Blog Feed Blog Tue, 3 May 2011 05:00:00 +0000 AMPS en hourly 1 A City’s Turnaround Point, Led by Its Public Workers Thu, 17 Apr 2014 12:20:00 -0500 Monroe, La. – When Monroe City Attorney Nancy Summersgill earlier this month announced she would terminate AFSCME Local 2388’s contract, it was a low point for a community where public services were neglected for far too long.

In recent years, reductions in city personnel deteriorated public services. Just a few years ago, 13 sanitation trucks served local residents.  Now, only five do.

But city workers who are members of Local 2388 stood up to this latest attack on their community’s wellbeing and rallied immediately in support of protecting public services and their contract. They pointed out major contract violations and convinced Summersgill and Mayor Jamie Mayo to reverse their union-busting position. Today, city government is more willing than ever before to speak directly with workers.

AFSCME workers are fighting to increase city personnel and for an across-the-board $1-an-hour raise. They want all workers to make at least a living wage of $10 an hour.

“Now that we’ve protected our rights, we can do anything,” said Robert Johnson, president of Local 2388. “We’ve doubled the size of our union since this fight began. We’re always stronger if we stand together on behalf of the community and the workers.”

California Pensions Boost State Economic Growth Thu, 17 Apr 2014 12:07:00 -0500 Public employee pensions benefit more than just the retirees who receive them. As a new report out of California shows, pensions are good for the whole economy.

The state-conducted study concludes that CalPERS, the California public employee retirement system, creates more than $30 billion in economic growth each year.

When workers save for retirement, they are ensuring they will have money to spend at local businesses in later years.  California’s retired workers spend enough to add $30.4 billion to the state’s economy. The study estimates this spending is responsible for creating more than 100,000 jobs. That’s in addition to the $20.7 billion the CalPERS portfolio invests in local businesses.

When people like San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed talk about dismantling California retiree benefits, they’re not just threatening the livelihood of retired public servants. Pension “reform” is a danger to jobs and growth in every part of the economy.

AFSCME President Urges Students to Be “Disrupters” Thu, 17 Apr 2014 12:04:00 -0500 State College, Pa. – AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders encouraged Penn State University students to be “disrupters” and join the labor movement if they want to make a difference today, much like the sanitation workers of AFSCME Local 1733 did in 1968.

Saunders gave the 23rd annual Philip Murray Memorial Labor Lecture this week at Penn State’s School of Labor and Employment Relations. The audience included students, faculty members, AFSCME members and members of other unions.

The lecture is named for Murray, the first president of the United Steelworkers of America, who was also the second president of the Congress of Industrial Organizations. It brings labor leaders together with members of the university community to talk about the role of the labor movement in a democratic society.

Saunders said the sanitation workers were risk-takers whose bold strike “upset the social order” and challenged the status quo. He also talked about the labor movement’s role as the last line of defense for people who are beset by student-loan debt, low wages, disappearing retirement security and other financial pressures. He reminded the audience of the labor movement’s achievements and said unions are the key to an economy that works for everyone.

Unions are more important than ever at a time when there is a tremendous gap between the very wealthy and the average working family, he said.

“Look, we aren’t bashing the rich. This isn’t about income envy,” Saunders said. “What we’re saying is that our nation isn’t going to get any stronger economically if money keeps flowing out of workers’ pockets and into Donald Trump’s.”

There is another problem with tremendous income inequality, he said. “When so much wealth and power rests with so few people, they exercise outsize influence on our political system, drowning out other voices.  They rig the system.”

Unions are the answer, he said, because they “play a role in lifting up all workers whether or not they’re in unions. The contracts we bargain put pressure even on non-unionized employers to increase wages and benefits. In areas where there is a union, you get paid more. Not just if you’re in the union. All of you get paid more.”

Saunders mentioned the walkouts by workers in fast-food chains, as well as the recent move by football players at Northwestern University to join a union. In 2014, he said, “people view joining a union as radical.”

“Learn about and become part of the American labor movement,” he said. “Be a disrupter, just like the sanitation workers of Memphis were in 1968.”

AFSCME Ohio Members Protest Pay Discrimination Wed, 16 Apr 2014 12:32:00 -0500 Public employees of a child support agency in Mahoning County, Ohio, are trying to figure out why they were excluded from a pay increase given to other county employees in exchange for agreeing to pay more in pension contribution costs.

The workers are members of AFSCME Local 3577, Council 8, and they are protesting what they see as unfair treatment on the part of the county government. They are employed at the Mahoning County Child Support Enforcement Agency, or CSEA.

“We are not asking to be rewarded,” said Local 3577 Pres. Jeannette Droney. “CSEA employees are only asking to be treated the same as other Mahoning County employees.”

In 18 other county agencies, including the county commissioner’s office, all affected employees received a cost-neutral pay adjustment that makes up for the increase in individual pension costs. The so-called “pension flip” places the full pension contribution costs on the employee and ends the county’s past practice of covering a significant portion of them.

“We’re not against paying our share of pension costs,” Droney said. “We just want to have the county make up the difference to our members like they did with everyone else, including CSEA management.”

David Arquilla, vice president of Local 3577, said it was an issue of fairness.

“We want to know why our members are singled out,” he said.

Wisconsin to Connecticut: 2011 Could Happen to You Wed, 16 Apr 2014 11:58:00 -0500 Ken Weaver, a Wisconsin AFSCME member who fought with thousands of others in 2011 to try to preserve workers’ collective bargaining rights, recently spoke to hundreds of Connecticut union members, warning them that the same could happen to them if they’re not vigilant.

Weaver, a retired Wisconsin Department of Transportation construction inspector and member of AFSCME Local 758, Council 24, spoke at the “We Are Not Wisconsin” forum held in Middletown, Conn., and sponsored by the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC), of which AFSCME Connecticut Council 4 is a member.

Despite its name, the forum is meant to bring home the reality that Connecticut, like any other state, could lose its union rights if right-wing lawmakers gain control of the Statehouse and the governor’s mansion.

Weaver noted that Wisconsin was once a union-friendly state. Then elections in 2010 turned the tables on workers, bringing in a right-wing governor, Scott Walker, and tipping the balance of power in the Legislature to favor anti-union forces.

“That is all this is – politics,” Weaver said.

Weaver told his Connecticut sisters and brothers that though workers in Wisconsin “may have been knocked down, we’re fighting every day. The war is long from over. It never ends.”

Dawn Tyson, president of Connecticut AFSCME Local 538, Council 4, was among those impressed by Weaver’s message. A processing technician for the Department of Social Services, she said Weaver’s comments “really brought it home for me. They made me feel energized. But they also awakened me and made me realize the threat is very real. It is an ever-present danger.”

In Anti-Worker Vote, Missouri Legislators Bow to Outside Donors Wed, 16 Apr 2014 11:50:00 -0500 Despite strong opposition from both sides of the aisle, extremist lawmakers in the Missouri state Legislature are pushing ahead with a so-called “right-to-work” law that could mean a big pay cut for the state’s middle class.

HB 1770, sponsored by Eric Burlison of Springfield, stalled this week after nearly a third of House Republicans voted against it in a procedural vote.  But Speaker Tim Jones says he’ll do whatever it takes to get the votes he needs to pass the bill.  Why?  Because big national donors like the Koch brothers and fiscal radicals like Grover Norquist issued their marching orders, and House leadership isn’t about to disappoint the people who help pay their bills.

Many members of the Legislature know that “right-to-work” isn’t right for Missouri, and Missouri’s workers don’t support it. Republican John McCaherty says he voted against it because he knows that “right-to-work” will hurt his constituents. If HB 1770 were to pass, he says, “here in the St. Louis area we undoubtedly would see a drop in wages.”

But concern for the people you represent is no way to get ahead in a political climate that’s all about out-of-state money.  One Republican representative, Ron Hicks of St. Louis, found himself hounded by interest groups who smeared his name and even sent robo-calls to his home phone number following his “No” vote.

“I understand right-to-work is a big issue across the nation, but I think I should still be able to vote the way my constituents want me to vote,” he told the Washington Post. “This one time I’m going outside the box to stick up for my constituents and all the sudden I’m a RINO [Republican in name only]?”

If the bill passes the Legislature, the measure will appear on a statewide ballot in August, where wildly misleading ballot language will obscure the real intent of the law.

But Missouri voters should make no mistake: “right-to-work” isn’t about your rights at all. It’s simply an attempt to sow division among coworkers and drain union resources so that workers can’t bargain for better pay and conditions.

Jersey City Medical Center Workers Fight off Attacks, Ratify Contract Wed, 16 Apr 2014 11:46:00 -0500 Jersey City – Despite a year and a half of threats and attacks from management and its union buster attorneys, workers at the Jersey City Medical Center successfully voted recently to ratify their contracts by overwhelming majorities.

In doing so, more than 600 center employees, who are members of AFSCME Locals 2254 and 3680, District Council 52, cemented their desire to preserve a long collective bargaining history.

Workers at the JCMC were subjected to undue intimidation and harassment, and several union leaders were terminated and disciplined. These unprecedented attacks did not deter our sisters and brothers from the fight to protect their collective bargaining rights. They voted to authorize strikes and filed charge after charge of illegal activity with the National Labor Relations Board, or NLRB, which sided with AFSCME members.

“By approving and signing their contract, workers at JCMC made clear that bully tactics and illegal acts will not silence the workers,” said Rich Gollin, executive director of AFSCME District Council 52. “They stood strong, preserved 40 years of collective bargaining rights and sent a clear message that workers’ rights cannot be bought and sold.”

Having survived the million-dollar union-busting attacks, Locals 2254 and 3680 will rebuild to strengthen their resolve to prevent future ones. With the help of DC 52 and AFSCME International, workers at JCMC will continue to have a strong voice in their workplace.

Public Libraries, Loved by All, Remain Under Attack Mon, 14 Apr 2014 10:30:00 -0500 Despite an overwhelming majority of Americans who love and use their public libraries, legislators are slashing library budgets and cutting back on library services.

According to a recent report, more than two out of three Americans “are actively engaged with public libraries.” And even those who aren’t regular users recognize the value libraries provide to the community.

Despite this, funding for libraries has declined in recent years, and like other public service workers, library employees’ benefits are under attack. In Detroit, for example, library workers are facing serious threats to their retirement security after Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder pushed the city into bankruptcy.

Local and state decision-makers across our country should heed citizens’ calls to support library services. Public libraries remain central to the life of their communities.

AFSCME is proud to represent more than 25,000 library workers and trusted helpers nationwide, more than any other union. We are also a leading advocate for equitable pay for library workers and for full funding for public libraries.

On National Library Workers Day, April 15, we extend a special thanks to our sisters and brothers who are employed in public libraries for the valuable services they provide. And we encourage everyone, during National Library Week, April 13-19, to visit your local library, check out that book you’ve been meaning to read, and thank the library employees.



In Mudslide Recovery Effort, Value of Strong Community Services Fri, 11 Apr 2014 15:58:00 -0500 A month after a mudslide devastated the small community of Oso, Wash., killing at least 35 people, the community is still picking up the pieces. As rescue crews search more than 250 acres of wreckage and engineers work to control further flooding, people in the surrounding Snohomish County are trying to rebuild their lives. At times like these, the value of strong community services and dedicated public servants becomes most apparent.

“I’m immensely proud to be governor of a state that so quickly rallies around those in need, and to work with employees who care so deeply for the people they serve,” Gov. Jay Inslee recently said in a statement of appreciation to Washington state employees who are helping in the recovery effort. “Keep doing what you’re doing – it matters.”

AFSCME member Darren Bowerman, a corrections officer with Local 1221/ WFSE, lost six family members in the mudslide. WFSE established a fund to collect donations for the Bowerman family in this difficult time. If you would like to contribute, you can write a check to the Foundation for Working Families with a note that the donation be disbursed to the Bowerman family. The check can be mailed to:

Foundation for Working Families
Bowerman Family
314 First Ave W
Seattle, WA  98119

More than two dozen state agencies are involved in the recovery effort.  While workers with the Department of Transportation are clearing roads and monitoring safety conditions, the Department of Fish and Wildlife is transporting personnel and equipment at the scene, and the Department of Social and Health Services is working to coordinate the delivery of food aid and mental health services to the people affected.

But these first-line services are only part of the story. State workers with the Department of Revenue and the Office of the Insurance Commissioner are helping people who lost homes and property to find financial assistance. The Department of Licensing has set up an on-site station to help people replace identification documents that were lost in the mudslide. And the Department of Early Learning is working with child care providers to make sure they are prepared to respond to these kinds of emergencies.

Our AFSCME sisters and brothers in Washington are earning well-deserved praise for the valuable services they provide at times of emergency. But it’s important to remember that they help strengthen their communities through their work not just when disaster strikes, but year-round.

California Votes for Responsible Public-Private Deals Fri, 11 Apr 2014 15:52:00 -0500 California elected officials are standing up to protect the public services in their communities from corporate outsourcing.  The state Assembly in Sacramento recently passed HR 29, a resolution that urges the state to embrace the principles of the Taxpayer Empowerment Agenda.

The Taxpayer Empowerment Agenda is a set of guidelines for responsible public-private partnerships developed by In the Public Interest, a group that advocates for public control of public services. By adopting these principles, governments pledge not to enter into contracts with private companies unless those companies pay their employees a living wage and make their financial records open to the public. The agenda also calls for competitive contracts that can be canceled if corporations fail to uphold their promises to taxpayers.

California is the largest jurisdiction to pass the agenda so far.  Even though the resolution is nonbinding, it sends a strong message to corporations that see public services as an opportunity to turn a profit on the taxpayer’s dime.  In recent years, the Golden State was targeted by corporations trying to buy up everything from its universities and prisons to its water resources.

Many of these outsourcing projects replace quality programs that employ highly-skilled civil servants with shoddier services that pay workers less than a living wage.  It's a bad deal for workers and for the public.

“We believe the civil service system is the way to provide the best quality services at the lowest price for California’s taxpayers, and the pathway to a sustainable economic future for our state,” said AFSCME California Political and Legislative Dir. Willie Pelote.


AFSCME New Mexico Questions Governor’s Priorities Thu, 10 Apr 2014 14:40:00 -0500 New Mexico legislators and labor leaders are questioning whether Gov. Susana Martinez cares more about weakening the influence of labor unions or critical issues like job growth. Concerns about Governor Martinez’s priorities grew following a recent speech in which she announced she will fight to end the deduction of union dues from state workers’ paychecks.

“This is another example of Governor Martinez pandering to the ultra-right wing at the expense of working families and their legal rights through collective bargaining,” said AFSCME Council 18 Exec. Dir. Connie Derr. “The governor’s statement that no one should speak against her ideas was an ill-advised attempt to bully and intimidate public employees. She is very much out of touch with state employees and the services provided.”

Several New Mexico senators are saying the governor’s focus should be on more important issues such as job creation, lack of transparency in state agencies, education reform, and water conservation and preservation.

“New Mexico has a strong history of respecting worker and union rights,” said State Sen. Michael Padilla in a statement. “The governor’s desire to limit those rights is the wrong direction for New Mexico.”

Padilla points out that New Mexico lost 40,000 jobs since Governor Martinez took office. “How is she planning to address that, other than promoting the tax cuts she’s given to large corporations?” he asks. “The Legislature, through the Jobs Council, has created a solid plan to create 160,000 jobs, over the next 10 years, targeted at high growth industries to get our state back on its feet.”

Immediately following Governor Martinez’s malicious statement against working families, AFSCME Council 18 began circulating a petition urging New Mexico residents, families, union members, and friends to urge the governor to abandon her divisive tactics.

AFSCME Fights 2009 Wisconsin Layoffs Thu, 10 Apr 2014 11:29:00 -0500 AFSCME District Council 48 is fighting to regain the jobs of more than 20 Milwaukee County courthouse janitorial workers who were laid off in 2009 by then-County Exec. Scott Walker, as punishment for their membership in the union.

Walker, who is now the state’s governor, and the Milwaukee County Board, which carried out the dismissals, are named in a lawsuit AFSCME filed recently in federal court. The suit seeks a court order to end the ill-conceived and illegal subcontracting that followed the layoffs. It also demands the custodians who lost their jobs because of Walker’s unconstitutional actions be rehired, and be given back pay for their lost time.

The former custodians unsuccessfully fought to be reinstated and lost their rights to seek preferential treatment for other county job opportunities in December 2012.

“Our union believes the secret e-mails that recently came to light showed Walker and his county government advisors routinely sought to punish workers for their membership in and association with the union,” said Milwaukee District Council 48 Exec. Dir. Boyd McCamish. “We have seen that some politicians, like Scott Walker, are willing to use any illegal and unconstitutional tactics to interfere with citizens’ rights. Our union will fight any governmental interference with the right of free association.”

Legislators, Business Leaders and Workers Urge Increase in Minimum Wage Thu, 10 Apr 2014 11:28:00 -0500 A wide variety of advocates and speakers, from legislators and business leaders to minimum wage workers, came together recently in support of an increase in the federal minimum wage.

AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders led the rallying cry at the event, held inside the Capitol in Washington, DC. He called on all legislators to do the right thing by American families and vote to raise the federal minimum wage, which is $7.25 per hour.

“Nobody who works every day should live in poverty,” Saunders said. “Nobody who works every day should struggle to put food on the table. Nobody who works every day should have to choose between keeping the lights on and feeding the family. We are better than that! The workers who get up early, go to bed late, and sometimes go straight from one job to another deserve better than that!”

Speakers at the event were Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi, Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, Ruben Jones, a wage worker who makes $8 an hour, Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, Anna Hovland, a server at two restaurants and a member of the Restaurant Opportunities Center, California Rep. George Miller, AFL-CIO Sec.-Treas. Liz Shuler, Gina Shaefer, co-owner of a group of independent Ace Hardware stores and a member of Business For a Fair Minimum Wage, and Minnesota Sen. Al Franken.

AFSCME co-sponsored a Minimum Wage Bus Tour led by Americans United for Change that traveled to 11 states with a simple message: Give America a raise!

Senator Harkin and Representative Miller introduced legislation to give America a raise. Their bill would increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10 by 2015, adjust the minimum wage each year to keep up with the rising cost of living, and raise the minimum wage for tipped workers, which is at $2.13 per hour.

Help us give America a raise by calling on your representative in Congress. Dial 888-851-1916.

AFSCME Sec-Treas. Laura Reyes Joins Women’s Fast for Families Wed, 09 Apr 2014 12:00:00 -0500 Despite stereotypes to the contrary, the majority of immigrants to the United States are women and children. And as the number of deportations of undocumented immigrants increased, women are disproportionately impacted.

That’s why AFSCME Sec.-Treas. Laura Reyes this week joined 100 women leaders, from across the country, in the Women’s Fast for Families. Calling for both comprehensive immigration reform and an immediate end to all deportations, Reyes and AFSCME allies are putting pressure on President Obama and congressional right-wing lawmakers to do the right thing. Their two-day fast follows a month in which more than 1,600 women in 35 states, Mexico City and Washington, DC, fasted for 24 hours.

“In fasting we hope to feed the courage of our elected leaders to pass immigration reform,” Reyes said. “We want to show our solidarity with immigrant families who are torn apart by deportation. We must continue to pressure lawmakers to fix our broken immigration system.”

Nearly 30 years passed since the last federal immigration overhaul in 1986, signed by Pres. Ronald Reagan. When President Obama halted deportations of “Dreamers” in 2012, it was presumably in recognition of the fact that immigration reform was long overdue. It didn’t make sense, many agreed, to punish individuals who arrived in this country as children through no fault of their own.

But while the number of deportations of young immigrants slowed, outdated and unjust immigration laws continue to be enforced for everyone else. Since Obama assumed office in 2009, 2 million people have been deported. And the damage caused by these deportations affects countless families, including many American children who end up in foster care.

 Immigrant workers have held up this country’s economy for decades. We urge President Obama to take administrative action now to grant relief to the millions of families who are victimized by deportation.

Backroom Deals in Arizona Enrich Private Prison at Taxpayer Expense Wed, 09 Apr 2014 12:12:00 -0500 A private prison corporation already rakes in $45 million in taxpayer dollars each year in the state of Arizona, with a contract that virtually guarantees the company fat profits no matter how it actually performs.  But that wasn’t enough for the GEO Group, as a recent flap in the Statehouse reveals.

The GEO Group operates 59 private prisons across the United States, making it the nation’s sixth-largest prison system.  Last year the group turned $115 million in profits and paid its CEO nearly $5 million. But they didn’t get there through healthy competition or better business practices. 

When State Rep. John Kavanagh, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, drew up this year’s corrections budget, he didn’t listen to the Department of Corrections, which did not request additional funds this year.  Instead, he turned to the advice of GEO’s lobbyists.  The result was a $900,000 handout.  Kavanagh’s generosity toward the corporation may have something to do with the fact that they were the top donors to his most recent campaign.

The $900,000 budget item was removed by the Senate following a public outcry.  However, GEO Group continues to benefit from sweetheart deals in the state of Arizona.

GEO Group has contracts with the state of Arizona that include lockup quotas of 95 to 100 percent.  This is an exceptionally high rate among private prisons.  Lockup quotas are guarantees the state will provide a prison with enough inmates that the operator can meet its bottom line.  Unsurprisingly, this practice comes with some unintended consequences.

In GEO’s case, this includes hundreds of cases of abuse and neglect in chronically understaffed prisons, all while costing Arizona taxpayers $3.5 million more per year than state-operated institutions.  But then again, why bother providing a quality public service when politicians are willing to prop up corporate profits no matter what?

Who’s Afraid of Wisconsin Voters? Thu, 10 Apr 2014 12:00:00 -0500 Madison, Wis. – In an effort to make it difficult for voters to cast ballots against him, Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill that restricts early voting.

The new law will make it harder for people who want to vote early and in person. Opponents say it is Governor Walker’s attempt to limit turnout in the heavily Democratic cities of Milwaukee and Madison, where voters were permitted extended hours during the 2012 Presidential election.

Low-income voters (especially those who work two shifts, lack transportation or child care) often find it difficult to work their schedules around traditional voting times. Now, such voters will have to cast their ballots no later than 7 p.m. on weekdays in the two weeks prior to an election. Making it even more difficult, early voting is no longer legal on weekends.

Walker, who repealed collective bargaining rights for public service workers in 2011, may want to tamp down the Democratic vote that could end his Presidential hopes, but he’s not shy about courting favor with rich corporate and other lobbyists. While limiting voting hours for those most likely to oppose him, he privately signed a bill that expanded by seven weeks the time friendly lobbyists may start making campaign donations.

Walker has become a skilled practitioner in the art of undermining democracy. Showing him the way out of Madison in the 2014 election is a top priority for labor, progressives – and all of those in Wisconsin who believe in fair play.

Connecticut Becomes First State to Raise Minimum Wage Wed, 09 Apr 2014 12:00:00 -0500 Hartford, Conn. – As workers across the nation continue to struggle to make it paycheck to paycheck, Connecticut took the lead and became the first state to raise its minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by January 2017, a change that will benefit more than 228,000 workers in the state, according to White House statistics.

“I am proud that Connecticut is once again a leader on an issue of national importance,” said Gov. Dannel Malloy, who signed the bill into law. “Increasing the minimum wage is not just good for workers, it’s also good for business.”

Unfortunately, legislation at the national level appears to be stalled by partisan politics. In an effort to push congressional opponents, members of Congress, labor unions and community groups are taking their message directly to the people. Americans United for Change launched a national bus tour, holding rallies across the country to talk about need for income equality. Their message is simple “Give America a Raise.”

Using Philadelphia as an example, a living wage for a worker in Philadelphia is $20,988. Yet, current minimum wage only covers $15,080, forcing many to take second and third jobs just to get by. If the minimum wage were increased to $10.10, Pennsylvania’s 1.1 million minimum-wage workers would see their wages rise to $21,008.

Using the authority afforded to him, Pres. Barack Obama recently signed an executive order increasing the federal minimum wage for contract workers to $10.10. The administration asserts that 28 million workers will benefit from an increase in the federal minimum wage for all workers in America.

AFSCME leads the way, throughout the country, to fight for a living wage for all workers, attempting to bridge the gap of income inequality. To lend your voice, call your legislators at 888-851-1916 and tell them to “Give America a Raise.”

Karl Stark contributed to this piece.


Public Employees Come Together to Support Victims of Washington Mudslide Tue, 08 Apr 2014 13:18:00 -0500 A nightmare struck in Snohomish County, Wash., on March 22, as the tiny town of Oso was swept away in a vast mudslide. 

But amid the destruction, there was a glimmer of hope: the incredible response from the surrounding community as people pulled together to search for survivors and support the families of victims.

One AFSCME member was hit especially hard by the tragedy. Darren Bowerman, a corrections officer with Local 1221/ WFSE, lost six family members in the mudslide. WFSE established a fund to collect donations for the Bowerman family in this difficult time. If you would like to contribute, you can write a check to the Foundation for Working Families with a note that the donation be disbursed to the Bowerman family. The check can be mailed to:

Foundation for Working Families
Bowerman Family
314 First Ave W
Seattle, WA  98119

In addition, the Washington Combined Fund Drive started collecting donations from state employees who want to help support the victims of the mudslide.  In the very first day after the fund was established, employees donated more than $7,000. It has now collected nearly $60,000.

The victims of the disaster will remain in our thoughts as the recovery process continues.

AFSCME Members Urge Ohioans to “Remember in November” Tue, 08 Apr 2014 12:00:00 -0500 When Senate Bill 5 was signed into law by Ohio Gov. John Kasich three years ago, the law was meant as a direct attack on public employees aimed to strip them of their collective bargaining rights.

But the tables were turned when AFSCME and other unions, and millions of Ohioans, voted to repeal the law. Now, those same union members vow to “Remember in November” and vote Kasich out of office.

The repeal of the law made history back in 2011, but now the focus is on reminding Ohioans that Kasich’s efforts to gut labor unions should not be forgotten, when voters head to the polls in the fall.

To launch this “Remember in November” campaign, AFSCME members joined with other union members at 11 phone bank parties across the state to call fellow workers and share the memories of 2011’s repeal.

"I asked people if they remembered what happened three years ago today, March 31, 2011, when SB5 was signed, and how it affected them,” says Gean Ford, president of Local 840, AFSCME Council 8, representing Toledo City School food service workers. “People remember going to the rallies and marches and were proud to share their stories with me when I called.”

Ford says voters need to remember which politicians support working families, and he encourages like-minded Ohioans to get involved so there aren’t any future anti-union bills.

"We're asking them to support our issues and candidates in November,” Ford says. “We have been getting a very positive response and signing up a lot of volunteers."

AFSCME Provider Urges Congress to Stand Up for Children Tue, 08 Apr 2014 12:00:00 -0500 Corporate CEOs, Wall Street executives, cabinet secretaries, and even famous actors frequently testify before Congress. But we think Congress needs to hear from middle-class people, like AFSCME members, about issues that affect the everyday lives of working families.

What would you tell Congress if you had the opportunity to testify? Pam Wells, president of Local 100A CSEA/VOICE, recently had that opportunity and made the most of it.

Wells is a family child care provider in Hudson Falls, N.Y., and one of 20,000 CSEA child care providers statewide. She urged Congress to increase funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) by $807 million to maintain the number of children cared for with federal assistance. Additional funding is also needed to improve quality and prepare for new requirements included in draft regulations and legislation, and to improve provider payment rates.

“Every day my child care colleagues and I see how invaluable child care assistance, through the CCDBG, is to families struggling to make ends meet,” Wells said. “Without CCDBG assistance, many parents would not be able to afford child care at all and could not go to work.”

Child care is an enormous expense for most families. Wells explained that many parents would not be able to afford child care and could not go to work without subsidies made possible through CCDBG. However, a lack of funding means not all children who are eligible for assistance receive it. Currently, only one in six eligible children receives a subsidy. Wells also warned that draft child care regulations and pending legislation could force states to redirect child care assistance funds to fulfill other requirements. Without additional funding, some 20,000 to 50,000 children in New York could lose assistance.

To cultivate and sustain a system of high-quality child care programs, it is essential to pay child care providers a living wage, Wells stressed. But the median income of child care providers is only $19,512, so low that many of them are eligible for federal assistance, and New York just dropped their rates below the recommended level. Hardworking child care providers deserve better than poverty wages.

You don’t need the opportunity to testify before Congress to make your voice heard. Please join Wells and AFSCME in our efforts by urging your member of Congress to help low-income families afford child care and increase CCDBG by $807 million.

Call your representative toll-free today at 1-855-712-8590. Urge him/her to help low-income, working families by supporting an increase in child care funding.

The Imaginary ATM Tue, 08 Apr 2014 12:00:00 -0500 Imagine going to the ATM to withdraw 20 dollars. You punch in your numbers, you hear that familiar whizzing sound and out pops…15 dollars and some change?  Say what?

Thanks to the gender pay gap, this happens to many women every pay day.  When they open their paychecks, they see wages that are 23 percent lower than their male counterparts’. That’s 77 cents for every dollar a man earns.

In fact, today – Equal Pay Day – marks how far into the year a woman must work for her wages to catch up to what a man earned in the previous year.  The result is thousands of dollars of lost wages each year that limit a woman’s ability to purchase day-to-day necessities, support children, go to school, or climb out of poverty.

Perhaps most troubling, during the course of a 40-year career, the pay gap contributes to the loss of more than $460,000 in wages, making it nearly impossible for a woman to adequately save for retirement.

According to the Economic Policy Institute, more than half of women age 65 and older are “economically vulnerable,” and two-thirds rely solely on Social Security income. Older women are more than twice as likely as men to be living below the poverty line.  With so many women from the Baby Boom generation retiring or nearing retirement, this problem is only going to get worse.

In a country founded on the belief that hard work should be rewarded, we have an obligation to act now to change this fundamental inequality.

The Paycheck Fairness Act was introduced in Congress in 2009 and 2011 but failed to garner enough support to make it to President Obama’s desk. This law would make it easier for employees to share salary information, harder for employers to retaliate, and it would strengthen the Equal Pay Act, which prohibits wage discrimination based on gender. It is a common-sense solution that levels the playing field and gives millions of women the opportunity to work their way toward financial security.

It’s time for Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Laura Reyes is Secretary-Treasurer of AFSCME.

New Data Show Real Truth About Public Pensions Mon, 07 Apr 2014 12:00:00 -0500 The Census Bureau recently released its Quarterly Survey of Public Pensions, and there’s good news. Many public pensions are in a healthy position and others are on the mend.  The nation’s pension systems hold more assets now than they have since the Bureau began collecting data in 1968, and they are 12.5 percent stronger today than they were a year ago.    

Many pundits predicted doom for public pensions and governments played along by cutting funding for retirement systems or shifting to riskier defined contribution plans.   But the truth is the so-called “pension crisis” isn’t caused by public employee benefits – it’s what happens when greedy lawmakers raid retiree savings.

The real numbers show that pension systems are recovering nicely from the financial crisis, and workers ought to be able to count on those funds to plan their retirement.  It’s time to challenge the conventional wisdom about retirement savings and start standing up to politicians who would rather leave retirees out in the cold.


Through the Power of the Pen, AFSCME’s Susan Holleran Fought for Workers Mon, 07 Apr 2014 11:59:33 -0500 Susan Ellen Holleran, an AFSCME International staff writer and union activist who advocated for workers’ rights until her death in 2007, will be inducted into Labor’s International Hall of Fame.

Holleran, who died at the age of 66, worked for AFSCME from 1982 until 2005. During her career, she wrote for AFSCME WORKS magazine as an assistant editor in the Communications (then Public Affairs) Department. She was honored in 2005 by the International Labor Communications Association with their prestigious Max Steinbock Award for her AFSCME WORKS story, “Health Care on Life Support.”

Before coming to AFSCME, Holleran was a founding member, in 1974, of the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW), and was elected to its first National Executive Board. In 2007, she received the CLUW’s Clara Day Award for her volunteer work, including writing articles about role models and working on the organization’s cervical cancer prevention project.

In 2006, she testified before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee to support the human papillomavirus vaccine to fight the sexually transmitted disease.

Born to parents who were trade unionists, Holleran also was a founding director of the United Labor Agency and coordinated the first national conference on pay equity. This led to the creation in 1979 of the National Committee on Pay Equity.

In 1980, Holleran co-wrote a one-woman play, “Silkwood,” with Jehane Dyllan. It told the story of the life and death of safety and health activist Karen Silkwood, who was also the subject of a 1983 film based on a screenplay by Nora Ephron.

Holleran’s dedication to telling the stories of hard-working women and men fighting for their rights in the workplace inspired other writers who knew her. We follow in her footsteps.

Detroit Retirees Rally against Cuts to Pension Benefits Mon, 07 Apr 2014 10:00:00 -0500 DETROIT – More than 300 retirees and community supporters, including members of the National Action Network, recently rallied outside the federal court to protest cuts to pension benefits.

Protesters urged retirees to reject the city’s proposal to cut General Retirement System pension checks by up to 34 percent and the Police and Fire Retirement System pension checks by up to 14 percent. With a proposed end to cost of living adjustments, the cuts are even more severe, coupled with dramatic cuts to health care benefits for retired and current city workers. It was among the largest protests yet by pensioners and came as Kevyn Orr ramps up pressure on retiree groups and unions to accept the cuts or risk even steeper reductions.

The protest also came a day after Orr’s bankruptcy team filed an amended bankruptcy restructuring plan that calls for a major overhaul of pension fund management, including appointing trustee boards to oversee each of the retirement funds.

Ed McNeil, special assistant to the president of Michigan AFSCME Council 25, spoke against the proposal that also would get rid of union appointees to pension fund boards.

“The state’s goal from the beginning was to take over the pension funds and gain control of its assets,” McNeil said. “Retirees and city workers are bearing the brunt of the cuts in bankruptcy, and they’re the ones who least can afford benefit reductions.”


Vermont's Green Mountain Union Fights Back! Fri, 04 Apr 2014 12:00:00 -0500 Burlington, Vt. – When management starts breaking the law, you know they’re not just worried about the union. They’re really afraid.

Vermont's HowardCenter, which provides health care services to more than 15,000 people every year, is one of the largest employers in the Green Mountain State. With the prospect of a united workforce, management is doing anything and everything it can to prevent employees from joining AFSCME Local 1674 and having a voice on the job.

According to law, HowardCenter management isn't allowed to contact workers to discourage them from joining a union, though HowardCenter Director of Operations Lorraine Jenne disagrees. She sent out an all-staff email urging workers to ignore their union-member co-worker's attempts to sign up new members.

The law also requires management to provide equal access to employee contact lists, though Jenne again has a different view. She refused to provide Local 1674 with equal access to the email lists.

Faced with management's union-busting tactics, HowardCenter workers are refusing to back down. Filing with the National Labor Relations Board, AFSCME Local 1674 is claiming unfair labor practices (ULP) on the part of HowardCenter management.

One result:  Within days of the ULP filing, HowardCenter Exec. Dir. Todd Centybear announced his retirement.

AFSCME Local 1674, Vermont’s Green Mountain union, won’t back down, won’t allow management to intimidate the hardworking employees of the HowardCenter, and our union will only grow stronger. In just the last four months, Local 1674 membership nearly tripled – imagine what the next four will bring.