http://www.afscme.org/rss/blog Thu, 20 Aug 2015 05:00:00 +0000 AMPS en hourly 1 AFSCME Blog Feed Recent posts on the AFSCME Blog. Judge Rules Local ‘Right to Work’ Illegal http://www.afscme.org/blog/judge-rules-local-right-to-work-illegal Fri, 05 Feb 2016 16:49:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/judge-rules-local-right-to-work-illegal A federal judge has ruled that a Kentucky local government meddled illegally in efforts to undermine workers’ rights, passing a so-called right-to-work ordinance. These types of ordinances are pushed by anti-worker organizations like the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)

Twelve local jurisdictions in Kentucky have passed such ordinances since 2014, despite a ruling by former Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway they were illegal. The local ordinances were a top priority by ALEC, but AFSCME Indiana-Kentucky Council 962 fought back.

In his ruling, invalidating an ordinance passed in Hardin County, U.S. District Court Judge David Hale said that only state governments can opt out of the federal law that allows “agency shop” agreements that require employees to either pay union dues or “agency fees” to an organization elected to represent them by the majority of workers in a bargaining unit.

“ALEC thought it could push this through local councils – and it’s trying the same thing in Illinois and other states,” said Debra Garcia, executive director of Council 962. “But we had good reason to believe the law was on our side, and this ruling confirms it. Now we have to redouble our efforts in the state legislature to make sure this right-to-work scam isn’t revived.”

While Kentucky’s new governor, Matt Bevin, has taken aim at state employees, pro-worker legislators hold a slim lead in the state House of Representatives. Council 962 will be working hard to ensure that workers’ rights are not diminished further. The current session is expected to continue until mid-April.

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California Home Care Providers Win Overtime Pay http://www.afscme.org/blog/california-home-care-providers-win-overtime-pay Fri, 05 Feb 2016 14:50:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/california-home-care-providers-win-overtime-pay After years of advocating to improve the standard of care for California home care clients, In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) providers began to receive overtime pay and pay for travel time and medical accompaniment time from the State of California – for the first time ever.

Until this week, caregivers did not receive basic labor protections under the Fair Labor Standards Act to ensure quality care for the state’s 400,000 IHSS clients. Now, thanks to the advocacy of AFSCME and its allies, home care providers will be fully paid for their work. The new rules went into effect Feb. 1.

“This is a historic win. After years of hard work, home care providers will finally gain the respect and equal treatment they deserve,” said Doug Moore, executive director of UDW/AFSCME Local 3930, the Homecare Providers Union  and an AFSCME International vice president. “This victory shows us what we can accomplish when we work together!”

But it didn’t come without a fight. An anti-worker group attempted to stop the new rules in court, and state lawmakers proposed a 40-hour cap that would disrupt continuity of care for many IHSS clients and dramatically reduce work hours for a fifth of the IHSS workforce. UDW/AFSCME members spent countless hours rallying, lobbying, knocking on doors, writing letters and making phone calls to stop anti-worker proposals and finally win the same labor protections other workers enjoy.

Their work gained IHSS providers $850 million in state and federal dollars to fund overtime, travel time and medical accompaniment time, which not only helps workers pay for housing, groceries, utilities and other improvements, but also ensures quality care for nearly half a million seniors and people with disabilities across California.

“I work overtime every week, providing care for my uncle,” explained Roy Pridemore, a home care worker in Orange County. “We live paycheck-to-paycheck, and sometimes I have to take payday loans just to keep up with the bills. Winning overtime pay is a huge stress reliever, and I’m so proud that caregivers and our union had a hand in making this happen.” 

At the same time, UDW and allies continue to advocate to ensure home care clients will not see hours of care reduced due to the new regulations, and have already secured several exemptions to hourly workweek limits to meet the needs of clients and family caregivers.

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Iowa Among States Leading Way for Equal Pay http://www.afscme.org/blog/iowa-among-states-leading-way-for-equal-pay Wed, 03 Feb 2016 09:00:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/iowa-among-states-leading-way-for-equal-pay DES MOINES, Iowa – State legislators here, joined by supporters from around the state, introduced a new bill aimed at closing the gender pay gap. Iowa was one of 21 states to introduce equal pay legislation during the week of the seventh anniversary of President Obama signing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, Jan. 29. 

Bills also are being offered in Wisconsin, West Virginia, Washington, Vermont, Virginia, Utah, Tennessee, Rhode Island, Ohio, New York, New Jersey, Nebraska, Missouri, Maryland, Louisiana, Kansas, Hawaii, Colorado, Arizona and Alaska.

In Iowa, bill sponsors Rep. Marti Anderson and Senate Pres. Pam Jochum joined with Iowa women impacted by pay discrimination at an event organized by SIX, the State Innovation Exchange.

“We’ve had an equal pay law in Iowa and it has no teeth and no effective penalties,” said Rep. Anderson. Speaking of her legislation, she added, “It’s time to put those in place.”

Progress on closing the gender pay gap has long been stalled. Today, women in Iowa earn only 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. For women of color, the gap is much greater, with African-American women making 61 cents and Latinas only 57 cents per dollar made by white men.

“You can imagine how disheartened I was when I learned the male cooks I oversaw earned two dollars more an hour than I did,” said Anne Taylor, an Iowa worker in the restaurant business. “And to know that men and women of color were making less. This is not just a women’s issue. It’s a family issue. It is an equality issue. And it is unacceptable for our local government to keep ignoring it.”

Wage fairness isn’t the only benefit that laws with real teeth can provide.

“Equal pay is more than dollars and cents; it’s about respect, dignity and equality in the workplace,” said AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders. “President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to address the pay gap between men and women. The ink has more than dried on this bill, and it is time for women across the country to stop being short-changed.

Read more about the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act here.

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Indiana-Kentucky Council 962 is Born http://www.afscme.org/blog/indiana-kentucky-council-962-is-born Tue, 02 Feb 2016 12:00:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/indiana-kentucky-council-962-is-born Recognizing the remarkable success AFSCME members have had in organizing and mobilizing workers in Indiana and Kentucky, AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders told the founding convention of Council 962 in Indianapolis that the new council is “a prime example of working people fighting for a better life.”

“This renewed focus on internal organizing is causing a culture shift within AFSCME,” President Saunders said. “Councils and locals, no matter how big or how small, are empowering themselves to make change, rather than wait for someone from ‘the union’ to do it for them. Our members – and our activists – are making change.”

Over the past year, the union signed up 729 new members, converted 456 agency fee payers to full-fledged members and signed up more than 1,000 new PEOPLE MVPs – those who donate at least $100 annually to the union’s political action fund. More than 3,700 members were assessed through direct conversations, and 10 coaches and 518 activists received AFSCME Strong training.

This success occurred despite the fact that Indiana is now a so-called “right-to-work” state, and members in Kentucky had to fight off the spread of right-to-work county ordinances throughout last year.

Debra Garcia, a 36-year veteran whose career began with AFSCME Indiana-Kentucky, was elected to be the executive director of the new council, and she vowed to continue the fight to grow the union, build political power in the two states, “and to create the future we deserve.”

“When we know our calling deep in our hearts, our work becomes easier,” she told the delegates. “Organizing becomes our number one goal. It is our job to bring others into the fight so that they too can channel their outrage and energy into change.”

AFSCME Council 962 also can claim credit for several impressive external organizing victories – the St. Joseph County, Indiana, 911 operations voting overwhelmingly to join the union, and the AFSCME Local 4468 members working at the Lexington-Fayette County, Kentucky, Solid Waste Management fighting for a first contract through three years of stonewalling and efforts by management to decertify the union.

“Members have every right to be proud of the work you have done, and feel ready for the battles ahead,” President Saunders said. “You will never quit!”

 

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AFSCME Volunteers Rally with Bill Clinton in Iowa http://www.afscme.org/blog/afscme-volunteers-rally-with-bill-clinton-in-iowa Mon, 01 Feb 2016 17:12:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/afscme-volunteers-rally-with-bill-clinton-in-iowa CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – After a full day knocking doors and making phone calls for Secretary Hillary Clinton on the eve of the Iowa Caucus, more than 400 volunteers from AFSCME and other unions joined former President Bill Clinton at the Machinists union hall for a Get Out The Caucus event.

“You’ve got to have someone in the Oval Office who will protect you against the continual all-out assault on the labor movement,” Clinton said. “We have a candidate committed to shared prosperity and I just want you to remember that you can get it. Take your wife and your kids to the caucus. Take your neighbor. Get any one you can to take part.”

Learn how you can get involved in primaries in your state by clicking here.

With chants of “Hillary, Hillary!” from the packed crowd, AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders revved up the union members, reminding them that the next President could be responsible for nominating at least three U.S. Supreme Court justices, and the effect their decisions could have on all working people.

During AFSCME’s get-out-the-caucus program, AFSCME members knocked over 8,000 doors to ensure AFSCME members will be at their caucuses supporting Secretary Clinton on Monday night.

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In Florida, Stepping Up the Drive for Respect http://www.afscme.org/blog/in-florida-stepping-up-the-drive-for-respect Mon, 01 Feb 2016 15:45:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/in-florida-stepping-up-the-drive-for-respect The hardworking AFSCME Florida women and men who serve in state government, now in the midst of contract negotiations, have ramped up their internal organizing campaign while reaching out to elected officials, talking about what it means to invest in state services and those who provide them.

And leaders across the state, on both sides of the political aisle, are asking the question if Florida is investing enough in these dedicated employees, and if there are adequate staffing levels and proper compensation for taxpayers to get the level of services they deserve. 

Florida now has fewer than 100 full-time state employees per 10,000 residents – less than half the national average – a result of anti-worker Gov. Rick Scott’s relentless cuts. As positions have been cut, overtime and weekend work have become expected just to keep up.

“If you want good government then you have to pay for it,” said state Sen. Bill Montford.

“If you want government to run efficiently, like a business, then you have to have an adequate number of employees, but we don’t even know how many state employees we should have in Florida.”

At the same time, state employees have gone eight years without a change in their pay, not even cost of living adjustments. The year they did get a 3 percent increase was the same year they were required to pay 3 percent more into their retirement. Not surprisingly, even as there are fewer positions, the high turnover rate has led to a sharp increase in job vacancies as fewer people see a career in public service as rewarding.

Senate Pres. Andy Gardiner told reporters before the start of the legislative session that he wants to see consideration of a pay raise for state employees as part of the overall budget.

While there is a long way to go, the progress made so far proves that when members get AFSCME Strong, take a bipartisan approach to nonpartisan issues and provide quality public services, lawmakers will listen.

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Why Hillary Clinton Matters to Iowans http://www.afscme.org/blog/why-hillary-clinton-matters-to-iowans Mon, 01 Feb 2016 11:52:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/why-hillary-clinton-matters-to-iowans I spend a lot of time driving across Iowa, talking with the 13,000 men and women of our union about the issues that matter most to them, on the job and at their homes. These are the things that keep them up at night — how they’re going to provide for their families, how they’re going to send their children to college without a mountain of debt, and how they’ll save enough to retire with financial peace of mind.

For some politicians these are abstractions, or at least they seem to be because the policies they push are utterly disconnected from the needs of regular folks. For the media that descends on our state every four years, these issues are fodder for soundbites and not much substantive exploration. But for those of us living and working in Iowa, they are with us daily.

It’s why so many AFSCME members in Iowa do what may be incomprehensible to the average citizen in the rest of the country: in below-freezing weather, we give up our early mornings, nights, and weekends to support the presidential candidate who we know really understands how important this fight for our families and our livelihoods is.

In 2016, our candidate for president is Hillary Clinton. Put simply, she gets it.

It doesn’t matter if it’s in Davenport or Des Moines, Cedar Rapids or Muscatine. The members of our union share common values in Iowa and we work together on common concerns. We’re supporting Hillary Clinton in the caucus on Monday because our state and our nation needs a fighter who will stand with us to create jobs, increase the minimum wage, safeguard worker rights, ensure equal pay for equal work, continue the effort to make health care more affordable, and protect pensions.

It’s a concrete need for Chris Weinard, one of the people I talk to on my travels across the state. She’s an AFSCME member in Iowa City whose husband is retired and whose children are eyeing an uncertain job market. “Our household isn’t unique,” Chris tells me. “We have young adult children who are facing a tougher working world than we did at that age. Hillary is the one who can get things done for families like mine.”

This past week, the Des Moines Register agreed, saying, “No other candidate can match the depth of breadth of her knowledge and experience.”

If you talk to Jerry Jones, a corrections officer from Newton, Iowa, he’ll explain what’s motivating him to knock on doors and make phone calls for Hillary Clinton. He first met her a few years back and was impressed by how approachable she was, taking the time to listen to him until she had a complete understanding of the issues he was concerned about.

For Jerry, those issues include concern about the rights of workers. As a corrections officer, his ability to come together with his fellow officers in our union and negotiate for safer staffing levels and proper training and equipment is quite literally a matter of life and death. The next president will likely appoint three if not four Supreme Court justices, and any further tilt toward a right-wing judicial agenda that favors corporations over people will be disastrous.

“Looking at the Supreme Court alone, it really hits me just how high the stakes are,” Jerry says. “Hillary is clearly the most experienced candidate who can win for working people both at the polls and as president.”

Hillary Clinton talks with residents at a forum in Iowa City Hillary Clinton talks with residents at a forum in Iowa City.

And for Patty Erskine of Muscatine, Hillary Clinton’s drive for equal pay for women hits close to home, as does the candidate’s tireless effort to ensure all Americans have access to affordable health care. Erskine’s son is disabled and it’s imperative to her family that his health care coverage isn’t jeopardized by the threats launched at the Affordable Care Act by right-wing presidential candidates.

Patty, Chris, and Jerry certainly aren’t alone in their concerns or their desire to make their voices heard in this presidential election. On Feb. 1, they’ll be caucusing with tens of thousands of other Iowans. After months of work, caucus night is just a final few hours (and for the uninitiated, it’s fun and easy) and it becomes the most important step to propel Hillary Clinton over the finish line in Iowa.

It’s not too late to get involved Monday night. Take a quick visit to our website, WeVoteWeWin.org, to find out where your nearby caucus location is and to see how simple it is to caucus. Then make a plan for the evening; you should be there by 6:30 p.m., regardless of your location.

If you take this step, and take this stand, you’ll wake up on Tuesday morning knowing you’ve made a difference not just for yourself, but for all working families across Iowa.

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Ledbetter Law Important First Step to Fair Pay http://www.afscme.org/blog/ledbetter-law-important-first-step-to-fair-pay Fri, 29 Jan 2016 12:00:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/ledbetter-law-important-first-step-to-fair-pay Today marks seven years since President Obama signed into law a bill designed to help prevent wage discrimination based on gender. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, named after the woman whose case against Goodyear went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, only to be rejected on a technicality, was the first piece of legislation the President signed because it was so important.

It still is, but there is much work to be done to make the promise of the federal law a reality for all women in America. Despite the law, women still make only 79 cents, on average, for every dollar a man makes. The gap is even greater for women of color.

Lilly Ledbetter’s story is one that never should have happened, and it bears repeating. A worker for a Goodyear tire factory in Alabama, she worked hard at a management-level job for 19 years, believing that she was compensated fairly, like every other woman and man who did what she did. But an anonymous note let her know the truth: During the course of her career, she had lost more than $200,000 in salary, and even more in pension and Social Security benefits.

A sex discrimination suit followed. She won, then lost on appeal. Eventually the case was presented to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in 2007 that she should have filed her suit within 180 days of receiving her first unequal check – even though she couldn’t have known that at the time. With encouragement from Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who dissented from the majority opinion, Ledbetter kept up her fight for justice. That justice was finally received on Jan. 29, 2009 when President Obama signed the bill into law.

To end this discrimination based on gender, we need to pass other laws at the federal, state and local levels to make sure that the protections of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act exist in every workplace. The Economic Policy Institute lists 12 policy proposals that are critical to raising the wages of both women and men. The top three are:

  • Raising the minimum wage.
  • Eliminating the subminimum wage for tipped workers so that these workers receive the full minimum wage.
  • Strengthening collective bargaining rights.

One key piece of legislation that must be passed is the Paycheck Fairness Act, first introduced in Congress in 2009 but which has not received enough support to get to President Obama’s desk. It was reintroduced last March by U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD).

AFSCME is working with the State Innovation Exchange and other allies in a national action this week called “Equal Pay Can’t Wait,” in which state legislators from more than 20 states will introduce legislation in their states and raise public awareness to ensure that women are paid equally for doing the same work as men.

As AFSCME Sec.-Treas. Laura Reyes has written, “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.”

AFSCME was an early and ardent supporter of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, and has long advocated for closing the gender wage gap because women need an economy that works for everyone. We will never quit until the goal is accomplished.

You can urge Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, which addresses the gender wage gap and the need to raise wages of all workers by clicking here.

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AFSCME Members Wrestle with ‘Snowzilla’ http://www.afscme.org/blog/afscme-members-wrestle-with-snowzilla Fri, 29 Jan 2016 09:00:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/afscme-members-wrestle-with-snowzilla Snowzilla, the historic blizzard officially known as Jonas that buried the East Coast for days, breaking numerous records as well as causing at least 48 deaths, put public service workers and emergency responders to the test. Many were AFSCME members, who proved again that when it comes to serving their communities, we never quit.

In New York, Baltimore, Pennsylvania and other cities dedicated public employees braved the elements to ensure that their communities would return to normal as soon as possible. AFSCME members toughed it out to make sure the rest of us were safe and able to return to our jobs, get to our grocery stores and medical appointments, and take our children to school with the least amount of trouble and the maximum amount of safety.

For instance, during the Jan. 22-24 storm, New York City fire and emergency medical services workers responded to at least 6,000 emergency calls, including nearly 4,000 medical calls, according to the Office of the Mayor. Among those responders were members of DC 37, including social workers and caseworkers who helped the homeless find shelter and remain safe, and emergency medical technicians and 311 emergency operators.

“No matter the cause of emergency – whether manmade or by Mother Nature – our dedicated members are here,” said DC 37 Exec. Dir. Henry Garrido. “They make personal sacrifices to keep New Yorkers safe. They are the engine that makes our city run.”

While Boston received less of a blow from Jonas, AFSCME members there were ready to help where needed – even if that meant driving down to Baltimore to help out. Nine members of City of Boston Locals 804 and 445 (AFSCME Council 93) helped residents of the Charm City dig out after the City of Boston loaned it a pair of giant snow blowers, The Baltimore Sun reported, as a way of saying thanks for help it received from other states last winter.

In New Jersey, members of AFSCME Council 52, in North Jersey, were photographed plowing, salting, shoveling and cleaning up schools, campuses and roads throughout the state.

There is no way that we can list all the AFSCME locals whose members were essential in getting through this historic storm, which The Washington Post called a “blizzard for the ages.” But we can thank them all for a job well done, under the most trying of circumstances.

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VIDEO: Hillary Stands with Workers http://www.afscme.org/blog/video-hillary-stands-with-workers Thu, 28 Jan 2016 16:16:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/video-hillary-stands-with-workers

More than 400 rank-and-file union members and their families from 23 unions in Davenport, Iowa, canvassed and rallied for Secretary Hillary Clinton in just one day. With excitement and energy, these volunteers canvassed more than 1,000 homes to encourage voters to caucus for her next Monday, Feb. 1, in Iowa, the first state in the nominating process.

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Maryland Members in Tough Budget Fight http://www.afscme.org/blog/maryland-members-in-tough-budget-fight Thu, 28 Jan 2016 08:50:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/maryland-members-in-tough-budget-fight Political action by AFSCME Maryland Council 3 convinced Gov. Larry Hogan to restore the 2 percent to 4 percent step increases for state and higher education workers in his budget proposal from earlier negotiations, but members still face fights over proposed job cuts and privatization of state services.

Besides restoring the step increases, Hogan’s budget released Jan. 20 does not resort to cuts in overtime pay and sick leave rights, which were in his original proposal. Council 3 also won improvements to the state’s new wellness plan, saving state and higher education workers money.

However, the governor has made clear he wants to cut state jobs and outsource some state services.

The battle lines on privatization have been drawn around employee positions at the SpringField Hospital Center in the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH). Fifty-seven food-service worker at the Sykesville facility were notified they will be laid off at the end of June. More than 500 state employee positions have been targeted for cuts, with 100 of them to be outsourced to private companies, according to the Baltimore Sun.

Hogan has yet to fully account for the state positions he wants to cut, the Sun reported, and AFSCME members have been reaching out to Maryland legislators for support. Senate Pres. Thomas V. Miller on Feb. 26 questioned whether the job cuts are necessary when the state is projecting a surplus of more than $400 million this year. “I’m shocked, quite frankly,” Miller told the Sun, saying he’d heard from some state employees with more than 20 years’ experience who had told they are being terminated.

Nearly 20 workers at DHMH braved the weather at their Lobby Night on Monday, January 25.

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Oregon AFSCME Alerts Members to Friedrichs Threat http://www.afscme.org/blog/oregon-afscme-alerts-members-to-friedrichs-threat Wed, 27 Jan 2016 16:46:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/oregon-afscme-alerts-members-to-friedrichs-threat PORTLAND, Ore. – The holiday weekend celebration in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. offered AFSCME Oregon a chance to echo his call for justice, spreading the word among Portland members about the dangers posed by the Supreme Court case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association

The Friedrichs case threatens to make it even harder for working people to negotiate for wages, benefits and public services. Members who learned about the devastating effect the case could have on their workplace and family lives, stepped up their commitment to never quit in fighting for workers’ rights.

“My husband and I are both county workers and, if this case were to pass, our lives would be devastated,” said Ramona Junta, a juvenile custody service specialist. “This is a big deal, I have to do something about this...I need to tell other people this is happening and we need to unite.”

In the week following the holiday, AFSCME Council 75 members visited homes and worksites across Multnomah County to educate and answer questions about the Friedrichs case and other issues affecting workers. They participated in a town hall with Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D- OR) and an ice cream social at an Oregon Health and Science University building.

The results proved that working together and talking with members one-on-one connects and strengthens the union. At the end of the Council 75 blitz, the activists were able to assess 1,178 members, convert 306 workers from fee payers to full members, and add 110 new PEOPLE contributors, including 43 to signed up to give at the MVP level of at least $100 a year.

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Change the Rules, Be the Power: Dr. King Honored with Recommitment to His Ideals http://www.afscme.org/blog/change-the-rules-be-the-power-dr-king-honored-with-recommitment-to-his-ideals Wed, 20 Jan 2016 16:33:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/change-the-rules-be-the-power-dr-king-honored-with-recommitment-to-his-ideals The partnership between minorities and labor has never been more vital than it is today. More than 1,000 labor and community activists explored the power of this solidarity during the 2016 Martin Luther King Jr. Civil and Human Rights Conference, Jan. 15-18, sharing tactics to build a collective civil, human and women’s rights agenda for 2016.

Sponsored by the AFL-CIO, the conference honored the legacy of Dr. King with workshops and panels on a variety of topics ranging from political activism, gender equality, racial justice, and organizing communities and workers of color.

Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1968 while helping striking sanitation workers – members of AFSCME Local 1733 – gain a voice on the job. He strongly supported unions. “[Labor] was the principal force that transformed misery and despair into hope and progress,” said Dr. King.

The opening panel, Change the Rules, described how labor and Planned Parenthood joined together to fight for all working families. Speaking of the super wealthy, AFL-CIO Pres. Richard Trumka warned, “When they divide us up, they can beat us. When we stick together, they can't.” Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, agreed, recounting how labor supported the organization during attacks on several clinics, threatening women patients and staff.

“Planned Parenthood stood with labor in Wisconsin during the attacks from Scott Walker, and labor had our back,” Richards said. She pointed to the importance of labor-community alliances to ensure that women have access to health care and can make their own decisions about reproduction, as women are increasingly becoming the heads of households.

The importance of organizing working women was later echoed by Johanna Puno Hester, an AFSCME International vice president, during a panel discussion. As more women become their household’s primary breadwinners, union membership can make a difference because women of color on average earn better salaries than non-union women of color earn.

“The value this union brought to an immigrant person is deep,” said Puno Hester referring to when she joined United Domestic Workers of America, AFSCME Local 3930. “Labor needs women of color and women of color need labor.”

Those sentiments were echoed by Terry Melvin, president of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists and member of AFSCME CSEA Local 427. Labor’s growth depends upon organizing women of color, bringing them closer to economic security, Melvin said. “It’s easier to organize black and brown women. If we start doing that organizing then our collective voice as the minority community can be the labor movement.”

The conference weekend included a day of community service, with delegates honoring Dr. King in projects ranging from packing lunches for seniors to cleaning and painting elementary schools, and to serving meals and toiletries for homeless and others in need.

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Middle Class Fall Tied Directly to Union Decline http://www.afscme.org/blog/middle-class-fall-tied-directly-to-union-decline Wed, 20 Jan 2016 15:08:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/middle-class-fall-tied-directly-to-union-decline How important are unions to the health of the middle class in the United States? They are vital, according to a new study by the Center for American Progress. In fact, more than one-third of the decline in the middle class during the past 30 years is explained by the decline in union coverage.

“Our main findings are that the decline in union coverage accounts for 35 percent of the falling share of middle-class workers and that the combination of the shrinking share of union workers and the reduction in the union equality effect explains almost half of the decline in middle-class workers,” the authors conclude.

The “union equality effect” refers to the extent that union-induced wage increases spill over from union to nonunion workers and how union advocacy produces economic and social policies that benefit all workers, the authors explain. The study is written by Richard Freeman and Eunice Han of Harvard University, and by Brendan Duke and David Madland of CAP.

The shrinking of the American middle class has been well documented. In its study released in December, the Pew Research Center pointed to a four-decade trend in which the middle class has fallen from 61 percent to 50 percent of the population. With the U.S. economy swinging out of balance, it’s getting hard to get by, let alone get ahead.

The CAP study notes that, despite a 79 percent increase in U.S. labor productivity between 1984 and 2014, “the share of full-time workers who make between 67 percent and 200 percent of median U.S. earnings fell from 68 percent in 1984 to 60 percent in 2014.”

In a companion study back in September 2015, Freeman, Han and the CAP researchers said that unions improve economic mobility not only for workers, but also for children who grow up in areas where union coverage is high.

Despite the positive impact of unions in helping working families gain economic security, we are under a withering attack from rich corporate interests – including in a case argued last week in the Supreme Court, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. If the court rules against unions in that case, it will be even more difficult for workers to join together to improve their conditions.

“Making America a middle-class country once again will require policies that raise median earnings and incomes and that bring more workers and households into the middle class,” the study concludes. “Increasing union coverage is important for both, as well as for possibly increasing economic mobility.”

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Choosing to Grow in Florida’s ‘City of Choice’ http://www.afscme.org/blog/choosing-to-grow-in-floridas-city-of-choice Wed, 20 Jan 2016 11:35:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/choosing-to-grow-in-floridas-city-of-choice Bordered on one side by the Atlantic Ocean and on the other three by suburban sprawl, Florida’s Hallandale Beach has marketed itself as Broward County’s “City of Choice.” For the hardworking women and men of AFSCME Local 2009 who have turned that marketing phrase into a strong sense of community, the choice they faced when negotiating a new contract was to either accept the status quo or to win recognition for the hard work they do.

“Some people just want to accept whatever they get in a contract because they think the city knows how hard we work and whatever they offer is obviously what is fair,” said Local 2009 Pres. Paulemond Mompremier, a park maintenance technician for almost 18 years.

Since almost two-thirds of eligible workers are already members, and Local 2009 has been at the forefront of fighting to protect community services and their jobs, the focus was on getting a large turnout for the ratification vote.

The three-year contract, overwhelmingly approved by the membership, is retroactive to Oct. 1, 2015. It allows members to keep up economically while fully maintaining city-paid, quality health coverage. It also continues the popular education reimbursements for both undergraduate and post-graduate studies so members can continue to expand their professional opportunities.

Some of the key contract wins include annual wage increases of 2.5 percent, a new safe driver recognition program that rewards incident-free driving with administrative safety leave, a health retirement account worth almost $1,000 annually, the opportunity for evaluation bonuses, and 20 to 25 percent increases for uniform and tool allowances.

The bargaining team wasn’t able to win everything, such as increasing the city’s 401(k) match or reclassifying certain jobs into bargaining unit positions. But members are committed to achieving these goals. Building power through organizing is one way they will do that.

“People need to remember that if you don’t unite and stand up for your own job and your own career, your efforts may not be justly recognized when there are always more needs than resources to match them,” said Mompremier.

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AFL-CIO Sees Positive Movement on Wages http://www.afscme.org/blog/afl-cio-sees-positive-movement-on-wages Tue, 19 Jan 2016 15:54:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/afl-cio-sees-positive-movement-on-wages Working people last year won significant victories in efforts to improve wages and working conditions, reports the AFL-CIO in a new study that also points the way forward to create an economy that “serves all of us,” including organizing new members as AFSCME has been doing.

“From collective bargaining victories to organizing in new sectors of the economy and new regions to local legislative victories and executive action at the national level, 2015 was a year of working people rising,” says the report, titled “Fighting for a Better Life: How Working People Across America are Organizing to Raise Wages and Improve Work.”

The report details successes by working people nationwide since the AFL-CIO’s first-ever Raising Wages Summit in January 2015, including efforts to place the debate over income inequality squarely before the public and lawmakers. Since the summit, it reads, “income inequality has shifted from a problem we discuss to a problem we can solve.”

“One year ago, we made clear that raising wages for all working people was our number one priority,” said AFL-CIO Pres. Richard Trumka. “In 2015 we came together in collective voice and action, and made significant progress.”

Despite a number of victories at the local, state and national levels, “we are still far behind where we need to be and where we can be,” Trumka said. “In the year ahead, we will continue to push for a comprehensive economic agenda that puts working people first. Raising Wages is not a hobby, it is our mission.”

Achievements at the national level include the introduction of legislative initiatives to raise the minimum wage, new rules proposed by the Obama administration to help raise wages by making more workers eligible for overtime and requiring federal contractors to provide paid sick leave.

The National Labor Relations Board also took steps last year to make it easier for workers to organize a union by eliminating delays in the union recognition process, and other actions that help fast food workers organize a union if they want one.

At the city and state levels, the report notes initiatives last year that increased the minimum wage, required employers to provide paid sick days and other workplace changes helping working people, including new penalties and protections against wage theft and discriminatory pay practices.

The AFL-CIO report points the way ahead, including campaigns by AFSCME and other unions to sign up hundreds of thousands of teachers, nurses, social workers, service workers and other public employees already covered by union contracts.

Read the full report here.

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Paramedic Rushes In, Saves Elderly Woman from Fire http://www.afscme.org/blog/paramedic-rushes-in-saves-elderly-woman-from-fire Tue, 19 Jan 2016 12:39:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/paramedic-rushes-in-saves-elderly-woman-from-fire NEW YORK – Lt. Michael Daddona, a paramedic for the city fire department, had to think quickly and make a critical decision. He could wait a couple of minutes for firefighters to arrive at the home of 91-year-old Winifred Miccio to rescue her from a burning bedroom, or he could take matters into his own hands.                                                 

Daddona decided he couldn’t wait another second and rushed into the two-story house on Cross Bay Boulevard with only one thought in mind: saving Miccio from the smoke and flames.

“I did have some trouble breathing because of the smoke,” said Daddona. But the big challenge was getting Miccio, who uses a walker, safely out of the house.

Daddona decided there was no time to waste looking for her walker and managed to carefully guide her out of the house and onto the street. The fire was limited to the bedroom and no further damage was done to the Beach Channel home.

“He went beyond and above the call of duty and we’re proud of him,” said Vincent Variale, president of Uniformed EMS Officers Local 3621.

Daddona, a member of the local union, is assigned to Station 50 at Queens General Hospital. But on Tuesday morning, Oct. 20, he was filling in at Station 47 in Rockaway when he got the call.

A veteran of the department since 1996, Daddona is also an active member of the Franklin Square Volunteer Fire Department in Long Island.

“It’s always a great feeling when you can help someone,” Daddona said. 

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Park Worker Comes to Rescue of Slashed Officer http://www.afscme.org/blog/park-worker-comes-to-rescue-of-slashed-officer Fri, 15 Jan 2016 13:50:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/park-worker-comes-to-rescue-of-slashed-officer NEW YORK – Parks worker Joanna Zeno had just finished blowing leaves in Cunningham Park on Oct. 16 when she heard screams for help coming from the bathroom.                      

"I saw a woman bleeding. She said, 'That lady stabbed me,'" said Zeno, a member of AFSCME Local 1505 (DC 37).

Without hesitating, Zeno followed the slight-built woman in red, who had slashed her victim across the face and neck, as she headed deeper into verdant Fresh Meadows Park.

"I wasn't afraid. I knew I could take her. I wanted to help," said Zeno, who has worked for the Department of Parks and Recreation since 2007. "I recognized her as one of the homeless people who hang around Cunningham Park."

Zeno also knows the victim, who is an off-duty police officer. "She comes here to walk her dog and exercise. I say hello to her all the time," she said.

Driving a Parks Department cart, Zeno led police to the attacker and they made an arrest.

"I'm happy they caught her; she could have hurt the children in the park," said Zeno, who once helped another victim who was attacked in Flushing Park in 2012. "It's a tough job, but I really like my work," she added. "Parks need to be safe for everyone, especially for the kids."

"The presence of our members is a deterrent to crimes like rapes, murders, and robberies – and they should be commended for it,” said Local 1505 Pres. Dilcy Benn.  ”She probably saved the officer's life."

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Tea-Party Frontrunner Cruz Called Out for Pro-Millionaire Economic Policies http://www.afscme.org/blog/tea-party-frontrunner-cruz-called-out-for-pro-millionaire-economic-policies Fri, 15 Jan 2016 11:38:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/tea-party-frontrunner-cruz-called-out-for-pro-millionaire-economic-policies CHARLES CITY, Iowa – While Ted Cruz toured small Iowa towns last week, telling Iowans he understands their values and concerns, protesters followed the tea-party candidate’s bus to spotlight his dirty little secret: His economic policies are aimed at helping millionaires and corporations get more tax breaks.

AFSCME volunteers greeted Cruz in Webster City and Charles City last week to criticize his plans to eliminate corporate and estate taxes and slash the capital gains tax – none of which help middle-class Americans.

“Not one part of his economic plans addresses issues facing middle-class Iowans,” said Paula Martinez, a member of AFSCME Iowa Council 61 who attended the protests. “He has no plans to address income inequality or close the growing wage gap facing working families.”

In fact, Cruz’s tax policies would cost America nearly $800 billion in lost revenue if it were adopted.

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The State of Our Union: AFSCME Strong! http://www.afscme.org/blog/the-state-of-our-union-afscme-strong Wed, 13 Jan 2016 14:31:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/the-state-of-our-union-afscme-strong In his State of the Union speech, President Obama emphasized the importance of unions in building a strong economy. “Middle-class families,” he declared, “are not going to feel more secure because we allowed attacks on collective bargaining to go unanswered.” 

Those words, though brief, tell volumes about the importance of strong unions in building the middle class and why we need to stand strong in the face of such attacks coming from Wall Street and corporate interests that are more concerned, as President Obama noted, about their quarterly earnings than improving the wages of hard-working people who help them make those profits. 

The most recent of these attacks on workers’ rights was brought before the U.S. Supreme Court this week by a corporate-backed group determined to stack the decks on behalf of the wealthy.

This case, called Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, is aimed specifically at public employees nationwide who work every day to improve their communities. They are teachers, fire fighters, police officers, emergency personnel and people who ensure that our neighborhoods are clean and safe. Many of them are members of AFSCME, and they will not let these attacks against their collective bargaining rights go unchallenged.

President Obama ended his speech by stating, “I stand here, as confident as I have ever been, that the state of our Union is strong.” We agree, and also add that the state of our union is strong as well – AFSCME Strong.

AFSCME Strong is more than a slogan. It’s who we are, and reflects the state of our union. We are proving it every day as AFSCME members throughout the nation meet one-on-one with their co-workers, building strength in the workplace. Cab drivers in Illinois are showing that they are AFSCME Strong. Ohio child care attendant Stephanie Wiley is demonstrating she is too. So are many others, nationwide.

More than 200,000 workers joined AFSCME last year, alone, and more continue to join every day, challenging efforts by the anti-union Koch brothers and other groups supported by their money to weaken workers’ rights, including the right to collective bargaining, which has helped keep workers in the middle class, helping our nation grow.

Workers are joining AFSCME because they understand that together, we all stand AFSCME Strong. The state of our nation is strong when the middle class is strong, and the state of our union is strong because our members are strong. Learn more here.

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Workers Stand Up To Supreme Court Threat http://www.afscme.org/blog/workers-stand-up-for-voice-threatened-in-supreme-court Mon, 11 Jan 2016 13:25:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/workers-stand-up-for-voice-threatened-in-supreme-court WASHINGTON – Hundreds of workers assembled outside the U.S. Supreme Court today to protect their voice on the job and protest the ongoing attacks against working families from wealthy special interest groups.

Inside, the Court was hearing oral arguments in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, an attack on public-sector unions from wealthy special interests that could harm workers’ ability to have a voice on the job. The case has generated support for workers from various quarters, from states’ attorneys to editorial writers.

“We know that without a strong voice on the job, we’ll lose the ability to advocate for the safety and training our communities rely on,” said Dovard Howard, a certified control systems technician and AFSCME member from Riverside, California. “It is only through a strong union that we have been able to win improvements in training and safety systems at my worksite.”

Howard joined a dozen other public-sector workers who spoke publicly about the need for unions to remain strong.

Dovard HowardDovard Howard speaks in front of the Supreme Court (Photo by Kevin Contee)

“I’m a conservative myself, but I certainly don’t agree with the plaintiffs in this case,” he said. “No one is required to join a union and no one is required to pay any fees that go to politics or political candidates. Everyone has a voice in a union – we’re a democracy, with many opinions. But ultimately, we agree on sticking together to make a strong union and joining together to improve our family’s lives and the services we provide our community.”

Stephen Mittons, a child protection investigator and AFSCME member from Illinois, said his union is vital to his and his co-workers’ ability to do their jobs and serve their communities.

“It is frightening to me that the same CEOs and corporate interests who have been manipulating the rules of our economy for decades are now trying to make it harder for working people like me and my co-workers to come together, speak up, and get ahead,” Mittons said. “This would weaken our ability to protect our communities and deliver the services people rely on.

“For example, our union is a vital partner in the implementation of a federal decree that monitors caseloads,” he continued. “I worry that if our voices are weakened, we could see our ability to monitor safe caseloads undermined. Without a strong voice on the job, we’ll lose the ability to advocate for the children in the system – this I know for sure. We can’t afford to let any child slip through the cracks because of backlogs and irresponsible staffing and caseloads.”

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Kentucky State Workers in Crosshairs of Tea Party Governor http://www.afscme.org/blog/kentucky-state-workers-in-crosshairs-of-tea-party-governor Fri, 08 Jan 2016 14:16:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/kentucky-state-workers-in-crosshairs-of-tea-party-governor In one of his first policy decisions after being inaugurated, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin set his sights clearly on state employees. He reversed an executive order from the Beshear administration that raised the minimum wage for state employees, and abolished the governor’s employee advisory council (GEAC), which allowed state employees certified union representation. He also ordered a state hiring freeze.

Currently ranked 41st in pay for state workers by the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis, Kentucky state employees, and workers employed by state government vendors, would have seen their minimum wage raised to $10.10 per hour, up from $7.25, under the executive order issued by then-Gov. Steve Beshear last June and set to go in effect Jan. 1.

Bevin’s abolishment of the GEAC strikes down state employees’ access to united representation. The council allowed employee representatives to discuss wages, hours and terms of employment for merit employees.

"Bevin’s decision to eliminate the GEAC is a bad one for the state of Kentucky,” said Debra Garcia, executive director of the AFSCME Indiana/Kentucky Organizing Committee 962, which represents thousands of state employees across Kentucky. “Through the GEAC process, state employees worked collaboratively with the state to resolve workplace issues that affect both employees and management.”

“These actions are real proof that this governor is not interested in providing Kentucky’s workers with a fair voice, a decent wage or real dignity at their workplace,” she said.

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AFSCME Member from Ohio Delivers Petition: Stop the Attacks! http://www.afscme.org/blog/afscme-member-from-ohio-delivers-petition-stop-the-attacks Thu, 07 Jan 2016 15:34:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/afscme-member-from-ohio-delivers-petition-stop-the-attacks Stephanie Wiley is a child care attendant in Ohio. Every day, she wakes up before the sun rises to help children with special needs who ride the bus to school.

But this week she did something unusual. She flew to Washington, DC, to deliver a petition signed by more than 100,000 workers across the nation, demanding that a special interest group stop its attacks on America’s middle-class families.

Wiley has been doing her job for 25 years and does it because she cares about her community. Across the country, millions of public service workers like her – teachers, firefighters, nurses and more – are keeping our communities safe, healthy and running smoothly each day.

But corporate CEOs and wealthy special interests who manipulate the economic rules in their favor are trying to make it even harder for working people to come together, speak up and get ahead.

They've pushed a case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court called Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association that could make it harder for public workers to serve their communities.

Workers across the country are speaking loudly and clearly to defend their right to a voice on the job. Many signed the petition, which Wiley helped deliver to the Center for Individual Rights, the group behind the case.

The message in that petition was simple: Enough is enough! Stop the attacks on working people.

Public workers don’t want their voices silenced, and they’re not giving up on the communities they serve. We’ll never quit fighting for our jobs, our communities and our families.

Watch Stephanie’s story, then click here to add your name to the petition.

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They’re AFSCME Strong and They Want You to Be, Too http://www.afscme.org/blog/theyre-afscme-strong-and-they-want-you-to-be-too Wed, 06 Jan 2016 16:39:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/theyre-afscme-strong-and-they-want-you-to-be-too Detroit public service workers Phyllis McMillon and June Clark epitomize AFSCME Strong, knowing that it takes a union of committed activists to build power in the workplace, and that one-to-one conversations with co-workers is what’s needed to make that happen at a time when workers are fighting for their rights on the job.

McMillon and Clark, both leaders within AFSCME Council 25, participated recently in a two-day AFSCME Strong training that’s been our number-one priority since early in 2015. They learned how to reach out to fellow coworkers to get them more involved in the union to create a better workplace for all – even for those who have not yet joined.

As president of Local 542 and first vice president of AFSCME Council 25, McMillon has had experience reaching out to her fellow AFSCME members to engage them in contract battles and political struggles that advance their goals. Thanks to the AFSCME Strong training, she has had more direct opportunity to engage members (and non-members) about the importance of strong unions in building a stronger economy for all.

In early December, McMillon and other AFSCME Council 25 activists got that chance when, over two days, they participated in an AFSCME Strong training. Through it, they learned how to reach out to coworkers.

McMillon said she discovered that it’s not just talking about AFSCME that’s important, but also listening to coworkers express their workplace concerns – and answering their questions – that can make a real impact on building a stronger union. “You’re going to hear some things that you need to hear from them,” she said. “It’s not just you giving them an education. They’re giving you an education.”

Many people – even those who are already AFSCME members – need that one-on-one connection that AFSCME Strong training emphasizes. “I met one person,” said McMillon, who “invited us into her home and shared some things with us” that McMillon described as “negative.” However, after asking many questions about the union that McMillon confidently answered, the woman became more positive.

“She said she was going to call Council 25 and get more involved with AFSCME, whether making phone calls or going door to door” to talk to fellow workers, McMillon said. “She moved from venting to being engaged.”

Clark, an emergency dispatcher for Detroit’s Department of Transportation, also saw the benefit of reaching out to one member at a time to have a meaningful conversation about issues that matter. As president of Local 214 and also a member of Council 25’s Executive Board, she says public service workers need to understand threats from the Koch brothers and Michigan’s right-wing Mackinac Center, citing just two examples out of many.

“They design ways to take away labor rights, not just union rights,” Clark said. “So we were informing people about what’s going on in the county,” and what they need to do to fight back. “We need them to get back into the union and pay dues” if they’re not already members, “and if they are union members, we want them to take another step and become PEOPLE members,” referring to AFSCME’s political action program.

One member she spoke to during her AFSCME Strong training session “was happy we came” to his home, she said. “He didn’t know the union did that kind of thing, knocking on your door. He was already a dues-paying member, and went on to sign up with PEOPLE.”

Reflecting on her AFSCME Strong experience, Clark said, “I think it’s good we’re reaching out to the members, because the members don’t always know that we’re out there.” Sometimes, she added, talking to one’s own members comes across as “nagging,” but reaching out to workers in a different workplace gets a better response. “It’s only when you’re talking to others that they get it.”

Clark and McMillon also get it. They’re AFSCME Strong and they know it. Now they’re making sure others know it, too.

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New Law Protects EMS from Assaults http://www.afscme.org/blog/new-law-protects-ems-from-assaults Tue, 05 Jan 2016 15:09:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/new-law-protects-ems-from-assaults NEW YORK – A two-year battle for legislation that would help stop assaults on Emergency Medical Services Paramedics and Technicians (EMS/EMT) has ended in a victory for the dedicated first responders throughout the state of New York.

Attacks on EMS and EMT workers have been on the rise since EMT Teresa Soler captured national attention when she was choked and punched in the face several times after she helped a man who was drunk and walking along the Brooklyn Bridge. The man was an assistant district attorney and managed to plea bargain his way out of jail time. Instead, he received only 10 days of community service.

Thanks to the new legislation, the next time someone assaults a paramedic they will be charged with a felony and could face as much as seven years in prison. “Medics and EMTs go to help people, and sometimes they find themselves in harm’s way because the law has been weak,” said 20-year EMT Oren Barzilay, who is recording secretary of Uniformed EMTs and Paramedics Local 2507 of AFSCME’s DC 37. “Now it sends a message to would-be perpetrators.”

New York State Sen. Martin Golden and Assemblyman Joseph Lentol sponsored the legislation with major backing from the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office and Local 2507.  At a press conference on Dec. 18, Local 2507 Pres. Israel Miranda announced plans to launch a public awareness campaign letting New Yorkers know it’s a felony to assault one of his members.

Miranda said the New York law could serve as a model for national legislation. “It should be a problem for anyone attacking a first responder,” he said. Miranda’s persistence in getting the law passed was recognized by Assemblyman Lentol, who noted, “He wouldn’t stop calling us. It was day and night.”

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