Blog Feed Blog Tue, 3 May 2011 05:00:00 +0000 AMPS en hourly 1 New Jersey Pension Boards Join Unions in Fight Over Pension Cuts Wed, 17 Dec 2014 15:10:00 -0500 New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s decision to shortchange the state’s pension plans by $2.4 billion is wrong and should be overturned, trustees of the state’s largest pension funds said in a lawsuit filed last week.

The pension trustees’ decision to take Governor Christie to court follows lawsuits filed in June by 14 unions, including AFSCME, over the governor’s plan to undermine the retirement system in order to fund other priorities.

The Board of Trustees said in a statement that they “have been abandoned by their counsel, the Attorney General, who has chosen to side with the Governor by claiming the [existing] funding law is invalid.” As a result, the trustees hired their own counsel “to collect the money owed to the pension funds and which have been diverted to more politically popular causes.”

“We are saying that money is due to the fund,” said Tom Bruno, board chairman of the Public Employees Retirement System.  “We have a fiduciary responsibility, and that is to protect the fund, as well as to collect the monies that are due to the fund.”

Trustees of the Public Employees’ Retirement System, the Police and Fire Retirement System and the Teachers’ Pension and Annuity Fund charged in a statement that Governor Christie “has shamelessly broken his word by derailing the proper funding of the pension funds, while at the same time demanding participants endure benefit reductions and higher employee contributions.”

Christie’s efforts to balance the state’s budget on the backs of public service workers, while handing out massive tax subsidies to well-heeled corporations, are indeed shameless. We expect a judge will soon come to the same conclusion.

Chicago Council OKs Major Taxi Reforms Wed, 17 Dec 2014 15:08:00 -0500 Cab Drivers United - AFSCMELess than six months after Chicago taxi drivers first came together with AFSCME to form their own organization, the City Council of Chicago passed a far-reaching reform package that will provide immediate economic relief to every Chicago cab driver. 

The Taxi Fairness Ordinance of 2014 will boost drivers’ income by reducing lease rates, reducing fines and providing drivers with a share of taxi advertising revenue.  In addition, the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection committed to reducing credit card fees and to revising rules and fines that have long denied drivers’ due process.  The average driver will see an annual savings of $5,000-$8,000 as a direct result.

“These reforms won’t hurt the city or consumers,” said cab driver Nnamdi Uwazi, “but they will help the 12,000 drivers in the City of Chicago to provide a better life for our families.”

The measures enacted by the Taxi Fairness Ordinance resulted from demands that drivers identified and proposed to the city in a letter signed by nearly 100 drivers who attended the first meeting of Cab Drivers United (CDU), AFSCME Council 31 last June. 

The drivers presented their demands at a series of meetings with the taxi commissioner, spoke out at a town hall meeting, met with dozens of aldermen and organized an action that brought hundreds of CDU activists out on the streets to protest treatment at the hands of city authorities.  Their efforts were supported by thousands of AFSCME sisters and brothers who came out to support the call for justice and dignity at a rally during the July national convention.

“This ordinance is a testament to what drivers can achieve when they come together,” said Council 31 Assoc. Dir. Tracey Abman.  “Cab Drivers United kicked off in June, signed up more than 3,500 drivers in just a few months, and today we’ve taken this important step forward. We’re excited to keep building our union to help drivers solve problems, win respect and better provide their vital public service to all of Chicago.”

New Contract Good Tidings for Holiday Tue, 16 Dec 2014 17:22:11 -0500 NEW ALBANY, Ind. – After 12 years of a city administration that wouldn’t give them a raise, workers for the City of New Albany have reason to celebrate this holiday season. The rank-and-file members of AFSCME Local 1861 ratified a new contract by a near unanimous vote of 24-1.

“There’s hope now, I think,” said Donny Blevins, president of Local 1861. “This is just the beginning.”

The new agreement between the city and the drivers, laborers and other workers who keep New Albany’s streets, traffic signs, parks and other public areas safely maintained is a huge boost for the southern Indiana local. Workers won a 3 percent raise for 2014, retroactive to the first of the year, with a lump sum payment of back pay.

The contract included a reclassification of current positions effective Jan. 1, 2015, for efficiency and to facilitate the much-needed raises. Workers of all classifications will receive a 2-percent raise for 2015.

Local 1861 members spend their own money on the tools, safe boots and clothing necessary to do their jobs safely and effectively. The new contract increases their reimbursement for tools from $200 to $300 annually, and their clothing reimbursement from $200 to $300 annually. Workers also will get a $150 reimbursement for their work boots.

Other important victories in the contract are expanded funeral leave to include additional extended family members and prorated longevity to date of retirement.

President Blevins says morale improved since the contract ratification.

“This definitely gave the members a booster shot,” he says. “We’re still behind, thanks to inflation. The price of gas went up; the price of milk went up. But there is no comparison to what we had before.” 

Using Company Email for Organizing Is OK Mon, 15 Dec 2014 12:00:00 -0500 Reversing a previous ruling, the National Labor Relations Board decided this week that employees may use their company email accounts to organize their fellow workers, as long as they do it on their own time.

The NLRB is an independent federal agency that protects employees’ rights to organize, and it prevents and remedies unfair labor practices.

“Once an employer gives an employee access to the company email system, then the business cannot restrict what the employee emails, so long as it is generally workplace-related and isn’t during working hours,” the NLRB ruled.

The ruling applies to private-sector workers only.

The use of email as a form of communication is very common in workplaces across the nation and “has expanded dramatically in recent years,” the NLRB stated. It now also is a legitimate tool for employees to use to help them organize their fellow employees

Quick Action Saves Lives in Early Morning Blaze Thu, 11 Dec 2014 12:00:00 -0500 ATHENS, Ohio – A call that came in at 4:11 a.m. to firefighters, members of AFSCME Local 3351 (Council 8), in this college town turned out to be notice of a huge blaze that would send five of them to the local hospital and into the care of their union sisters and brothers of AFSCME Local 1252 (Council 8).

Thanks to the brave work of the firefighters and police officers who responded to the fire, no one was seriously injured.

For hours, historic downtown Athens glowed orange as firefighters from six departments battled the blaze. Flames shot from roofs of buildings more than a century old. Many were storefronts at ground level with apartments housing mostly Ohio University students on the upper floors.

Firefighters worked to get to the heart of the blaze behind a large door but had to find another route.

“There were live electric wires above the buildings that were arcing because of the flames that kept us from making a direct attack on the fire,” said Curt Cline, an Athens City firefighter and Local 3351 president. “That’s when we broke through a concrete block wall to gain safe access to the fire. But by then the fire had grown out of control.”

Police officers and firefighters scrambled through the buildings alerting those in the apartments as flames blew out windows and jets of water from two ladder trucks beat them back.

Rachel Portik, a 21-year-old nursing student at Ohio University, woke to the sound of a firefighter banging on her door.

“None of our alarms were going off, but you could smell smoke,” said Portik. Some 40 students were evacuated from the apartments.

Three Athens City police officers alerted renters in the burning apartment building to get out, sometimes by kicking in the front doors of their apartments, according to Cline.

“But when they tried to escape from the third floor, the smoke was too heavy,” Cline said. “They were forced onto the roof along with a rescued student. Thankfully, a ladder truck from the nearby Plains Fire Department was used to rescue them.”

Paid Sick Leave: It’s Catching Thu, 11 Dec 2014 12:00:00 -0500 The trend continues. In Massachusetts, voters approved a ballot initiative on Nov. 4 that guarantees paid sick leave to all workers. Trenton and Montclair, New Jersey, and Oakland, California, did the same. In Oregon, lawmakers are pushing a bill that would require employers to provide up to seven days of paid sick leave to their employees. And in Tacoma, Washington, Mayor Marilyn Strickland has come up with a proposal to guarantee three days of paid sick leave to all employees.

How many workers in our nation benefit from paid sick leave? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 61 percent of all workers in the private sector do. That’s appalling but not surprising.  It’s just another consequence of the assault on unions by corporations and political extremists.  Declining union membership means nearly four out of 10 private-sector workers come to work sick – or don’t get paid.

The picture is noticeably different for state and local government workers, where union membership is stronger. For decades, AFSCME helped raise workplace standards for all public service workers. Today, nine out of 10 workers in state and local government receive paid sick leave and, of those who belong to a union, it’s nearly everyone – 97 percent.

Employees shouldn’t have to risk their health to do their jobs. A healthy employee is a productive one. That attitude appears to be catching.

Missouri Home Care Providers Win Contract Tue, 09 Dec 2014 17:45:00 -0500 After six years of organizing, and finding the courage to tell their stories in front of legislators, the community and the press, along with intense phone banking, home visiting, letter writing and frequent visits to the capitol, members of the Missouri Home Care Union overwhelmingly voted to approve their first contract with the state.

“[O]ne thing we know for sure is there would be no rights, no contract, no voice, no quality home care council, nothing if we didn’t pull together and make it happen,” said home care attendant Elizabeth Travis. “We still have work to do to get our agreement put into effect, but we are on our way and if we keep stepping up we will get there.”

The contract, which the Missouri Quality Home Care Council also voted to accept, empowers the 33,000 individuals who use Missouri Consumer Direct home care to set their attendants’ wages, rather than third-party vendors. Many of the state’s nearly 12,000 home care providers will receive a wage increase to the new hourly minimum of $8.50 and consumers have the right to lift their attendants’ wages up to $10.15 without vendor input. The new contract also provides for holiday pay, grievance procedures and a stronger support system for care providers.

The victory results in part from an exciting new model of organizing that focuses on collaboration between home care providers and consumers. It’s based on the belief that consumers understand better than anyone that improved working conditions for the people who care for them will lead to a more stable, reliable workforce. That’s something consumers need to maintain their independence.

“Without my attendant I can’t live the life I want to live,” said Kyle Auxier, a home care consumer from St. James. “We need to get our priorities straight, and this agreement gets us on the right track. I’ll definitely pay my attendants as much as I can, and I believe given the opportunity, my fellow consumers in the program feel the same way.”

Pregnancy Should Not Be a Disqualification Tue, 09 Dec 2014 17:02:44 -0500 This excerpt is from the Huffington Post.

Pregnancy should not cost women their paychecks. But that's exactly what happened to UPS delivery driver Peggy Young when she became pregnant in 2006.

Under doctor's orders not to lift anything weighing more than 20 pounds, she asked her employer for light-duty work, an accommodation UPS is required to give under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and frequently offered to other employees with a similar need.

But UPS said no and forced her to take unpaid leave for six months, depriving her of income, benefits and health insurance at a time when she needed them the most. When she asked for an explanation for why she did not qualify for an accommodation other employees were getting, a senior manager told her she could not even enter the building. Her pregnancy was too much of a liability.

Read the rest of the article here.

Chicago’s Cab Drivers Get Hearing in Community Thu, 04 Dec 2014 08:12:08 -0500  CHICAGO – In just five months of organizing, more than 3,500 Chicago cab drivers signed up with Cab Drivers United/AFSCME Council 31, coming together to change the system that denies them a decent living and the due process and respect they deserve.

And now the Chicago community is taking notice. Speaking to community leaders and labor and legal experts, Cheryl Miller, a cab driver with 20 years behind the wheel, described an unjust system seemingly set up to squeeze every last dollar out of cab drivers.

“Instead of seeing us as hard-working people who play a vital role in helping to keep our amazing city great, we are treated as second-class citizens without legal, civil or social rights,” Miller said, “even to the extreme point of being treated as criminals for simply picking up and dropping off our passengers.”

In September, more than 400 drivers rallied outside the administrative court drivers must visit after receiving a ticket.

Drivers outlined several areas where the commissioner who oversees the city’s taxi industry could make concrete changes to improve the lives of the 12,000 drivers.

“We have met with the commissioner,” Miller continued. “She is aware that she has the authority to clarify rules, issue directives that common sense dictates be used in issuing citations, and set fines. She can mandate that due process applies and require courteous treatment toward drivers … (and) promote a culture of respect.”

Following their show of strength in September and several meetings with the commissioner, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, in a joint release with Cab Drivers United/AFSCME Council 31, announced the Taxi Driver Fairness Ordinance of 2014. The ordinance focuses on several key areas drivers highlighted that inflict an unbearable burden on their small businesses and families.

As they gather community support, the drivers are eagerly waiting to hear when the ordinance will be taken up by the City Council.

For-Profit Companies Born to Fail at Rehabilitating Inmates Tue, 02 Dec 2014 12:00:00 -0500 We’ve seen what happens when prison jobs are outsourced to private corporations. The for-profit model at correctional facilities often leads to high taxpayer costs, low officer pay, abuse of inmates and less safety for officers on the job.

For many of the same reasons, the for-profit model fails to measure up for inmate treatment and rehabilitation. This developing area includes supervision of inmates in psychiatric care facilities, correctional health care and community corrections. More and more, for-profit corporations are taking over the treatment and rehabilitation of inmates, with devastating consequences for individuals and communities, according to a new report.

“Treatment Industrial Complex,” the report title, refers to the movement of for-profit companies into these new markets, which is partly a reaction to declining prison populations, thanks to sentencing reform efforts. As the report points out, the for-profit motive is essentially at odds with the treatment and rehabilitation of criminal offenders.

“Private prison corporations are financially dependent on the growth of prison populations, providing a perverse incentive not to rehabilitate,” the report states.

Moreover, most for-profit prison corporations, including Corrections Corporation of America and The GEO Group, Inc., have disturbing records when it comes to safety, operating costs and the quality of the services they provide.

“Across the country, evidence has surfaced that these companies cut corners on staff pay and training and services to prisoners in order to make a profit,” according to the report, available here in its entirety. It was prepared by American Friends Service Committee, Grassroots Leadership and Southern Center for Human Rights.

AFSCME, which represents 85,000 corrections officers and employees throughout the country, urges states and local communities to maintain safe and reliable prison facilities with well-trained public safety and corrections officers. Outsourcing these important services is a bad idea.

N.Y. AFSCME Members Help Contain Ebola Tue, 02 Dec 2014 12:00:00 -0500 NEW YORK – A doctor who successfully recovered from the Ebola virus last month can thank a team of dedicated public health care workers who volunteered to care for him.

Also crucial to battling deadly diseases like the one that afflicted Dr. Craig Spencer: a coalition of unions – including DC 37 – advocating for patients and the health care workers of Bellevue Hospital, where he was treated.

New York City was ready to deal with the virus. As the first Ebola case made headlines, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration began training an elite corps of Bellevue Hospital health care workers in the Ebola protocol established by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Police and emergency workers at Bellevue in AFSCME Locals 371, 420 and 1549 were trained to assess and isolate anyone suspected of having the disease. Medical legal investigators in Local 768 and morgue technicians in Local 420 got training in handling and transporting Ebola victims.

Dispatched by Police 911 operators in Local 1549, a special team of DC 37 EMTs in Local 2507 and their supervisors in Local 3621 transported Spencer in an FDNY Haztac truck to Bellevue, one of six hospitals in the state designated to diagnose and treat possible Ebola patients.

The Ebola team rushed Spencer to an isolation ward. Meanwhile, EMTs and their supervisors decontaminated the emergency vehicles used to transport Spencer, as they would any suspected Ebola patients. Following CDC protocol, chemists from Local 375 analyzed the patient’s specimens daily and sent them to CDC.

Unions representing Ebola first responders met with hospital management, police and fire departments, state and city health officials, and city commissioners to establish a preparedness plan and ensure that workers got updated training and protective gear.

Diane S. Williams is Associate Editor of Public Employee Press, a publication of AFSCME District Council 37. Click here for the full version of the article.

Newtown Officers and AFSCME Members Honored for Their Courage Tue, 02 Dec 2014 12:44:00 -0500 PLANTSVILLE, Conn. – Newtown Police Department officers dispatched to Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012, were honored for their courageous response at this year’s Courage of Connecticut Law Enforcement Dinner, held just shy of the two-year anniversary of the murder of 20 school children, a horrific event that touched millions of Americans.

With more than 200 fellow police officers in attendance, the 13 Newtown officers were honored with the Courage of Connecticut Law Enforcement award. The quick response of the Newtown officers prevented even more tragedy. The gunman killed himself immediately after police arrived, with more than 180 rounds of ammunition remaining.

Presenting the award to the Newtown officers was Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy. (Standing alongside and with the Newtown police, it was Governor Malloy who broke the news to the families of the victims on that awful day.)

“When events like Sandy Hook occur, people often look for answers, an explanation of how it could have happened,” said Governor Malloy. “But the sad truth is, there are no answers; no good ones, anyway…. Looking back on that tragic day, we can focus on what is important right now, which is the courage and steadfastness demonstrated by the members of the Newtown Police Department, whose aggressive response to the scene of the shooting undoubtedly saved lives that day.”

The honorees are: Patrolmen Will Chapman, William Hull, Mike McGowan, Liam Seabrook and Scott Smith; School Resource Officers Lenny Pena and Jason Flynn; Detectives Jason Frank, Joe Joudy and Dan McAnaspie; Sergeants Aaron Bahamonde and Dave Kullgren; and Lieutenant Chris Vanghele.

Patrolman Scott Ruszczyk, president of Newtown Police Union Local 3153, AFSCME Council 15, praised the swift actions of the police department on the day of the shooting and credited the union for the role it assumed after the event.

“In the face of an unspeakable tragedy, these officers displayed tremendous courage and fortitude,” he said. “Were it not for the quick response, the tragedy that was Newtown could have been far, far worse. The Newtown Police Department is proud to receive these honors. AFSCME Council 15 was a tremendous source of help and guidance in the days, weeks and months after the shooting.”

Congress Should Respect Our Great Nation of Immigrants Wed, 26 Nov 2014 15:25:00 -0500 President Obama's willingness to act on immigration while Congress dithers and delays is admirable. Many pressing national issues will be addressed as a result. Our borders will be more secure. The exploitation of workers by unscrupulous employers will be curtailed. Families will no longer live under the constant threat of being torn apart.
But President Obama's executive action is temporary. It expires when he leaves office. What our nation needs is for Congress to do its job and pass a bill. Only comprehensive immigration reform approved by Congress and signed by the President can permanently fix our nation's immigration system.
The cynics will tell you that it's not possible. That Congress is too broken, too partisan and too polarized to effectively legislate on any matter, let alone one as controversial and contentious as immigration. Considering the response from some extremist lawmakers on Capitol Hill in the days after President Obama announced his intention to act, the cynics have a point.
Sen. Ted Cruz from Texas called on Congress to punish the President by blocking all executive and judicial nominations. He even advocated for a repeat of the disastrous 2013 government shutdown.
Extremists in the House of Representatives retaliated by filing a lawsuit over the President's executive authority. Some called for impeachment.
The often offensive and reliably nutty Rep. Michele Bachmann stated President Obama was now permitting "illiterate" foreigners to vote in American elections…
For more please click here.

EMS Workers: ‘We’re More Than a Resource’ Wed, 26 Nov 2014 11:00:00 -0500 RIVERSIDE, Calif. – When American Medical Response (AMR) entered negotiations in early November saying it wanted to fill shifts with the “least expensive resource available,” EMS professionals in Riverside County were more than a little put off to be reduced to commodities.  They responded Nov. 18 by showing up in force with a petition, signed by nearly every worker, demanding respect and a fair contract.

The company’s comments were shocking to members like EMT Himelda Rivera, who earns roughly $12 an hour and works 60 hours a week to make ends meet.

“When they refer to us like that, they discount the fact that people have experience and a face. It’s like they don’t care,” she said. “I understand it’s a business and they have investors, but they need to remember the boots on the ground. Show a little compassion.”

Calling EMS workers “resources” downplays their devotion and sacrifice, their long shifts with little pay, the fact they save lives and help people in their toughest times.  

AMR is a multimillion dollar subsidiary of Envision Health Care, which had net revenue of $385.3 million, an increase of 16.7 percent in the second quarter, according to SEC proxy filings and a report to an investor’s conference by Envision CEO William Sanger, who pulled in $8.9 million in 2012. It can certainly afford to treat its EMS workers much better.

Paramedic Sarah Merten, a United EMS Workers-AFSCME Local 4911 member who presented the petitions to the company, says workers are valuable employees.  "I'm an employee, but more than that, I'm a good paramedic,” she said. “I feel like I should be treated as more than a resource.”

As a result of their action, workers secured favorable tentative language on filling shifts.

EMS workers in Riverside County built their union with AFSCME because they want to keep experienced professionals on the job. With a strong union, they have a voice to improve standards in EMS for their families and their communities.  

A Union Meal Can Make a Big Difference Tue, 25 Nov 2014 12:00:00 -0500 This Thanksgiving, as you count your blessings with family and friends, there is something very simple you can do to pay those blessings forward. Make your Thanksgiving dinner union-made.

This might come as a surprise to many folks, but you can cater America’s favorite meal with 100 percent union-made products. What does that mean? Well, for starters it means the folks who produced your turkey and favorite trimmings have the opportunity for a bountiful Thanksgiving with their families. It means supporting workers who produce some of your favorite foods right here in America. And in the cities and towns where these products are made, it means strong local economies when regular working people have extra money to spend.

So make sure your turkey is union made. It’s more delicious with a living wage.

Below, from our friends at, is a list of union-made products to get you started.

Set the Table:

  • Homer Laughlin China
  • Fiestaware
  • All-Clad
  • Anchor Hocking
  • Libbey Glassware
  • Claus Knives
  • Corning Ware
  • Pyrex
  • Bennington Potters
  • Klear Vu chair pads

For the Feast:

Fresh Whole Turkey

  • Butterball
  • Foster Farms


  • Manischewitz
  • Stroehmann Bakery Products

Cranberries/Cranberry Sauce

  • Ocean Spray


  • Andy Boy
  • Muranka
  • Eurofresh
  • Birds Eye
  • Mann's
  • Sunripe Produce


  • Pillsbury rolls
  • Aunt Millie's bread products


  • Entenmann's
  • Marie Callender's
  • Pillsbury Pie Crust
  • Sara Lee
  • Banquet Fruit Pies

Wine and Beer

  • Chateau Ste. Michelle
  • Columbia Crest
  • St. Supery
  • Charles Krug
  • C.K. Mondavi
  • Gallo of Sonoma
  • Miller Beer
  • Miller High Life
  • Miller Genuine Draft
  • Miller Lite
  • Milwaukee’s Best
  • Icehouse
  • Red Dog
  • Anheuser-Busch
  • Budweiser
  • Budweiser American Ale
  • Bud Light
  • Michelob
  • Shock Top
  • Busch
  • Rolling Rock
  • O’Doul’s
Thank you, Abbey Mon, 24 Nov 2014 17:16:00 -0500

Caregivers work selflessly every day for their loved ones. To show our appreciation during National Family Caregiver and Homecare Provider Appreciation Month, AFSCME members from the United Domestic Workers of America decided to treat them to a surprise!

See what happens!

See more videos here »

AFSCME Retiree Wins City Council Seat Fri, 21 Nov 2014 19:58:00 -0500 BAXTER, Minn. – As public service workers and union members, we take our civic duties seriously. We vote, we call our elected representatives, and we talk to our neighbors about the issues that affect us. Steve Barrows took that commitment to public service even further this year when he decided to run for office in his hometown of Baxter, Minn. And he won!

Barrows retired three years ago after decades in state social services. But he wasn’t done working to make Baxter a better place. The town of about 7,600 people is growing and evolving.

“There’s an opportunity for forward-thinking and planning to make sure we are a healthy, viable, attractive community,” he says.

The new city council member says his experiences with Local 1574 gave him the skills needed to run for office.

“My background as a union member gave me confidence over the years as I attended conventions and took on leadership roles in the local,” Barrows says. “I got to see how things get organized and look at the bigger picture when considering issues. The relationships you build with your brothers and sisters are the same kinds of relationships you want to build with constituents.”

Barrows is looking forward to bringing his union values to the city council. He believes that positive labor relations will pay off for everyone in the community.

“We know that our city employees work hard and they’re quality people,” he says. “I want to continue that relationship so that the city gets the most bang for its buck.”

He believes the labor movement succeeds when union members are willing to serve in government.

“The first thing is to vote, but it’s also important for people who are so inclined to get out there and run for office,” he says.

Add Walmart Black Friday Protests to Thanksgiving Menu Fri, 21 Nov 2014 19:53:00 -0500 Martha Sellers probably won’t be able to afford a turkey on Thanksgiving because, as on most days, she is forced to choose between paying the bills and putting food on the table.

On Black Friday, the traditional first shopping day of the holiday season the day after Thanksgiving, John Paul Ashton likely won’t be able to buy discounted clothes for his two young children. That’s because he can barely make rent.

Martha Sellers and John Paul Ashton aren’t unemployed – they both work at Walmart. Their stories aren’t unique.

Hundreds of thousands of Walmart workers struggle to afford basic necessities, even though they have a job. And, like John Paul, far too many Walmart employees are forced to go on government assistance programs like welfare, Medicaid and public housing – not because they are lazy, but because they are denied full-time hours and the opportunity to make enough to support their families.

That’s why, on Black Friday, AFSCME members and thousands of others across the country will join Walmart workers like Martha and John Paul to protest Walmart’s treatment of its employees.

The Waltons – America’s richest family and Walmart heirs – can easily afford to give their 2.2 million employees a substantial raise, but they refuse to pay their employees even a living wage. The Walton family’s greed is driving down retail wages across the nation and costing you billions. American taxpayers are quite literally subsidizing Walmart’s profits.

We have demanded change from Walmart before and have won improvements for employees. This Black Friday, we are stepping up our game. Here’s how you can make a difference:

  1. Attend a Black Friday protest in your neighborhood. There are protests at 2,100 stores nationwide.
  2. When you’re there, post a photo to Facebook or Twitter of yourself like the one President Saunders took. Please use the hashtag #WalmartStrikers so we can build momentum on social media behind these brave workers.
  3. And help spread us the word. Share this graphic on Facebook to let everyone know you stand with Walmart workers.
Your Union Can Help You Pay for College Fri, 21 Nov 2014 19:47:17 -0500 We know that money can be a big obstacle when it comes to higher education. That’s why AFSCME provides scholarships to help members and their families reach their educational goals. If you or someone in your family is thinking about college, check out our scholarships page to see if you qualify. 

  • The AFSCME Family Scholarship is awarded to 10 graduating high school seniors each year. The $2,000 scholarship may be renewed for up to four years. Students must have a parent or guardian who is an AFSCME member. Apply online by Dec. 31.
  • Current and retired union members, their spouses and dependent children are eligible for the Union Plus Scholarship. These awards range from $500 to $4,000. Apply online by Jan. 31, 2015.
  • The Gerald W. McEntee Scholarship is a one-time award of $5,000 available to AFSCME members. You will need to write a 500-word essay about your commitment to the union’s mission.  Apply online by Jan. 31, 2015.

AFSCME is committed to affordable education options for all families. If you have student debt, please take our brief survey. Your responses can help us to better understand how the cost of college is affecting union households, and how we may be able to help.

AFSCME Applauds Executive Action on Immigration Fri, 21 Nov 2014 16:59:00 -0500 Noting that that action was necessary “because extremists in Congress have failed to do their jobs,” AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders issued a statement in support of President Obama’s executive order on immigration.

“They have done nothing to fix our country’s broken immigration system, a system that keeps millions of men and women trapped in a shadow economy that hurts all working families,” Saunders said. 

“President Obama’s executive action curtails abusive employers who exploit undocumented immigrants and in doing so, drives down wages and benefits of all of our country’s workers…. It’s time to put an end to the shameful, pointless suffering caused by [Congress’] inability to devise a comprehensive, legislative solution.”

For more than 75 years, AFSCME has been at the forefront of the fight for social justice. AFSCME members fought for and won dignity and respect in the workplace for public workers and marched with Dr. King in support of Civil Rights, and AFSCME was the first union in the country to strike over equal pay for women.

AFSCME continues that tradition as part of a broad coalition of partner unions, immigrant rights organizations and progressive allies who are coming together to assist immigrant families affected by President Obama’s order.

The coalition has developed a website,, a centralized platform with accessible and credible services and information for immigrant families.

Stay Home, Buffalo – We Got This! Fri, 21 Nov 2014 12:07:00 -0500 Buffalo, N.Y. – In the freak snap of nature, AFSCME members here found themselves at the epicenter of a weird but real emergency. The city is shut down as some sections are buried under at least five feet of snow, while in other places only two inches cover the ground. Residents were encouraged to stay home, but snowplow drivers and dispatchers from AFSCME Councils 35, 66 and CSEA raced into action.

AFSCME Council 35 Exec. Dir. Bill Travis, who works as a dispatcher, was in the middle of the action, helping residents dig out. His own home is covered in five feet of snow. But the message from him and his fellow public service workers on the job around the clock was clear: Stay home, Buffalo – we got this!

Governor Cuomo declared a state of emergency on Wednesday. “This storm may persist until Friday morning with the potential for another two feet of snow,” Cuomo said in the statement. “New Yorkers in these areas should exercise extreme caution, and stay off the roads until conditions are clearer and safer.”

Meteorologist Steve MacLaughlin of WTAE in Pittsburgh explained, “Lake-effect snow is most common in November and December because the lakes are not frozen and when cold air moves over the lakes, it dumps snow. The combination of unseasonably cold air and the wind moving exactly, perfectly, precisely the entire length of Lake Erie meant the perfect storm.”

Thank you, Sarah Thu, 20 Nov 2014 17:01:00 -0500

Caregivers work selflessly every day for their loved ones. To show our appreciation during National Family Caregiver and Homecare Provider Appreciation Month, AFSCME members from the United Domestic Workers of America decided to treat them to a surprise!

See what happens!

Watch another video where members surprised Camilla Bradford.

Baltimore City Residents Rally to Protect Water Services Fri, 14 Nov 2014 14:25:35 -0500 BALTIMORE – Hundreds of city residents joined at City Hall last month to protest a potential city deal to outsource the city’s water to a foreign-owned company, Veolia, with a track record of rate hikes, labor abuses and contract failures.

"Veolia is known globally for two things: rate hikes and labor abuses," said Dr. Lester Spence, associate professor of Political Science and Africana Studies at Johns Hopkins University. "Given Veolia's track record, Baltimore residents should be wary of any potential contract. Such a contract could lead to higher water bills, lower wages and deteriorating service."

Jonathon Epps, a 15-year employee with the Department of Public Works expressed his pride for the work he does to keep the city safe and clean.

“The work I do keeps our community safe, prevents disease and limits the rodent population,” he said. “By coming to work every day, I know I am making a difference in my city. I call on City Council and the mayor to keep our public water public – we do a good job and we are committed to our neighborhoods and our city.”

“Today’s gathering is intended to bring to light the hurt that residents feel all across the city due to policies by this administration and the City Council,” said the Rev. Dr. Al Hathaway, senior pastor at Union Baptist Church.

“We need our elected officials to put the needs of the people first, creating good jobs, permanent affordable housing, quality education, safer neighborhoods and strong public services.”

AFSCME Urges Congress to Restore Needed Funding to Fight the Ebola Crisis Fri, 14 Nov 2014 14:20:10 -0500 As a U.S. Senate Committee hearing on Ebola began Thursday, AFSCME urged Congress to support President Obama’s emergency request for funding to support the fight against the spread of Ebola in the United States and abroad. 

AFSCME represents workers who are on the front lines of America’s domestic response to Ebola, from the New York City EMT crew that transported an infected physician to Bellevue Hospital, to laboratory technicians at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, Washington, to state and county public health staff monitoring travelers from West Africa to hospital staff across the nation.

The President’s emergency request would shore up funding to hospitals, which dropped from $515 million to $225 million in the past decade. Restoring this vital funding will ensure that hospitals meet their obligations to patients, providers, other workers and the community, and to help prepare for a future health care crises.

“The budget sequesters and other funding cuts to state and local governments harmed our public health infrastructure and years of cuts meant losses in experienced and trained public health staff,” noted AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders.

Workers across the nation who are at high risk deserve training and practice on necessary personal protective equipment (PPE).  Americans will be less alarmed when they know workers are being protected from exposure and less likely to become transmitters of disease.

In partnership with AFSCME Local 2507 of District Council 37, the Bureau of Emergency Medical Service of New York City’s Fire Department developed protocols for transporting potential Ebola patients to the hospital. Only specially protected and trained EMS workers will treat and transport suspected Ebola virus patients.

AFSCME also urged Congress and the administration to hold accountable those entities that receive federal taxpayer dollars to address Ebola. Uniform compliance with Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines and existing required worker health and safety procedures are needed to prevent the spread of Ebola and to ensure that taxpayer dollars are used properly.

Historic $15 Minimum Wage Agreement Reached in Oregon Fri, 14 Nov 2014 14:10:00 -0500 PORTLAND, Ore. – After months of negotiating, AFSCME Local 88 and Multnomah County reached a tentative agreement to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour in the 2014-2017 contract for county employees.  

The agreement is a major improvement for the county’s lowest-paid public service workers, a number of whom qualify for public assistance. The increase is scheduled to be phased in during three years, with the minimum salary being raised this year to $13 an hour (retroactive to July 1), $14 on July 1, 2015, and $15 on July 1, 2016. 

“Increasing the minimum wage to $15 is a step toward continuing the work of bringing economic security to hardworking families in Oregon,” said Deirdre Mahoney-Clark, the president of Multnomah County Employee’s Union-AFSCME Local 88. “When workers make a decent, living wage they don’t need to rely on government assistance programs to help them and their families survive.”

Despite nationwide support for a higher minimum wage for all workers, the federal government has thus far failed to act on it. Yet local and state governments are taking matters into their own hands. In June of this year, Seattle City Council members voted to increase the minimum wage and this past Election Day, voters in four states and voters in San Francisco did so as well. Supporters of an Oregon statewide minimum wage increase are signing this petition.

In addition to the minimum wage increase, Local 88 members will receive a 2.7 percent cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) increase, retroactive to July 1 of this year. Their health care plans and cost sharing remain the same for the time being, but there will be a re-opener available starting Jan. 1, 2016, allowing employees to maintain the best level of benefits possible as the Affordable Care Act is implemented.

The tentative agreement is under review by Local 88 members and will be in effect if ratified by members.