Blog Feed Blog Tue, 3 May 2011 05:00:00 +0000 AMPS en hourly 1 Record Attendance at Indiana-Kentucky Union Leadership Academy Fri, 25 Jul 2014 09:29:31 -0500 LOUISVILLE, Ky. — More than 48 union activists from locals throughout Indiana and Kentucky gathered earlier this summer to attend the Indiana-Kentucky Organizing Committee 962’s Local Union Leadership Academy (LULA).

Attendance was at a record high for the organizing committee, tripling from last year’s LULA. It is just one of the trainings and events held to rebuild the committee in the wake of the revocation of collective bargaining rights for Indiana state workers and Indiana’s “right-to-work-for-less” law, which led to declining membership.

Union activists learned how to create strategic plans for their locals, including membership development, forming relationships with allies, and engagement with the political process. They also learned more about union governance.

“It will really help me to mobilize my members,” said participant Stephanie Croft, a library worker at the Louisville Free Public Library and president of Local 3425. “I have some great ideas to take back to my local.”

Outsourcing Fight Involves Community Fri, 25 Jul 2014 09:21:00 -0500 SUPERIOR, Wis. – When the custodians and grounds crew at the University of Wisconsin-Superior received “at risk notices” alerting them their jobs would be outsourced to a private company, AFSCME Local 42 (Council 24) and the greater Superior community decided to fight back.

AFSCME members mobilized immediately to spread the word throughout the tightknit Superior community. They also partnered with their sisters and brothers from the American Federation of Teachers, the United Steelworkers, and the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO. Within a couple weeks, an online petition to UWS officials generated nearly 3,000 signatures.

Tom Van Overmeiren, a custodian with 26 years on the job at UW-Superior, is encouraged by the level of community support they’ve received, but concerned about the precedent being set.

“After 26 years working at UW-Superior, I’m really upset the administration would treat people like me, making under $15 per hour, this way,” he said. “Outsourcing the custodians and grounds crew at UW-Superior will cause unnecessary harm not just to the university, but also to our community. They tell us we can be hired back, but without any benefits. Many of us have worked our entire careers to keep the university running, and I don’t think any of us expected to be treated this way.”

Van Overmeiren added that, “Since the news broke, we’ve received an incredible amount of support from our community. People from all over the area are rallying around our cause because they understand how outsourcing jobs like ours can hurt an entire community.”

In yet another important signal of support, during the first week of July, the Superior City Council passed an advisory resolution encouraging the university to find ways to balance the university’s budget without terminating the hardworking custodians and grounds crew at UWS.

Atlanta Bus Drivers Win Raises, Full-time Positions Thu, 24 Jul 2014 17:11:41 -0500 ATLANTA – A year of activism paid off for Atlanta public school bus drivers and monitors, members of AFSCME Local 1644, with an agreement that provides for across-the-board raises and fair pay for a 2013 dispute. In addition, all part-time workers were transferred to permanent full-time employee status, giving them access to much needed benefits and retirement security.

The 2013 dispute was a result of Atlanta Public Schools (APS) withholding pay and/or time off when workers were called in early for training. In violation of their contract, the bus drivers and monitors were not paid for the five days they worked. After an agreement reached this month, all bus drivers and monitors will receive fair pay checks closing out the fiscal year in August.

Members also received a 5 percent pay increase, the first increase in seven years. The agreement to extend permanent full-time status to part-time bus drivers and monitors, some of whom were considered part-time since as early as 2007, means they now have access to benefits and retirement security. Local 1644 plans to implement safeguards to ensure workers aren't dragged along as part-time year after year.

Since last summer, Local 1644 marched on APS Headquarters, the home of Superintendent Erroll B. Davis and to bus yards, held labor-management meetings, helped elect Board of Education members who support them, and hosted political forums to air potential innovative solutions for APS officials and Board of Education members.

This month, Local 1644 sponsored a Town Hall for Common Sense and Strong Services at the Atlanta City Council Chambers, drawing panelists that included Ceasar Mitchell, president of the City Council; Board of Education members Eshe Collins, Jason Esteves and Steven Lee; and Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams. Other council and school board members attended, as well as 150 Local 1644 members.

At the Town Hall, Patience Taylor, who's been a bus driver for seven years, said, "We're getting treated with more respect than ever before and it's because we demanded it. We care so much about Atlanta's kids and now we're able to do our jobs without some unnecessary stressors. This is the beginning of a new era in Atlanta and the only place to go is up."

Iowa Member Is a Hall of Famer Thu, 24 Jul 2014 16:51:11 -0500 Phyllis Thede, a member of AFSCME Iowa Council 61, will be inducted Aug. 1. into the Iowa African American Hall of Fame for her efforts as a state legislator and member of Iowa’s Human Rights Board.

The Iowa African American Hall of Fame (IAAHF), housed in Iowa State University's Black Cultural Center, “recognizes the outstanding achievements of African Americans who have enhanced the quality of life for all.”

Thede said being inducted into the Iowa African American Hall of Fame is “overwhelming.”

Thede is an attendance secretary at Williams Intermediate School, located in Davenport. She is also an active member of AFSCME Local 751, serving in past years as local president, vice president, contract negotiator and grievance chair.

Thede also is one of four African Americans serving as a member of the Iowa House of Representatives. First elected in 2008 to represent the Bettendorf/Davenport area, she is currently running for her fourth term. Thede is a member of the Iowa House Appropriations Committee, an important panel responsible for all expenditures in the state budget. She is also ranking member of the Ethics Committee and sits on the Government Oversight Committee, the Local Government Committee and the Natural Resources Committee.

As a legislative representative on Iowa’s Human Rights Board, Thede says she endeavored to “help people of diverse groups to be successful in their communities, whether African American or Indian or Asian.”

Thede says she hopes her induction will serve as encouragement to young people across Iowa and people of diverse backgrounds. “If one of us wins something like this, it serves as a message to all young people that they can be successful as well,” she said.

“Phyllis Thede is an inspiration to her AFSCME sisters and brothers,” said Danny Homan, president of AFSCME Iowa Council 61, and an AFSCME International vice president. “She is a strong voice for all of her constituents. She has championed treating everyone with dignity and respect. Her work has made Iowa a better place to live, work and raise a family.”


Stirring Story About Why We Need Immigration Reform Now Wed, 23 Jul 2014 12:20:00 -0500 When Maricruz Manzanarez decided to come to the United States, she knew that she was setting out on a difficult path. Her journey across the border was treacherous, but that was only the beginning. She has spent decades trying to hold her family together and scraping by on low wages, all while navigating America’s broken immigration system.
But when Manzanarez joined AFSCME Local 3299, she saw that she wasn’t alone—and that she had power when she stood with her coworkers. She and her fellow custodians at the University of California-Berkeley nearly doubled their wages through union action. Now she serves on the executive board of the local and is speaking out about one of AFSCME’s national priorities: justice for immigrant workers.

Seattle Hospital Workers Gain Community Support Mon, 21 Jul 2014 12:28:56 -0500 Harborview Medical Center has served the Seattle community for 137 years, and during that time it has been both a leader in medicine and an important resource for citizens of all backgrounds and income levels.

But in the past few years, hospital employees with AFSCME Council 28 have noticed troubling patterns in the way the hospital is managed.  And because of their advocacy, the county government is starting to take action.

Harborview is owned by King County, but is currently managed by the University of Washington (UW), which has muddled the hospital’s mission to be a service to the community.  UW recently provoked public outcry when it announced a plan to close some of its critical care clinics and move them to parts of the city that were less accessible to lower-income residents. 

UW rescinded that plan following backlash from AFSCME and other community groups, but major issues with its treatment of employees remain unresolved. The university administration moved call center employees to an off-site location, and refused to follow through on a previously negotiated raise owed to custodians.  When the employees sought to correct the situation, UW dragged out the process with multiple appeals.

Council 28 took its concerns directly to the King County Council, aware that the university’s contract to manage Harborview is up in 2015.  AFSCME and other unions represented at the hospital have been working with the County Council to find ways to ensure that the next contract is fair. Earlier this month, the council released a blueprint for negotiations that urges fair treatment of employees as a requirement for future operation of the hospital.

“It is a public hospital owned by King County and we don’t want to lose sight of that,” Council Chair Larry Phillips said before the council’s unanimous vote.

Missouri Republicans Cut and Paste ALEC’s Dangerous Ideas Mon, 21 Jul 2014 12:18:00 -0500 The founders of our democracy envisioned lawmaking as a serious and deliberative process.  Chosen for their qualifications to craft complex statutes, representatives would work late into the night, making tough compromises to solve problems while trying to uphold the values of their constituents.

Or if you’re a Republican member of the Missouri State Legislature, you just copy, paste, and call it a day.

Earlier this month, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed Senate Bill 508, which would make it harder for people to buy health insurance through the Affordable Care Act.  But Nixon didn’t veto it for that reason.  The bill was based on sample legislation provided by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a right-wing think tank, and the legislature failed to remove some generic filler text before introducing the bill.  As a result, the final bill referred to the wrong chapters of state code.

“It appears that in copy and pasting from this ALEC model act, the General Assembly failed to correct this incorrect reference,” Nixon wrote in his veto letter.

The lawmakers’ inability to proofread a 15-page bill is enough to make headlines, but the real scandal is the way that Washington think tanks and conservative donors have come to call the shots in Missouri as the state’s Republicans push an agenda lifted straight from the ALEC playbook. 

If Missouri lawmakers want to see where their copy-and-paste strategy leads, they need look no further than neighboring Kansas, where the legislature has already implemented ALEC’s agenda with the blessing of Gov. Sam Brownback.  In 2012 Kansas enacted a massive tax cut for corporations and the wealthy.  As a result, the state’s credit rating has been downgraded, public schools are struggling to stay afloat, and job growth has stagnated.


AFSCME Students Earn Union Plus Scholarships Mon, 21 Jul 2014 12:11:00 -0500 Ten members of the AFSCME family, across the country, received scholarships through the Union Plus Scholarship Program, which this year awarded $150,000 to 116 students representing 39 unions.

This year’s AFSCME winners are:

John Ertl, of Hartford, Connecticut, whose mother, Mary Ertl, is a member of AFSCME Council 24, Local 6.

Emily Fletcher, of Kalamazoo, Michigan, whose father, Richard Fletcher, is a member of AFSCME MSEA, Local 5.

David Joyce of Worcester, Massachusetts, whose stepfather, Gary Joppas, is a member of AFSCME Council 93, Local 1067.

Greg Lasko, of Cashton, Wisconsin, who is a member of AFSCME Council 40, Local 2470.

Courtney Mings, of Dayton, Washington, whose father, Jason Mings, is a member of AFSCME Council 2, Local 1191.

Vikas Munjal, of Fords, New Jersey, whose father, Rakesh Munjal, is a member of AFSCME Council 52, Local 2306.

Kenny Nguyen, of Hilliard, Ohio, whose father, Khan Nguyen, is a member of AFSCME OCSEA, Local 11.

Neil Patel, of Mountain Top, Pennsylvania, whose father, Vinod Patel, is a member of AFSCME Council 87, Local 2453.

Merribeth Pentasuglia, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, who is a member of AFSCME Council 26, Local 2027.

Tali Smith, of Renton, Washington, whose husband, Justin Smith, is a member of AFSCME Council 28, Local 843.

The Union Plus Scholarships, an added benefit for participating labor unions, are offered to students attending a two-year college, four-year college, graduate school or a recognized technical or trade school. Visit the Union Plus webpage for more information.

The Voices of AFSCME Are Bold, Brave, Determined Fri, 18 Jul 2014 12:50:00 -0500 Members at our 41st International Convention speak to the convention’s theme of "Bold. Brave. Determined.” Check it out!

The Rev. Dr. Barber: Get Together and Win! Fri, 18 Jul 2014 08:37:00 -0500 In an electrifying address that had Convention delegates on their feet and cheering repeatedly, the Rev. Dr. William Barber on Thursday underscored a message of coalition building and solidarity with references pulled from the civil rights and labor movements, as well as Scripture.

“We are all trade unionists. We are all civil rights activists. And it’s about time for all of us to get together and organize America like never before! It’s time to say to America, ‘We will not turn back now!’” he declared.

The Rev. Dr. Barber, pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, North Carolina, and president of the North Carolina NAACP, is the architect of the Moral Mondays-Forward Together movement that began in North Carolina and is spreading across the nation. He charged that political extremists, backed by corporate billionaires like the Koch brothers, are pushing “an immoral agenda” that includes denying rights to workers, immigrants, women, African Americans, the LGBTQ community and others.

“And all these agendas intersect because all the same people fighting labor rights are fighting civil rights. So if they are together, by God, we ought to get together and fight them back!”

Working with allies is a winning strategy, President Saunders told delegates, pointing to the immense challenges we face. “The people who are trying to take out our union have a lot of money. That’s where they get their power,” he said. “But for workers like us, we get our power through solidarity. Solidarity with our union sisters and brothers, but also with a broad coalition of workers, retirees, students, clergy, community groups and even business owners who believe every worker deserves respect and dignity.”

The power of alliances with community organizations was demonstrated in an address by Barb Kalbach, board president of the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement. Her fight with corporate-backed forces began with a personal fight to preserve her fourth-generation family farmer way of life.

But her fight is also AFSCME’s fight, she said. “What’s happening in farms is happening to you, too,” she said. It’s a “deliberate plan” by corporations and billionaires to “enhance their power in order to generate more profits,” she said. Fighting back “will take all of us pulling together, but when we’re done, family farms will then be passed to a new generation,” and we will have an economy “that values all of our public-sector workers.”

Paul Moist, president of our sister union, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), offered his union’s support for AFSCME Michigan Council 25 in its fight against privatization of water services. He and members of his union will march over the Ambassador Bridge that connects Detroit and Canada next week.

The march is to show solidarity with AFSCME in opposing Detroit’s decision to turn off the taps to thousands for failure to pay their bills, and also to oppose privatization of the city’s public service jobs and to support the municipal retirees, who are faced with cuts to their benefits because of the city’s bankruptcy.

Among the successful member and ally campaigns showcased was one launched two years ago by New York’s Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA)/AFSCME Local 1000, which joined forces with New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness, a statewide coalition of more than 130 community and consumer-based faith, labor, environmental, human services and other groups, to stop a planned downsizing of the State University of New York Health Science Center at Brooklyn (SUNY).

“Two years ago, mismanagement and budget cuts led the state to question our hospital’s mission and explore outsourcing its services,” said CSEA Region 2 Pres. Lester Crockett. “For us, this wasn’t just an attack on our jobs; it was an attack on patient care, our community and a proud New York institution.”

Together, CSEA and New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness put up a fight that made the difference. Crockett said hospital staff joined patients and preachers to make public demonstrations to save the institution.

The state backed down and “threats of cuts, outsourcing and closings stopped,” Crockett said.

Describing a successful campaign to raise the minimum wage in Minnesota, Dennis Frasier, a member of Council 5’s executive board, was joined by Kris Jacobs, executive director of the Jobs Now Coalition. Working together, they were able to get lawmakers to raise the state’s minimum wage to $9.50 an hour by 2016.

AFSCME’s efforts to create a Medical Interpreters program in California were also highlighted during the program. Carlos Garcia, an interpreter and a member of UDW Homecare Providers/AFSCME Local 3930 explained how the union expanded its reach with the help of allies.

“To ensure quality of care and communication between health care providers and patients, the members joined forces with more than 40 organizations statewide including the Korean American Senior Association of San Diego County,” Garcia said.

Delegates approved 29 resolutions, including support for comprehensive immigration reform and the Dream Act, which would provide an avenue for undocumented immigrants to attend college. Maricruz Manzanarez, an executive board member of Local 3299 in California, shared her family’s story of struggle to stay together and achieve their American Dream.

“No matter your politics; no matter your birthplace; we are all human,” she said. “And the human dignities of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness have no boundaries.”

Hard-working Cab Drivers Seek Union Thu, 17 Jul 2014 07:56:00 -0500


CHICAGO  More than a thousand delegates to the 41st AFSCME International Union Convention hit the streets Wednesday in support of 12,000 Chicago cab drivers organizing as part of AFSCME Council 31. Delegates converged across the street from City Hall to show solidarity with the drivers, who are part of Cab Drivers United-AFSCME Council 31.

AFSCME International Union President Lee Saunders joined Chicago Federation of Labor President Jorge Ramirez, Illinois AFSCME Council 31 leaders Henry Bayer and Roberta Lynch, along with national civil rights leader Rev. William Barber, in addressing the rally. Cab Drivers United members David Mangum and Maxwell Akenten also spoke.

A report issued by AFSCME last month documented that Chicago’s 12,000 cab drivers on average are losing $7,531 annually as a result of regulations enacted in 2012 by City Hall. Increased lease rates, reduced work hours and increased credit card fees are among the regulatory changes that have drastically reduced the income of the drivers, most of whom work 60-70 hours a week for less than the federal minimum wage.

“Driving a taxi cab has never been an easy job,” Mangum told the rally. “But now it’s unbearable … they’ve put the squeeze on cab drivers.”

Drivers began organizing themselves into Cab Drivers United in the spring and have been rapidly gaining membership. Wednesday’s rally is another step forward in their campaign to win a voice in the regulatory process that controls their livelihood.

“They will be more powerful with AFSCME, and AFSCME will be more powerful with them!” AFSCME International President Lee Saunders told the delegates. “So let’s join their fight! Let’s stand together! Let’s join hands in solidarity and unite with the cabdrivers of Chicago!” “My brothers and sisters, thank you for standing with us in our fight for justice,” driver Atenken told the crowd. “We are AFSCME. Know that we will always stand with you, too. We will not forget this day.”


Sec.-Treas. Reyes: Unions Make A Difference Tue, 15 Jul 2014 22:37:00 -0500 In a rousing keynote address at AFSCME's 41st International Convention in Chicago, Secretary-Treasurer Laura Reyes told the assembled delegates that unions do make a difference:

"Yes, we have endured bumps and bruises along the way, and no doubt there will be more to endure tomorrow, but we all still stand in a better place right now!… The countless families of public service workers are not the only beneficiaries of our work. Our efforts have paved the way for an immeasurable number of non-AFSCME and even non-Union American working-class families, so they too can find a way to a better life and ultimately, move this nation’s economy towards one that thrives…Unions make a difference."

You can watch highlights from her speech below, and visit the Convention website throughout the week for more videos, photos and updates.

America Will Succeed When Unions Succeed Thu, 17 Jul 2014 07:53:00 -0500 On Organizing Day at the AFSCME Convention, delegates got a surprise video message from the President of the United States, and a boost of energy from the Secretary of Labor on Wednesday.

On a day when delegates heard the stories of brave member activists and Volunteer Member Organizers (VMOs), and adopted six resolutions setting forth the union’s organizing strategy going forward, President Obama’s message told delegates: “If I were looking for a good job with good wages that lets me build some security for my family, I’d join a union.”

Labor Secretary Perez followed by saying, “America will succeed when unions succeed! Make your voices heard. That’s the most important thing we can do to grow the middle class.”

Perez also urged us to mobilize to get engaged in the elections in November. “Too many people still don’t have a job,” he said. “Too many people are working a full-time job and living in poverty.” But that can change through political action, he noted. “Make sure that your voices are heard. Elections have consequences!”

Ramogi Huma, president of the newly formed National College Players Association, told delegates why he became involved in organizing for the rights of college athletes
and recounted his group’s efforts to help Northwestern football players organize. The players won a major victory in March when a regional director of the National Labor Relations Board determined, for the first time, that college athletes are employees and have the right to form their own union.

“After they signed the cards, many doubted that we’d win,” he said. “They stood up, they stood together and they won!” He said their victory “ends a period of 60 years in which the NCAA made a pay-for-play system” to skirt federal labor laws.

“I am fully aware that workers’ rights are under attack in this country,” he noted. “College athletes are not exempt from this.... Those who would try to strip away the rights of college athletes are on the wrong side of history.”

Standing up for workers’ rights – by organizing – was the theme of Wednesday’s special program. VMOs from several states told Convention delegates of their personal experiences about building union strength to protect their rights. They were joined by new AFSCME members from several states who explained why they chose to sign up.

Among them were Susan Rowe, RN, a VMO with Iowa Council 61, and Cory Quist, a law librarian with the state library of Iowa and a newly organized member of Council 61.

Quist and his co-workers were ‘at will’ employees without union protection. “Because we were not covered by a union contract, the governor could and did target us,” he said. “He wanted us to dig into our paychecks and fork over more for health insurance while the state was sitting on a pile of surplus cash. We knew that the only way forward was with the power of a strong union. So we organized!”

“I became a VMO because now more than ever it’s important for all us to do our part and organize non- union workers,” Rowe explained. “We know the only way to survive in a right-to-work state like Iowa is to grow membership, and to stand united against attacks on rights and benefits.”

Vermont home care provider Mary Warren received a warm welcome from Convention delegates as she recalled a three-year effort by the state’s providers to build a union with AFSCME. It culminated last year in one of the largest union elections in the state’s history and was the nation’s biggest organizing win in 2013.

“To the people I care for, my job is vital and I wanted to build a union so that home care workers in Vermont could advocate for ourselves and our clients,” she said. “I traveled throughout the state knocking on doors, having kitchen-table conversations with hundreds of home care providers just like me who wanted a voice. And just last year, Vermont’s 7,500 home care providers came together and overwhelmingly voted for AFSCME!”

Warren said it was “the biggest union election in Vermont history and the largest organizing win in the nation in 2013. And it is already changing lives. The contract we fought so hard for will lift thousands of providers out of poverty. In fact, we went from $7.25 an hour to $10.80 an hour.”

Delegates passed seven resolutions: Building Power: Winning Full Collective Bargaining Rights (3); Organized, Quality Health Care Interpreter Services (13); Organizing Retirees to Build Union Capacity (46); Building Power for EMS Workers (68); Organizing the Unorganized (91); Volunteer Member Organizers (99); and Beyond the Challenge of Harris v. Quinn (88).

Delegates also showed their determination to build union strength by passing seven constitutional amendments:

  • An amendment to include Organizing Committees among the groups whose affiliates may unite to send delegates to the International Convention
  • An amendment to increase the maximum value of a paper ballot, increasing the cap from 500 to 5,000 votes
  • An amendment on convening a Special Legislative District Convention to elect an International Vice President
  • An amendment to give a subordinate body 45 days to appeal after advance notice is given by the president of the establishment of an Organizing Committee within its jurisdiction
  • An amendement to allow the electronic printing and distribution of International Convention reports
  • An amendment to provide for electronic meetings of subordinate bodies

An amendment that allows councils and local unions to adjust per capita tax rates and dues each year by directly applying the average percentage increase in membership pay to their established rates.

Unions Are The Last Line of Defense for Working Families Tue, 15 Jul 2014 17:26:00 -0500 We kicked off the 41st International Convention in Chicago with some big news: our union is 92,155 members stronger today than it was just a few months ago. 

President Lee Saunders made the announcement on Monday in his keynote address.

You can watch an excerpt of his speech below, and visit the Convention website throughout the week for more videos, photos and updates.

Melvin Hughes Elected to Executive Board Fri, 18 Jul 2014 08:40:00 -0500 Members on Thursday elected Melvin Hughes as International Vice President representing the Southwestern Legislative District. Hughes won the seat with 12,349 votes. He is president and a founding member of the Houston Organization of Public Employees (HOPE)/AFSCME Local 123.

As president of HOPE, Hughes negotiated two labor agreements and four across-the- board raises for City of Houston employees. He oversaw a major campaign which reduced health care costs for all city employees, and he was part of the successful push to raise the city’s base wage.

Hughes works in the Department of Public Works and Engineering in Houston, and has worked for the city for 20 years. He will finish out the unexpired term of outgoing IVP Greg Powell.

A Message from President Obama to AFSCME Members Wed, 16 Jul 2014 14:38:00 -0500


Today, President Obama urged our 4,000 delegates at the 41st AFSCME International Convention in Chicago to keep up the fight for working people:

“It’s people like you who make America work,” the President said. “And it’s unions like yours that helped build the greatest middle class the world has ever known.”

He vowed to stand with union members in the fight for better wages, retirement security and more flexible hours.

“Wages you can live on, and savings you can retire on, and workplace flexibility you can count on — whether you are a sanitation worker, a child care worker, or a home health aide. That’s what Americans who work hard and play by the rules deserve. That’s what we can achieve together, if we are bold, brave and determined enough.”

IVP Lillian Roberts: Living Legend Wed, 16 Jul 2014 10:58:00 -0500


In recognition of a career spent fighting for the rights of working women and men in New York and Illinois, AFSCME on Tuesday honored International Vice Pres. Lillian Roberts with the AFSCME Lifetime Achievement Award.

Roberts, executive director of District Council 37, New York City’s largest public employee union, is serving her fifth term in that capacity. She also serves as vice president of the New York State AFL-CIO, vice president of the New York City Central Labor Council, and is co-chair of the Municipal Labor Committee.

President Saunders called Roberts “a friend, a colleague and a mentor to me personally and to countless others. Over and over again, she has stood up and fought for the hard-working people of New York City. Whether it’s for a fair contract, or against an outsourcing scheme, whether it’s getting members into affordable housing, or fighting harsh budget cuts – this sister has never, ever backed down.”

When she moved from Chicago to New York to join DC 37, she said, “all I cared about was the dignity of work, and I knew that I needed a union so I wouldn’t have to kiss somebody’s behind.”

That, she said, “is why we have a union. It’s the only force that you have that gives you the dignity. This union is the greatest in the world. It’s your mouthpiece for justice.”

AFSCME Adds More Than 92,000 Members Mon, 14 Jul 2014 15:15:00 -0500 CHICAGO – AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders today announced that, even in the face of attacks from anti-worker politicians, billionaires and judges across the country (including the United States Supreme Court), AFSCME gained more than 92,000 new members during the past six months.

AFSCME nearly doubled the goal set in early January 2014 when the union launched its “50,000 Stronger” organizing campaign.

“Today, we are 92,155 members stronger, with new members from EMTs to home care workers, and we will continue our fight for the middle class and the future of this country,” Saunders said.

“Our opponents want to deplete the labor movement of resources, steal our power and silence our voices. They are even undercutting the most fundamental right we have as Americans: the right to vote. Yet, no matter the challenges that face us, the answer remains the same: Organize. Organize. Organize. ”

Included in the 92,000-plus new members are more than 20,000 home care workers, who were the target of the National Right to Work Committee funded lawsuit, Harris v. Quinn, which was recently decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. These caregivers joined AFSCME to protect quality care for children, seniors and people with disabilities.

Saunders announced the organizing victories during his keynote address on the first day of the union’s 41st International Convention.

“Just two weeks ago, the U.S. Supreme Court undermined the freedom of home care workers and child care workers. But if anybody thinks we’re giving up because things got harder, they are wrong,” Saunders declared.

VIDEO: We Are 50,000 Stronger Mon, 14 Jul 2014 12:06:00 -0500 AFSCME members across the country took up the challenge of organizing thousands of new members as part of the 50,000 Stronger campaign.

This video follows Freddie Seavers, a corrections officer from local 2173 in Tennessee; Orson Williamson, a facilities electrician from local 304 in Washington State; and Nana Nash, a care coordinator from local 328 in Oregon in their bold, brave, and determined efforts to organize new members.

‘Bold, Brave, Determined!’: 41st International Convention Points to Future Sun, 13 Jul 2014 23:00:00 -0500 The electricity that 4,000 AFSCME Convention delegates and alternates will generate in the Windy City this week will light the way for 1.6 million AFSCME sisters and brothers nationwide who are counting on a “bold, brave and determined” direction for the future.
That’s the theme of our 41st International Convention: Bold, Brave, Determined. That’s what we must become as we stand up to some of the most difficult challenges workers – especially members of public service unions – have ever faced.
We’ve organized this week to focus on each of the four pillars of AFSCME’s Power to Win plan. For starters, today we’re highlighting one of the most important campaigns we’ve launched in recent years. This year, we’ve trained an army of Volunteer Member Organizers (VMOs) in an effort to grow our union by 50,000 new members by the start of this Convention. 
This campaign, which we call 50,000 Stronger, launched in January with a meeting of AFSCME leaders. Today, in his keynote address, Pres. Lee Saunders will reveal just how well we did.
VMOs also will be front and center in today’s special program. Some of those activists who took up our 50,000 Stronger challenge will tell their compelling stories.
Tuesday’s special program focuses on building political and legislative power. Activists from several states will describe their fight-back campaigns against attacks from extremist rightwing, anti-worker politicians. Sec.-Treas. Laura Reyes will deliver Tuesday’s keynote address, and Wisconsin gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke and Florida gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist also will address the Convention.
Wednesday, we will highlight our efforts to grow our union through external organizing. We will highlight campaigns by Vermont home care providers, New Orleans taxicab drivers and most recently Chicago’s 13,000 licensed cab drivers to build power by organizing with AFSCME. We’ll take to the streets on Wednesday on behalf of those cab drivers. We’ll also hear that day from our friend U.S. Secretary of Labor Tom Perez and Ramogi Huma, founder and president of the National College Players Association.
We’ll talk about building power with allies on Thursday. Barb Kalbach, president of the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement Action Fund, and Paul Moist, national president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, will address the Convention. Delegates from the Southwest Region will elect an International Vice President, and we’ll participate in our first-ever AFSCME’s Got Talent karaoke competition.
President Saunders will wrap up our Convention on Friday with final thoughts and a challenge to turn the energy of this Convention into positive results in every state where AFSCME members live and work. We’ll also hear from Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK, an organization active on critical issues, who in 2012 helped organize the “Nuns on the Bus” tour that fought against devastating federal budget cuts.
Throughout the week, delegates will also consider key policy resolutions and Constitutional amendments, and renew friendships while making new ones. We’ll leave Chicago bold, brave and determined together.
Maggots on the Menu? Fri, 11 Jul 2014 15:06:00 -0500 Aramark Correctional Services, fined for contract violations earlier this year involving meal preparation at prison facilities in Michigan and Ohio, now faces a sticky new problem: maggots in its food.

State corrections officials should be getting the message that this company shouldn’t be entrusted with providing prison food. In Michigan,  the state hit Aramark with a $98,000 fine in April for making meal substitutions of lower-cost menu items, and also 240 instances in which the company failed to make the proper number of meals. Aramark also was charged with 12 instances of poor staff conduct, unauthorized menu substitutions and other violations of its contract.

This week, matters took a turn for the worse, with maggots found in food at the Charles Egeler Reception and Guidance Center in Jackson. In this instance, Aramark employees were ordered to toss all their potatoes, where the maggots were discovered. At the Parnall Correctional facility, also in Jackson, a partial quarantine was ordered last week after 150 people showed flu-like symptoms, and officials were looking into whether bad food was the cause of the outbreak. Aramark handles food services there as well.

“Enough is enough,” said Ed McNeil, a special assistant to Pres. Al Garrett of AFSCME Council 25.

Aramark faces a similar food-related crisis in Ohio, where maggots were found in food and serving equipment at four state prisons . In April, Ohio officials fined Aramark $142,100 for such contract violations as failing to hire sufficient meal preparation and service staff.

Christopher Mabe, president of Ohio Civil Service Employees Association (OCSEA)/AFSCME Local 11, has called for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction to sever its ties with Aramark.

“These are not isolated incidents,” Mabe said. “Aramark has a pattern of not only poor food quality, but food shortages, low staffing levels and security breaches. It's well past time to pull the plug on the Aramark contract.” Read more here.

Celebrating Independence from Taxi Tyrant Fri, 11 Jul 2014 11:09:00 -0500 NEW ORLEANS – New Orleans Cab Drivers for Justice/AFSCME Local 234 celebrated a huge victory July 4th when Malachi Hull, the director of the New Orleans Taxicab Bureau, was fired.

New Orleans Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux accused Hull of “gross negligence,” explaining that Hull lied during an investigation and failed to “properly run his department,” “ensure that the bureau’s inspectors were properly trained,” and “maintain accurate and organized files and records.”

The investigation was started in response to two events last fall. First, Cab Drivers for Justice/AFSCME member Emmanuel Esterlin was unjustly pepper sprayed and assaulted by a Taxicab Bureau inspector. The following month, tour guide Wendy Bosma was physically assaulted by a different inspector, who left her with bruised arms.

Hull himself was present for the second altercation and did absolutely nothing to stop the abuse. These were not the first offenses by inspectors under Hull’s watch, but they were the first captured on film, which garnered public attention and support.

Hull was also responsible for pushing 32 ordinances through the City Council that financially devastated cab drivers. Cab Drivers for Justice/AFSCME members refused to be intimidated, protesting and speaking out at City Hall while also building their union.

“I couldn’t be happier that Malachi Hull was terminated on the 4th of July,” said Cab Drivers for Justice/AFSCME Pres. Delores Montgomery. “This is what real independence feels like. If cab drivers hadn’t come together and formed our union, this never would have happened and the abuses wouldn’t have stopped. Together, we’ve made our lives better and made New Orleans safer.”

In addition to helping oust Malachi Hull, the union also was responsible for helping elect five City Council members who support working families. Later this year, the council is expected to pass a recognition ordinance allowing for cab drivers to negotiate with the city around future changes to the industry.

A Principle Is a Terrible Thing to Waste Thu, 10 Jul 2014 18:12:44 -0500 Last month, United Negro College Fund President Michael Lomax announced that his organization has received a $25-million grant from the billionaire industrialist Koch brothers, who also fund efforts to suppress voters' rights and workers' rights. I sent the following letter to Lomax on July 8.

Click here to read the letter »

Historic NEA Elections Thu, 10 Jul 2014 15:21:00 -0500 The National Education Association made history this 4th of July when delegates at its annual assembly voted in new leaders, making it the first major union headed by three women of color. Lily Eskelsen García, former Utah Teacher of the Year, will serve as the union's new president, Becky Pringle will be the new vice president and Princess Moss will take over as secretary-treasurer, effective Sept. 1, 2014.

AFSCME extends hearty congratulations to the new leaders.

"As public employee unions, AFSCME and the NEA have core values in common, particularly our commitment to serving the communities where we work," said AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders. "We look forward to standing with President Eskelsen García, Vice President Pringle and Secretary-Treasurer Moss in our shared battle for dignity and rights."

Saunders also expressed his appreciation to outgoing Pres. Dennis Van Roekel, who set an example of service and solidarity during his six years of leadership. 

"Dennis has been a force for unity in the labor movement and for protecting all public services," Saunders said. "As someone who is truly committed to solidarity, he has taken on the fight for workers' rights not just for his own members, but for all working people."


Scott Walker Friend Gets Top Job Wed, 09 Jul 2014 12:50:00 -0500 It’s not what you know, but whom you know in Wisconsin state government, apparently. That would explain why a longtime crony and aide to Gov. Scott Walker landed a new state job that pays her 31 percent more than what her predecessor made last year.

Cindy Archer was selected as chief information officer for the State Public Defender’s Office at a salary of $113,459, which last year would have made her the sixth-highest paid Information Technology manager in state government. Her predecessor earned $86,278 salary last year.

“What does Cindy Archer know about IT other than the email system she set up for Walker at the (Milwaukee County) courthouse?” asked Marty Beil, executive director of AFSCME Council 24, Wisconsin State Employees Union. “This is a clear case of cronyism that allows Walker devotees a payoff for their loyalty.”

Most Wisconsin state employees earned a 1 percent raise in 2014 and continue to pay a larger percentage of their health care and retirement benefits since the passage of Act 10 in 2011.

Archer is best known for having her home raided in September 2011 as part a John Doe investigation that led to six convictions of former Walker aides and associates. She was Walker’s administrative services director in Milwaukee County, and after he became governor she held a series of jobs in various state agencies.

Archer did not apply for the position but was selected over other candidates who did, said Randy Kraft, a spokesman for the public defender’s office. However, Archer’s new job is considered a civil service position, which means that under state law it is supposed to be awarded based on merit without any political considerations.