shelter workers get paid $17 an hour for taking care of dogs.”

But it could get worse. If the same conservative justices band together again in the Friedrichs case, then all public sector workers could see their collective bargaining rights severely limited. This would undoubtedly lead to a decline in the quality of public services and further exacerbate income inequality in our nation.

Watch the trailer here (the full documentary begins right afterwards).

Hillary Supporters Overflow Watch Party at Democratic Debate Tue, 17 Nov 2015 13:32:00 -0500 Des Moines – Hundreds of Hillary supporters, including scores of union members proudly wearing their “AFSCME for Hillary” t-shirts, managed to wedge themselves in to Saturday’s Presidential debate party held on Drake University’s campus.

The standing-room-only crowd listened intently to the two-hour debate between Clinton, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, where the candidates discussed terrorism and homeland security in the wake of the Paris attacks, economic policy and health care, among other topics.

AFSCME for Hillary supporters cheer at the Presidential Debate Party. AFSCME for Hillary supporters cheer at the Presidential Debate Party.

The biggest cheer, however, went up when Secretary Clinton called out Iowa’s own tea-party Gov. Terry Brandstad, who is at the center of controversy for his own health care initiative to privatize the management of Iowa’s $4.2 billion Medicaid program among four corporations.

Commenting on Sanders’ plan to move the country to a single-payer health system to be administered by each state, Clinton said, “I have looked at the legislation that Senator Sanders has proposed, and basically he does eliminate the Affordable Care Act…which he then hands over to the states to administer. And I have to tell you, I would not want, if I lived in Iowa, Terry Brandstad administering my health care.”

AFSCME members echoed Clinton’s concern about Brandstad’s privatization scheme. “The governor is asking families to gamble on their health,” said AFSCME Iowa Council 61 retiree Michael McCarthy.

As for AFSCME members in Iowa, there is consensus that Clinton is the right candidate for union members and working people across the state. “I support Hillary because she fights for working people like me,” said Edgar Ortiz, a member of Local 3450. “She knows that you can’t have a strong middle class without a strong labor movement.”

States Back Working People in Friedrichs Case Mon, 16 Nov 2015 16:17:00 -0500 The top attorneys for 20 states and the District of Columbia have filed a “friend-of-the-court” brief supporting working people in Friedrichs v. the California Teachers Association, a case pushed to the Supreme Court by corporate CEOs and special interests intent on destroying unions.

Saying that “unions go hand-in-hand with a strong middle class,” New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced the pro-worker coalition at a Sunday press conference in New York City, where he was joined by Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen.

“The Supreme Court should follow settled precedent and allow states like New York to manage our own labor relations and achieve labor peace and government efficiency and to continue our long tradition of support for workers,” Schneiderman said.

“There is nothing remotely fair about dismantling fair-share arrangements in public-sector union contracts,” Jepsen said. “Strong public-sector unions are and should remain important partners in ensuring effective government for citizens.”

Also weighing in was New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who also filed an amicus brief and vowed to stand with unions “and the working- and middle-class families that unions protect. … Unions have been key in the fight against inequality, and their role remains vital today when workers’ rights are increasingly under attack.”

A joint AFSCME and AFL-CIO brief filed Nov. 13 strongly defends the precedent in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, a unanimous 1977 Supreme Court ruling that public-sector unions can collect fair-share fees to support their work in representing workers who choose not to join the union.

“So long as the fee payer is given a reasonable opportunity to express dissent and refrain from subsidizing the non-chargeable activity, the First Amendment is satisfied,” according to court precedents, attorneys for AFSCME and the federation argued.

AFSCME also is part of a growing coalition of labor, civil rights and community organizations working to educate the public about the case. Find out more at



Archivist Picked for Health and Safety Advisory Council Fri, 13 Nov 2015 17:38:00 -0500 By her own admission, Nan Thompson Ernst, a Library of Congress archivist and AFSCME member of Local 2910, is not a health and safety expert. But for several years she was active on her local’s health and safety committee, and last month she was appointed by U.S. Secretary of Labor Tom Perez to serve on the Federal Advisory Council on Occupational Safety and Health (FACOSH).

Ernst’s appointment to FACOSH gives her a chance to serve on a board that advises the Secretary of Labor on all matters regarding the occupational safety and health of federal employees.

“I’m a little humbled and kind of amazed,” says Ernst, who was nominated for the position by her union.

Ernst is first vice president and chief steward of the Library of Congress Professional Guild, AFSCME Local 2910. She’s been an AFSCME member for almost 20 years.

“My first responsibility in the union was to represent employees as a union representative on the health and safety committee, something I did for six or seven years,” she says. “The health and safety committee had a big responsibility because we didn’t have access to OSHA protections until fairly recently. Through that union assignment, I learned what occupational safety and health was all about and became an advocate for workplace safety.”

Despite appearances, a library is not necessarily the safest place to work. For one, as Ernst puts it, “the building is chockful of combustibles.” The collection at the Library of Congress has been a victim to fire three times in history. Proper fire safety precautions and evacuation routes are especially important for a government library located on Capitol Hill. Other health issues are musculoskeletal injuries and carpal tunnel syndrome, chronic conditions for people whose jobs require repetitive motion. And, of course, working in an old building means potential exposure to asbestos, lead paint and lead in the water.

In her new role as a member of FACOSH, Ernst hopes to contribute her knowledge of health and safety issues as a rank-and-filer and union member.

“I’m guessing one of the reasons they were interested in me is because I’m not a health and safety professional, but I come as a union representative just doing it as my collateral duty. There are not too many rank-and-filers on this committee,” she says. “I also think I’ll have something to contribute as a representative of the legislative branch, where all the other participants are representatives of executive branch agencies.”

Ernst says she’s been told the committee meets twice a year, and the next meeting is in February 2016.

She is looking forward to it.

“I’ll strive to do my best,” she says.

Guest Blog: Friedrichs Is Missing Its Warning Label Thu, 12 Nov 2015 18:06:00 -0500 This guest post first appeared on Lily's Blackboard. See the original story here.

My name is Tina Adams, and I am a school lunch lady in Mansfield, Ohio. Every school day for the past 30 years, I have cooked healthy meals and nutritious treats to feed hundreds of hungry kids. For many of my students, my food is the only food they eat all day. I keep my students’ bellies full so teachers can feed their minds.

I know if my kids are hungry, they aren’t learning. I also know who is eating his vegetables, and which kids needs to watch their sugar because of diabetes or other dietary restrictions. From the time the bell rings in the morning to when school lets out in the afternoon, I’m the mom. I care for these kids like my own—and all I want is for them to be happy, healthy and ready to learn.

After more than three decades, my salary is little more than $20,000 a year. At times, I have had to work two, even three jobs, just to make ends meet. In fact, I earn so little money that my family falls under the federal poverty level and, ironically, we qualify for food stamps.

Earlier this year, our school district declared a fiscal emergency and, as a result, the administration closed down a neighborhood school, forcing more than 220 students to bus to other schools and laying off 107 teachers and support professionals, including me. Even while I wait to be recalled back to my students, I am continuing to pay my union membership dues because I know—and I see—how important it is for all educators to have a collective voice to speak up for our students.

In fact, the state legislature here in Ohio has tried—and failed—to strip public workers like me of our collective bargaining rights. When that didn’t work, the legislature tried to kill our unions by introducing laws with names like “Right to Work.” That’s like calling bologna an artisan meat. We can see beyond their fancy, misleading labels, and we know their motives: They want to weaken our unions so they can cut wages and slash benefits to feed their own bottom lines, even if it hurts our children and communities.

You don’t have to look far to see what happens when states outlaw fair share fees in an effort to weaken unions. The results have been lower wages and worse benefits for working people. In states without full union rights, the average worker makes $1,500 less per year, and workers are much less likely to have health insurance—let alone other benefits that help them support their families.

We need to rebuild the American Dream and our middle class, but there is a Supreme Court case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, that hopes to dismantle it. The Friedrichs case, which will be heard by the Court next year, threatens to make it even harder for working people to negotiate for wages, benefits and public services. I have dedicated my whole life to helping my community, to feeding our children and helping them thrive in school, yet that won’t matter if the corporate special interests—who are pushing and bankrolling this case—are successful in convincing the Court. Friedrichs will make it even more difficult for workers to sustain their families, and that’s the goal of these wealthy CEOs who want to continue shifting the balance in their favor.

Like the foods that are bad for you, Friedrichs needs a warning label because if the U.S. Supreme Court decides against fair share fees, I won’t be able to help my students get what they need to succeed—and that’s just wrong.

Member Opens Veterans Museum Thu, 12 Nov 2015 17:52:00 -0500 Veterans Day was a special occasion for Glenn Dusablon, president of AFSCME Local 2869 (Rhode Island Council 94). Besides being a national holiday honoring the nation’s veterans, it was the day he opened his own nonprofit museum, dedicated to America’s veterans.

More than 100 first-day visitors – many of them veterans – stepped through the doors of the  Veterans Memorial Museum, in the city of Woonsocket (Providence County) Nov. 11 to admire the treasures that Dusablon has acquired since he was 9.

Just the day before,  a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held and attended by Glen and Carol Dusablon; U.S. Rep. David Cicilline (R.I.); Woonsocket Mayor Baldelli-Hunt; Normand Deragon, president of the American French Genealogical Society, which offered the space for the museum; and  Tyrone Smith, Veterans Affairs Coordinator in the office of U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.), who presented a congressional citation for the museum.

Among those who were present on opening day were members of the museum’s board of directors: AFSCME Council 94 Pres. J. Michael Downey and his wife Claudette; Council 94 Retiree Chapter Pres. Michael Connelly, and Ralph Belleville, a former member of the council, now retired.

Dusablon, a resident of North Smithfield, also a member of his council’s executive board, is chief electrical investigator for the state Department of Labor and Training. He has been collecting war memorabilia since he acquired a confederate Bowie knife that a relative, union soldier George Oakes, picked up during the fight. He also has an identifying stencil plate from Joseph Horton, another relative and a member of Oakes’ unit, the Massachusetts 57th Regiment, who fought and died in the war.

Beyond those special items that have a family connection, Dusablon treasures the hundreds of items he’s collected since, representing wars stretching from the Revolutionary and American Indian Wars through World Wars I and II and into more recent conflicts. He’s even got a Samurai sword, brought back as a souvenir during World War II, that was made in 1504. Many objects are so rare that they’re being reproduced.

Ask him which are most important to him, and he has a ready answer: “Anything associated with a veteran is what I prize as the most valuable. If it’s an artifact of a veteran, we display a photograph and a story of the veteran. Those are the things that mean the most to me.”

The nonprofit museum is the first permanent public home of his collection. Until now, he’s shown it at the RI Veterans’ Home, Elks clubs, VFWs and other venues. One who saw his collection was a retired Army colonel who had visited military artifact museums in all 50 states. He told Dusablon that his collection “is one of the most impressive,” and donated one of his uniforms.

Dusablon says the Woonsocket Veterans Memorial Museum is the accomplishment of “a lifelong dream” that would not have been possible without the generosity of the American French Genealogical Society. He also credits his father, who served in the U.S. Navy aboard a submarine during World War II, for encouraging his hobby.

Dusablon used a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to develop the museum, but invested his own money to rent the room, buy mannequins, and other material. Now he’s trying to raise money -- $200,000 – for a new elevator to make the facility more accessible. Donations can  be made at

The Veterans Memorial Museum is located at 78 Earle St., Woonsocket, RI. Hours are Saturdays, 10-4. Call the museum to check for other times: 401-222-9025. Read more about the museum and Dusablon here.

Florida Members Endorse Murphy for U.S. Senate Thu, 12 Nov 2015 17:40:14 -0500 Pointing to his accessibility and willingness to fight for working families, the men and women of AFSCME Florida announced that U.S. Rep. Patrick E. Murphy has earned their endorsement in his campaign for U.S. Senate.

The endorsement, recommended by Florida members and made by AFSCME International, makes AFSCME the largest union – and one of the largest organizations overall – to endorse Rep. Murphy.

“No matter if it is here in South Florida where he was born and raised or at membership meetings in Pensacola, or organizing drives in Jacksonville and Orlando, Congressman Murphy has made a concerted effort to listen to us and share his plans to tackle the issues our country faces,” said Corey Taylor, a member of AFSCME Local 871 who is a waste equipment operator for the City of Miami. 

David Jacobsen, an AFSCME Florida Retiree Subchapter 43 leader in Tallahassee, also pledged his support. Retirees, he said, “have worked with Congressman Murphy during his time in the House and he knows that we will be just as involved, and hold him just as accountable, once he represents us in the Senate.”

“Election Day 2016 is less than a year away and with so much at stake, with so many important races on the ballot, we can only make sure the voices of working families and retirees are heard loud and clear if we get involved now and organize our communities like never before,” Jacobson said.

Over the past several months, AFSCME Florida members have met with each candidate running for Florida’s open Senate seat, debated their platforms, and moved forward with the endorsement recommendation once Rep. Murphy became the clear choice of a super majority of the membership.  

Members were drawn to Rep. Murphy’s record of trying to bring people together behind legislation focused on creating good American jobs, battling income inequality, and standing up for rights and equality on the job

“I'm humbled and excited by AFSCME's support for our campaign,” said Rep. Murphy. “This country's middle class was built by strong unions, and they remain the stalwart supporter of working families across Florida and across America. In the U.S. Senate, I will fight for working families -- for workers' rights, for better wages, and for a vibrant middle class.”

Lynn Loveday Honored for Helping Homeless Thu, 12 Nov 2015 17:33:29 -0500 Lynn Loveday, state vice president of AFSCME Council 94, was recently honored by the United Way of Rhode Island for her leadership to increase labor’s efforts to help her state’s homeless population.

Loveday was presented last month with United Way’s Dante Mollo Labor Award by Rhode Island AFL-CIO Pres. George Nee. In accepting the award, Loveday said her desire to help others began at a young age. “My parents instilled in me a sense of responsibility to those less fortunate,” she said. “Building a bridge between my labor family and the work of the United Way seemed to be a great way to get our members active in the community.”

Following Loveday’s lead, other local leaders of Council 94, as well as leaders of other Rhode Island labor unions, also got involved helping the homeless.

 “My sister Lynn has been vital in bringing other unions on board with her work for the homeless,” said Council 94 Pres. J. Michael Downey. “I am so proud of her. She embodies the commitment that all Council 94 members have daily as they go to work to make Rhode Island a place we are all proud to call home.”

Loveday has vowed to continue her work with the United Way “until everyone in Rhode Island has the life they deserve.”

Workers Shed Light on an Out-of-Balance Economy Tue, 10 Nov 2015 12:00:00 -0500 PITTSBURGH – Dozens of union leaders and members have joined U.S. Rep. Michael Doyle to launch a public awareness campaign about the need to strengthen Pittsburgh’s middle class, which has been shrinking along with unionized workplaces.

“Unions built this city,” Congressman Doyle declared at a press conference.  “Good union jobs create a path to the middle class, and strong unions benefit and protect all workers.”

Jacquie Bowman-Porter, AFSCME Local 2924 member and a secretary at the Sci-Tech School in Oakland who also spoke at the press conference, credited her good union job for her personal success.

“Two years into my employment with the Pittsburgh Public Schools, I gave birth to my son, Julian,” she said. “I was a single mother. But with the great family support, and an excellent union job that provided me with great working hours and a great benefit package, I was able to spend quality time with my son, provide him with a stable childhood, and give him things that I was unable to have.”

Good union jobs are not just about negotiating a contract about wages and benefits, speakers noted. They also enable workers to advocate for a better workplace in which to do their jobs, pointed out public school teacher Anna Tarka DiNunzio. “When we have a strong teachers’ union, educators are able to advocate for their students,” she said.  “We advocate for important issues that help our pupils get the education that they need and deserve.”

The campaign includes a mobile billboard truck that will circle Pittsburgh over the next several day to raise awareness that the economy is out-of-balance because big corporations have manipulated the system to their benefit at the expense of average working families.



Kentucky’s Tea Party Governor Set to Throw 400,000 Off Health Insurance Rolls Tue, 10 Nov 2015 12:00:00 -0500 Kentucky’s governor-elect and tea party favorite Matt Bevin is expected to move ahead with his plan to dismantle the state’s Affordable Care Act program and throw more than 400,000 Kentuckians back into the ranks of the uninsured. Although Bevin tempered his criticism of the program near the end of the campaign, it remains at the top of his agenda.

“Absolutely!” said Bevin, when asked by Fox News if he would follow through on dismantling the program, called Kynect. “No question about it, yes.”

Gov. Steve Beshear set up Kynect as the state exchange. The term-limited governor was credited with the second-biggest drop in its uninsured rate among all states since 2013.

Bevin plans to make other major, anti-working family changes once he takes office, with an aim to lower taxes on the wealthy. He has also vowed to slash state government, rework public pensions for teachers and state employees and introduce right-to-work scam legislation.

Bevin’s victory followed an Election Day marked by extremely low turnout. Approximately 30 percent of registered voters showed up to vote. Bevin will be sworn into office on Dec. 8.


Newark Residents Demand Tax Increase over Outsourcing Trash Collection Tue, 10 Nov 2015 12:00:00 -0500 Faced with the outsourcing of trash collection services now performed by city employees, residents of Newark, Delaware, said they’d rather pay a higher tax than see the work go to a for-profit company. The City Council members listened, voting unanimously last month to keep the work in-house.

The proposal to outsource the work to Phoenix-based Republic Services was supposed to save the city $4.9 million over seven years, but residents preferred the tax increase, citing numerous acts of kindness by the workers in making their case to save the jobs of the public employees.

The annual tax increase would cost the average homeowner $58 and businesses $297, but would provide a peace of mind that was priceless.

 “The women and men of the Newark Public Works department rightfully earned the respect of their community,” said Mike Begatto, AFSCME Council 81 executive director. “Residents came out in droves to tell their elected officials to raise their taxes. This is a true testament of the quality of service these hard-working Delawareans provide to their neighbors and friends.”

EMS Workers Tackle Issue of Fatigue and High Turnover Wed, 04 Nov 2015 12:00:00 -0500 Independence, MO — It’s clearly a problem when 20 percent of a company’s workforce vanishes within 16 months, especially when that company is a local unit of the nation’s largest private provider of emergency services.  Professionals at the Independence/ S. Platte County operations of American Medical Response (AMR) are leaving at an alarming rate of twice the national average for paid EMS providers, and AFSCME members there want to shine some light on the problem.  

EMT Robert Mills, a member of EMS Workers United-AFSCME Local 1812, has worked at AMR for 14 years and has observed a constant influx of new employees. Some stay, many leave. He is concerned that the high turnover could have a negative effect on emergency care in his city.  

“Keeping an experienced workforce can help ensure crews respond faster, and assess and treat patients more efficiently,” said Mills. “Independence residents would be better off if AMR wasn’t having to constantly train new staff.”

So how can AMR reduce turnover? They can start by listening. Mills and his fellow union members presented AMR with reforms that would help improve retention and patient care by preventing exhaustion.

“We see a lot of burnout, but now that we’re united as EMTs, paramedics, and dispatchers, we can guide the company forward,” said Mills. “It’s not uncommon for a crew to run call after call without a break and then be held over their shift because there aren’t enough of us in the field. Many have to go straight from that to another job. We want AMR to improve their model and do what’s good for workers and patients.”

The dangers of fatigue in EMS are obvious. Earlier this year, an investigation by Good Morning America highlighted ambulance accidents across the country linked to fatigue and the lack of federal oversight to address it. Truck drivers, pilots, and railroad conductors all have federally mandated work hour limitations, but not EMS personnel, according to a 2013 National EMS Advisory Council report on Fatigue in EMS

Joey Ford, president of EMS Workers United-AFSCME Local 1812, noted that when he worked as a truck driver hauling dirt and rock, before becoming a paramedic, “there were more regulations to keep me and the public safe. We have to do better in EMS, and as the largest provider, AMR should be leading the way.”

AMR now has an opportunity to do the right thing when they return to negotiations on Nov.  9.

“This is not a me thing, this is an us thing” Wed, 04 Nov 2015 12:00:00 -0500 Jacqueline Milton-Herring’s day starts well before the sun rises. For most of 20 years, this AFSCME Local 1184 member has been a dedicated employee of the Miami-Dade County Public Schools. She has been a bus aide and a bus driver. This means her day, like that of her coworkers, starts well before most people’s alarms go off. Their responsibility: make sure that students make it to school safely and on time.

“Just look at our great safety and on-time records to see we are doing a good job,” said Milton-Herring. “This is not a me thing, this is an us thing. Without the job we do, parents wouldn’t be able to get to their jobs on time, schools wouldn’t be able to start on time.”

But for too long these dedicated public employees have been taken for granted and neglected by the very school board they have dedicated their careers to serve. Even as Superintendent Alberto Carvalho trumpeted the district’s latest budget as proof “the recession is behind us” – with plans to spend millions on adding wireless Internet to school buses -- investments in the drivers themselves have been forgotten.

“When we heard they were going to spend money on Internet for the busses, we cried,” said Milton-Herring, who as a single parent raised six kids while compiling an exemplary record on the job. “I bring home $380 each paycheck. How am I supposed to live off of $800 a month? We are not middle class, we’re not even just getting by.”

Respect for the work bus drivers do is central to the contract negotiations that have just started between the school system and Local 1184. That is why Milton-Herring and her coworkers have taken up the fight.

“Our hours make it tough to know all that is going on, but we sat down with our union leaders and gave them some ideas,” she said. “They listened to our concerns and they showed us the things they are pushing that would help us out. Now we are all fired up because we see they are fighting for us.”

With so much focus on the Fight for $15 across the country, Milton-Herring says that what they are fighting for is not just a number on a paystub but the respect that paystub represents.

“The people who get your kids to school safely should be focused on doing that job perfect every day, not wondering if they are going to have to rely on their neighbors for help paying the bills this month,” she said. “We deserve better than that.”

Taking Time to Honor Those Who Care by Fixing Our Long-Term Care Crisis Wed, 04 Nov 2015 12:00:00 -0500 Homecare is the fastest growing industry in the country. Every day, 10,000 people in this country turn 65—but even as the need for long-term care increases daily, the work of homecare providers remains undervalued and underappreciated.

November is Homecare Provider Appreciation Month, as well as National Family Caregiver Month. We can use this month and those that follow to pay closer attention to the workers who keep seniors and people with disabilities safe and healthy at home.

People with disabilities and the seniors who rely on in-home care do so because they would prefer to remain in their homes rather than nursing homes or facilities, where studies show they live longer, happier lives. But as it stands now, we are not equipped to care for the millions of people who will need long-term care in the coming years.

In California alone, 4 million more people will be over 65 by 2030, comprising 20 percent of our state’s total population. To keep up with demand, our country will need 1 million new homecare workers by 2022. But how can we expect to attract and retain quality homecare workers if average wages amount to less than $20,000 a year?

“You have to love this job to do it,” said Michelle Wise, a UDW member and homecare worker in San Diego. “You have to care about people to work at these wages.”


Homecare providers uniting with fellow workers in the Fight for $15. Photo credit UDW.

UDW is a union made up of 89,000 homecare providers throughout California, and we’re committed to protecting and growing the state’s homecare program for workers, clients and families. This year, after a lot of hard work, homecare providers helped end a 7 percent cut that was harming their In-Home Supportive Services’ (IHSS) homecare clients.

With each new victory, we renew our fight to win justice for homecare, because poverty wages aren’t enough. Michelle and her fellow homecare providers are highly-skilled workers who do everything for their clients from household work to providing paramedical care like wound treatment, administering medications and injections, changing catheters and so much more. The care they provide is as diverse as each of their clients’ needs.

Despite this, most homecare workers in California make on average just $10/hour, and many work without paid sick leave, vacation time, benefits or a retirement plan.

Let’s use November to honor in-home caregivers like Cynthia Wilson from Madera County, who moved from Arizona to California to become a friend’s in-home care provider. Let’s honor people like Gregory Barney, a veteran from Merced County who cares for two seniors in his community.

Let’s honor and appreciate the millions of other caregiving heroes in this country who do the work because they love it, and because they understand the need for it. Let’s honor them by amplifying the conversation around repairing our long-term care system, and addressing the needs of caregivers and those who rely on them.

Throughout the month, we will share stories of every day heroes like Michelle, Cynthia and Gregory.  This month, like every month, we honor and are thankful to those who provide care in our communities.

Sacramento Local 146 to Showcase Apprenticeship Program Wed, 04 Nov 2015 12:00:00 -0500 Throughout this week, National Apprenticeship Week, members of AFSCME Local 146 in Sacramento, Calif., are showcasing their ‘Earn While You Learn’ apprenticeship program.

Local 146, representing employees at the Sacramento Employment and Training Agency (SETA), developed this first-of-its-kind apprenticeship program so that members can continue to earn wages while they learn, at no cost to participants. Upon completion of the program, they will receive a Level III position, a promotion that, in some cases, will mean a 9-percent pay increase.

“I’m so proud of our apprenticeship program,” said Local 146 Pres. Belinda Malone. “This program is the result of hard, tedious work in building labor relations with our employer with the goal all along of improving members’ lives. Our efforts are about to pay off in a big way for our members.”

Local 146’s apprenticeship program “embodies the new partnership and collaboration between apprenticeship and WIOA [the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act],” said Diane Ravnik, director of the state’s Department of Apprenticeship Standards. It “exemplifies just the kind of expansion of apprenticeship into new occupations and industries that the new federal and state initiatives envision,” she added.

AFSCME Local 146 members now have a voting seat on the oversight board. The success of this program and hard work of AFSCME members exemplifies AFSCME Strong, further demonstrating how unions continue to help build the middle class.

Dispatcher Wins GOP Nomination for Sheriff Wed, 28 Oct 2015 12:00:00 -0500 AFSCME Council 82 member Randy Bower won the Republican nomination for Orleans County (N.Y.) Sheriff, eking out a 21-vote victory (1,671-1,650). For 30 years, Bower served as a dispatcher in the county working with police, fire and other emergency services.

Thirty-two years ago, Bower was in an automobile accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down and in a wheelchair, but that has not stopped him from being active in sports and taking on new challenges. “I love a challenge. I’m self-motivated and I have the ability to motivate others,” Bower told

“Randy has served Orleans County with dignity,” said James Lyman, AFSCME Council 82 executive director. “His resolve to serve his community has been seen for over 30 years. We applaud his victory and look forward to working with him in his new role should he be successful in November.”

The election for Orleans County Sheriff is Nov. 3.

Update: Randy Bower won the election and will be the next sheriff in Orleans County.

Community and Labor Fight for Fair Wages and a Fair Contract Wed, 04 Nov 2015 12:00:00 -0500 Milwaukie, ORE. – After a strong showing by labor and community partners at city hall, council members unanimously passed a $15 minimum wage resolution and agreed to demands by AFSCME Local 350-5 (Council 75) for a fair contract.

“We had given up a lot at the table already without any cooperation from the city. We were determined and refused to take no for an answer,” said Willie Miller, AFSCME Local 350-5 president.

Employees look forward to a well-deserved cost-of-living adjustment of 2.5 percent each year for the duration of the three-year contract. The agreement also includes a 2.5-percent market adjustment in pay for utility workers and mechanics, and a 5-percent increase for permit techs to bring them up to standard with the same positions in similar cities. Additionally, all employees received half a day off on Christmas Eve to prepare for the holiday and spend more time with family and friends.

More than 100 city employees, community activists and local union members packed the October 20 City Council meeting to press the council members to approve the increases. “Reaching out to our community allies strengthened our message to effectively move the needle and settle a fair contract,” Miller said.

“This is what democracy looks like,” the crowd chanted during the meeting in an act of solidarity. “What do we want? Contract!” they shouted. “When do we want it? Now!”

The city administrators’ initial decision not to return to the bargaining table would not be accepted. In the end, by standing AFSCME Strong, the members of AFSCME Local 350-5 prevailed. They recently ratified the new agreement. Also, 27 members recommitted to the union and 13 new members signed up for the PEOPLE program at the MVP level.


No Rescue Effort Needed for This AFSCME Couple Wed, 28 Oct 2015 12:00:00 -0500 Sparks flew in the 911 dispatch center of the New York City Fire Department as Oren Barzilay first laid eyes on Tyiesha Hinton. “I couldn’t keep my eyes off her,” he recalls. “I was like, ‘Wow! This girl is extremely pretty and very attractive.’”

It was Tyiesha’s first day in the Brooklyn communications center. Oren couldn’t concentrate on his work. As an EMT and 911 dispatcher, his job was to deal with real-life emergencies, but now he felt like he was having an emergency of his own.

“My partner Dawnette Waterman had to slap me in the back of the head a couple of times,” Oren says half-jokingly. “Fortunately nobody got hurt that day.”

Oren also was a steward for his local union, AFSCME Local 2507 (District Council 37). So he took the opportunity that day to walk over to Tyiesha, also an EMT and 911 dispatcher, and introduce himself. He told her a little bit about the union and offered his assistance.

“She just said, ‘Ok,’ and that was the end of the conversation,” Oren recalls. “But as time went by I kind of tried to get closer to her, engage in conversation with her, and I got her involved in union functions. She got involved in political action campaigns like the mayoral and governor’s elections, and later she joined us in organizing EMS workers in California, Local 4911. We were part of that original effort. The union definitely became a common interest that helped us get to know each other better.”

“Oren, always very cordial and respectful, started to invite me to different union functions,” Tyiesha recalls. “At first I didn’t know you could be so involved and my interest in union work grew. This had the effect of pulling us together, but the downfall was that we led very busy lives and couldn’t always commit our time to each other.”

It took Oren and Tyiesha several years to start dating and get to know each other better.

Then one day, in an impromptu moment, Oren suggested they get married, right now, without delay. And Tyiesha, to his astonishment, said, “Yes!”

“We headed straight to City Hall and did it right then and there,” Tyiesha says. “It was like jumping off a bridge together, hoping we’d land on soft cushions, and by the grace of God, we did.”

No rescue effort was needed for Oren and Tyiesha on March 5, 2014, when they jumped off the proverbial bridge together. Marriage has been a true blessing. They are deeply in love with each other.

“It’s been really amazing,” Tyiesha Barzilay says. “There’s never a dull moment!”

“She’s my best friend,” Oren says. “I have loved her for a very long time.”

Today, Tyiesha is retired from the NYC Fire Department and works as a nurse in a nursing home in Pennsylvania, where she and Oren bought a house. They have plans to travel and to expand their family. Tyiesha is learning Hebrew because Oren is from Israel.

“She’s a very unique person,” Oren says. “She has a heart of gold, a charming personality. She is very down to earth, easygoing, and her smile is amazing.”