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. LGBT Pride Month: Why Mara Keisling Was Arrested for Using the Wrong Bathroom http://www.afscme.org/blog/lgbt-pride-month-why-mara-keisling-was-arrested-for-using-the-wrong-bathroom Mon, 27 Jun 2016 12:00:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/lgbt-pride-month-why-mara-keisling-was-arrested-for-using-the-wrong-bathroom On May 24, civil rights leader and Georgia Congressman John Lewis reminded his Twitter followers that 55 years ago, he was arrested for using a whites-only restroom. The idea of a whites-only restroom seems so backward today that it’s fair to say our country has made huge progress in overcoming some forms of discrimination.

But Lewis’s tweet came a day before 11 states sued the federal government to prevent transgender students from using restrooms that match their gender identities. This is another form of discrimination. And just as Lewis was arrested for using a restroom where he wasn’t allowed, transgender activists today are being arrested for a similar reason.

Mara Keisling, the founding executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), is one of those activists. She went into a woman’s restroom in North Carolina as an act of civil disobedience after the state passed a law to further limit transgender rights. The law, known as HB2 or the “Charlotte bathroom bill,” nullifies any local ordinance in the state that protects LGBT individuals, including the right to use a restroom matching one’s gender identity.

“I can’t use the men’s room because it’s uncomfortable,” says Keisling, who identifies as female, “and it offends my dignity.”

Since the debate over transgender bathroom access began making national headlines, Keisling has been speaking out on the subject, including to a group of legislators at the U.S. Congress. Last week she spoke about it at AFSCME’s national headquarters in Washington, D.C., during an event celebrating LGBT Pride Month. It’s a topic she treats with the seriousness it deserves, but also with light-hearted irony.

 “I was sitting this far from Nancy Pelosi, telling her about where I like to pee,” she said, motioning a few feet away.

But the bathroom issue is “serious stuff,” she added, and not just because it offends the dignity of a transgender person. “There are kids in North Carolina who aren’t going to school because they’re afraid,” she said. It’s a form of discrimination that can harm a person for the rest of his or her life.

Keisling also pointed out that the Charlotte bathroom law targets all workers by forbidding localities from raising the minimum wage, and it shields employers from legal action at the expense of workers’ rights.

“This was an anti-worker bill that used transgender people as a scapegoat,” she said.

That’s why it’s important, she added, to view the LGBT movement as inseparable from the fight for workers’ rights, immigrant rights and other progressive causes.

“We can no longer have an effective LGBT movement or a moral LGBT movement unless it is also an anti-racist movement – a ‘we-are-all-in-this-together’ movement,” she said. “If we see any more obstacles or diminishments happening to the labor movement, it hurts us all.”

Despite efforts in several states to pass discriminatory laws like HB2, Keisling said she has never felt so optimistic about ending discrimination against transgender people.

“Obama is the best President we’ve had on transgender issues, and no one is in second place,” she said.

Since Obama took office, Keisling has counted more than 100 victories for the LGBT community. And she’s predicting more to come.

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Public Workers Battle Zika Virus in Puerto Rico http://www.afscme.org/blog/public-workers-battle-zika-virus-in-puerto-rico Wed, 22 Jun 2016 14:48:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/public-workers-battle-zika-virus-in-puerto-rico With more than 100 reported cases of the Zika virus in Puerto Rico, AFSCME members who work for the government are busy helping to fight the virus and prevent its spread. Health officials predict as many as one in five residents of the island will be infected by year’s end, increasing the chances of the virus’ spread on the mainland.

To make matters worse, Zika could not have arrived at a worse time for the people of Puerto Rico. The government is undergoing a financial crisis related to its more than $70 billion in outstanding debt. In February, a U.S. Treasury official urged Congress to help the Commonwealth restructure its debt quickly, warning that "Puerto Rico's very survival is at stake."

Since the debt crisis' beginning, the Puerto Rican government has cut back on public programs, including health and environmental control services, needed to fight the virus. Qualified health care professionals have sought jobs elsewhere in the United States. And there’s no money to pay for basic protective measures, such as installing window screens in homes, medical facilities and schools that currently lack them, or creating a more effective spray to kill the mosquito that transmits the disease.

Although Zika is a mild illness with symptoms of fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes, it has been linked to brain damage in unborn children, including microcephaly. In adults, there is a suspected link to Guillain-Barré syndrome, which can lead to temporary paralysis.

President Obama has asked Congress for $1.9 billion to fight the Zika virus, including $250 million in aid to Puerto Rico. But Congress has yet to act.

'Doing Everything We Can'

The Department of Consumer Affairs (known as DACO, for its acronym in Spanish) has frozen prices on medicine used to treat Zika symptoms and items used to prevent infection, such as mosquito repellents. The order is intended to fight Zika as much as to control an outbreak of Influenza that has affected many more people. It covers a freeze on prices of prophylactics, mosquito repellents, disinfectants, analgesics, and the Influenza vaccine, among other things. There is no vaccine for Zika.

Workers for DACO are also visiting residential communities, schools and seniors' centers to educate the public on the risks of Zika and how to prevent becoming infected with the virus.

"We are doing everything we can to help prevent the spread of the Zika virus and the Influenza virus," says Eduardo Martínez, a purchasing agent for DACO and president of AFSCME Local 3986 (Servidores Públicos Unidos de Puerto Rico/Council 95). "We're working around the clock, even on evenings and weekends. We are educating people about Zika, what its symptoms are, how to prevent it, and how to keep their homes free of mosquitos."

Mikey Rivera, a computer programmer for the Department of Education and president of Local 3840 (Council 95), says he and his colleagues have been part of the effort. "We’ve been visiting schools and talking to school staff, educating them on the Zika virus and how to prevent contagion," he said. "The idea is to try to reach parents through their children."

Rivera and Martínez say austerity measures have thus far not hindered their efforts, and they remain hopeful that preventive measures will help contain the spread of the virus. But that may change with the beginning of the rainy season and the onset of warmer weather.

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Your Union-Made Vacation http://www.afscme.org/blog/your-union-made-vacation Tue, 21 Jun 2016 12:00:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/your-union-made-vacation We all know that union members are the folks that brought you the weekend. But how about summer vacation? With temperatures rising, many of us are dreaming of a longer getaway. But for some AFSCME members, summer fun is all in a day's work.

Sun and Sand

Rick PatrizioYou can't get much closer to real-life paradise than the beaches of Maui. But even paradise has its dangers. It's lifeguard Rick Patrizio's job to make sure that beachgoers stay safe while they have fun in the sun.

"I always tell people to never turn your back on the ocean and never climb on slippery rocks. No matter how strong a swimmer you are, Mother Nature is stronger."

Patrizio is a lieutenant with Hawaii's Ocean Safety and Lifeguard Services Division. He's also a chair for Unit 14 of the Hawaii Government Employees Association, AFSCME Local 152. The 700 members of the unit may spend their days at the beach, but that doesn't mean they get to relax.

"In our line of work, no business is good business," says Patrizio. "If you see us up and working, that means somebody is in trouble."

If you're headed to the beach this summer, don't forget to protect yourself from the sun and stay hydrated. Coppertone sunscreen and Rubbermaid coolers are both union-made in the United States.

The Pool

Alvin WilliamsAlvin Williams, a lifeguard in Hallandale Beach, Florida, and member of AFSCME Local 2009 (Council 979), says he became a lifeguard more than 15 years ago and what he likes most about his job is "the satisfaction of knowing you may be the reason someone survives in the water."

He teaches survival skills to children who already know how to swim but may not know their limits. Several years ago, he saved a child who jumped into the deep end of a swimming pool not realizing what he was getting himself into. "I saw the look of panic in his eyes," Williams recalls. "I ran toward him and told him I was going to get him out of there."

To stay out of trouble, Williams advises children to always swim with a buddy and near a lifeguard stand. If they'll be out in the sun, they should also drink plenty of water to avoid muscle cramps.

Back to Nature

Edward WilemanCan't swing a ticket to Hawaii? No problem. No matter where you live, you're probably not too far from some beautiful public land.

In central Pennsylvania, Edward Wileman of AFSCME Local 2245 is hard at work making sure that the great outdoors are accessible to the public.  He's a maintenance supervisor in the Tuscarora State Forest, which covers more than 90,000 acres of rolling Appalachian wilderness.

Wileman's job is to make sure that more than 100 miles of trails and roads are clear and well-maintained for hikers, cyclists and horseback riders. "This is the place to come if you want to get back to nature," he says.

Even when he's not on the job, Wileman is passionate about the outdoors. He even visits local schools dressed as Smokey the Bear to teach kids about fire safety.

His advice to vacationers is to play it safe. "There's not a ton of dangerous wildlife, but we do have some rattlesnakes and bears," he says. "Be careful, because you're a visitor on their property."

Rattlesnakes aside, Tuscarora State Forest is a friendly place to visit. "If you see us, feel free to ask questions," Wileman says. "We're public employees and that's what we're here for."

Before you head into the wilderness, be sure to pack your Danner hiking boots and your Weber grill - both union-made in the USA. If you're looking for union-made hunting and fishing gear, the Union Sportmen's Alliance can help you find it. Visit unionsportsmen.org.

A Day at the Museum

Rebecca MeahThe school year is drawing to a close, but at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, members of AFSCME Local 1559 (DC 37) are preparing an educational experience for kids and adults alike. They're building the displays for an exhibit called "Dinosaurs Among Us," set to run through January 2017. The exhibit traces the evolutionary links between prehistoric giants and the birds we can see in our backyards today.

"We show transitionary animals," says Tory Ferraro, a senior principal preparator. "These are strange-looking big birds, dinosaurs that range from the size of a chicken to a four- or five-foot ostrich."

Teams of skilled museum preparators and assistants tend to every detail for an experience that brings dinosaurs to life. Rebecca Meah, a senior principal preparator, explains the process.  "We spent months on molds and built steel skeletons that we coated in spray foam, layered on silicone and rubber and finished with hand-painted feathers."

These are only a few of the summer activities that are brought to you by union labor. Whether you're traveling far from home or just looking for a weekend outing, be on the lookout for your AFSCME sisters and brothers.

More AFSCME-Made Vacation Destinations

  • Florida: Vizcaya Museum and Gardens: This stunning Italianate mansion, built by a millionaire in 1916, was acquired by Miami-Dade County in the 1950s. AFSCME Local 199.
  • Michigan: Mackinac Island State Park: Stroll the beaches of Lake Superior and the charming downtown district from bike, horseback or on foot. MSEA/ AFSCME Local 5.
  • California: East Bay Regional Park District: A system of parks and nature preserves to hike among giant redwoods and take in stunning views of the San Francisco Bay and surrounding landscape. AFSCME Local 2428.
  • South Dakota: Dinosaur Park: Built by the Works Progress Administration in 1936, this reptilian roadside attraction is a fun stop on the way to Mt. Rushmore. AFSCME Local 1031.
  • Louisiana: Let a union sister or brother get you home safely after a night on Bourbon Street. New Orleans Cab Drivers for Justice/AFSCME Council 17.
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We're Winning the Fight for $15 http://www.afscme.org/blog/were-winning-the-fight-for-15 Mon, 20 Jun 2016 12:00:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/were-winning-the-fight-for-15 When fast food workers walked off their jobs in 2012 to demand $15 an hour and a union, many dismissed their demands as unrealistic and unattainable. But what the skeptics failed to see was the workers’ resolve. Today they’re winning in city after city, and in state after state.

Their latest victories include California and New York, which in April became the first states in the nation to raise their minimum wage to $15, a gradual change that will be accomplished by 2022. In doing so they followed the lead of cities like New York, San Francisco and Seattle, and they are likely to set the example for other states to follow.

Also in April, thousands of workers infused the Fight for $15 with new life when they hit the streets in cities all over the country, keeping the issue central in the Presidential campaign and making it clear that they’re strong, relentless and unstoppable.

A Spirit of Resolve

You know who else is strong, relentless and unstoppable? AFSCME members. And labor unions have played a key role in the Fight for $15. Last year we joined together with restaurant workers for the largest-ever national strikes aimed at increasing the minimum wage. What we share with these workers is a spirit of resolve that will help guarantee future victories.
When workers join together in union, the strength of their will simply can’t be ignored!

As we continue the fight, it’s also important to keep making the case for why increasing workers’ salaries will help end poverty in our communities. Together, we must take the Fight for $15 to the ballot box to show candidates of all political stripes that there are nearly 64 million Americans who make less than a livable wage.

For California Home Care Workers, Other Victories, Too

Home care providers in California achieved another important victory as well. Today, they will finally be paid overtime and travel time thanks to new rules issued by the U.S. Department of Labor. These new rules will bring home care under provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act. States who are currently dragging their feet on implementing the new rules should take note.

What this means to people like Lidia Rodriguez is big. Rodriguez, a UDW Homecare member profiled in the Alliance for Justice film, "The Right to Unite," will finally be compensated for the 60 hours a week she works with her son, paralyzed from a drive-by shooting, and two other clients who love her dearly. She will now be paid for traveling back and forth between clients.

"This will mean so much to me and other home care providers," Rodriguez says. "I don’t have to worry about buying gasoline to travel to see Vivian and Barbara (her senior clients)."

Our recent victories remind us of what we can accomplish together if we never quit.

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One Way to Fix Our Country’s Child Care Crisis: Invest in Family Child Care Providers http://www.afscme.org/blog/one-way-to-fix-our-countrys-child-care-crisis-invest-in-family-child-care-providers Mon, 20 Jun 2016 12:20:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/one-way-to-fix-our-countrys-child-care-crisis-invest-in-family-child-care-providers Gloria Carter has run a home-based day care in Sacramento County for more than 20 years. She provides child care and educational opportunities for the 12 kids in her care with the help of one assistant. And she’s seen first-hand the child care crisis both California and the nation are experiencing.

“It’s terrible,” said Carter. “Many of the parents of the kids in my care struggle to pay for child care while trying to make ends meet, and when I lose kids in my day care, my family struggles too.”

Far too many working families can’t afford care, and family child care providers earn wages so low that they can’t afford to keep their home-based day cares open. These problems add up to decreased access to quality, affordable child care and early learning opportunities for our children. But there is a solution: Make an investment in family child care providers to increase families’ access to child care.

“A mom of one of my kids couldn’t afford child care any longer, so she took her daughter out of my day care,” Carter recalled. “She reduced her hours at work, which meant reducing her income, so that she only worked when her daughter was in school.”

Families, especially low-income parents, rely on family child care providers to care for and teach their children while they work. And when parents can’t work because they can’t afford care for their children, they struggle to provide for their families. All too often, families are forced to make tough decisions between paying for care and going to work.

In 2014, the cost of child care for a preschooler in California was approximately $9,100 in a child care center, and $7,850 in a home-based day care. And this year, an analysis by the Economic Policy Institute found that it may be cheaper for a California family to send their child to college than to pay for child care for an infant. In fact, California has the 11th highest child care costs in the country. Families are struggling to provide for other basic needs like rent and food, because the cost of child care is, on average, a third of their income.

With numbers like these, it’s clear we need to invest in child care now more than ever.

Quality investment in child care, including raising the wages for family child care providers, will help ease the financial worries of parents throughout. And right now, the best way to do this is to stabilize the child care system.

UDW supports an increase in Californian subsidy rates, which will give family child care providers like Carter a much needed and deserved increase in their pay – making it easier for them to afford their work-related expenses and keep their day cares open for business.

Investing in family child care providers and increasing access to care is a wise investment to make throughout the country and especially in California.

Doug Moore is the Executive Director of UDW/AFSCME Local 3930, as well as an International Vice President of UDW’s parent union AFSCME.

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What Dads Really Want for Father’s Day http://www.afscme.org/blog/what-dads-really-want-for-fathers-day Sun, 19 Jun 2016 09:00:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/what-dads-really-want-for-fathers-day If you’re a working father in today’s labor force and you’re splitting child care equally with your spouse, then it’s likely you feel overwhelmed at times. This is because only 13 percent of American workers have access to paid family leave, and even those who do don’t have nearly enough.

The United States is the only developed nation in the world with no guaranteed paid leave of any kind. Seventy countries guarantee paid paternity leave for working dads, but the U.S. does not. In countries as diverse as Vietnam, Ireland and Bangladesh, parents can count on having paid time off to care for a newborn.

So it’s likely that if American dads could choose anything they wanted for this Father’s Day, many would say: I want more paid family leave.

Paid family leave means being able to be there for your child or children when they need you most without sacrificing your employment or jeopardizing your ability to make ends meet. It means having a more balanced work/family life.

A few bills are out there gathering dust in our deadlocked Congress that would be a welcome gift to many working dads. One is the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act, or FAMILY Act, which would provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave each year to qualifying workers for the birth or adoption of a new child, the serious illness of an immediate family member or a worker’s own medical condition.

Another is the Healthy Families Act, which would require certain employers to allow their workers to earn at least one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked, helping them meet their own medical needs or those of certain family members. And there’s the Raise the Wage Act, which would allow dads to spend more time with their families by raising their wages so they don’t have to work a second or third job.

Working families can take a big step toward fulfilling a dad’s dream by helping elect Hillary Clinton for President. Secretary Clinton has made it clear that she would fight for paid parental leave because she understands what it’s like for today’s parents to balance work and family life.

Secretary Clinton has said she would guarantee workers up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave with at least a two-thirds wage replacement rate, and she would pay for it by making the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share in taxes.

Now that would make for a Happy Father’s Day!

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Runaway Pay and Undisclosed Lobbying Are Addictions, and BlackRock Is an Enabler http://www.afscme.org/blog/runaway-pay-and-undisclosed-lobbying-are-addictions-and-blackrock-is-an-enabler Fri, 17 Jun 2016 15:41:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/runaway-pay-and-undisclosed-lobbying-are-addictions-and-blackrock-is-an-enabler Wouldn’t you like your paycheck to be 335 times larger? That’s how much American CEOs earn, on average, compared to the average worker. As many working families live paycheck to paycheck, this kind of pay imbalance is not only outrageous, it’s also bad for our economy.

CEOs earn three times more than they earned 20 years ago, yet the middle class is falling behind. Mutual fund companies are enablers of this alarming pattern of permitting CEOs to pay themselves these astronomical checks. And BlackRock and its CEO Larry Fink have been in the news lately for leading this trend.  

Mutual funds hold 31 percent of all U.S. company stock, so they have the power to directly affect how the companies they own govern themselves. Mutual funds vote on company issues like approving CEO pay, or shareholder proposals asking companies to disclose their political contributions and lobbying. Much like Vanguard, BlackRock is also awfully quiet when it comes to supporting political spending disclosure at companies.

But at a Davos conference in Chicago earlier this year, Fink made an important comment that went largely unnoticed at the time. In a discussion about shareholder value maximization — the idea that the sole purpose of a company is to make money for its shareholders — Fink stated that “lobbying is really good because it is maximizing shareholder value.”

Absolutely. If lobbying “maximizes shareholder value,” and actually helps companies earn more money for its owners, isn’t this important information for investors? Shouldn’t BlackRock support shareholder resolutions that call for disclosing political spending, including lobbying?

They don’t. For 2014 and 2015, BlackRock opposed every corporate political spending disclosure resolution that it voted on. Every single one.

One vocal critic of disclosure inadvertently made our case that disclosure is best. Last month former SEC Commissioner Daniel Gallagher appeared before a House Financials Services Committee hearing. Gallagher proposed reforms to the shareholder proposal process, claiming the process is abused. He stated that firms with the largest lobbying expenditures consistently outperform the market, but described lobbying disclosure shareholder proposals as an “apparent attempt to name-and-shame companies into reducing such (political) expenditures.”

Gallagher’s logic is that lobbying is good for shareholders, but investor demands for disclosure somehow are a bad thing. His argument makes no sense.

The Corporate Reform Coalition applauds Fink and Gallagher for recognizing that lobbying is an important factor that impacts shareholder value. And now we encourage both to support explaining to investors how and where companies spend corporate dollars on political campaigns and lobbying.

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Ohio Taxpayers Get Milked by State Prison Farm Selloff http://www.afscme.org/blog/ohio-taxpayers-get-milked-by-state-prison-farm-selloff Fri, 17 Jun 2016 10:00:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/ohio-taxpayers-get-milked-by-state-prison-farm-selloff After selling off its dairy herd of more than 1,000 cows from state-run prison farms that supplied 1.3 million gallons of milk each year, Ohio taxpayers must now shell out $2.6 million a year to supply milk to 50,000 inmates.

“It's the biggest waste of taxpayer dollars I've seen in my 25 years as a state employee,” said Chris Mabe, president of Ohio Civil Service Employees Association (OCSEA)/AFSCME Local 11 and also an AFSCME International vice president. “It's an absolute giveaway at this point.”

Since the Kasich administration’s corrections agency announced in April that it was getting out of the prison farm business, hundreds of OCSEA members have protested at each of the state’s 10 farms slated for closure and sale. The decision surprised employees, legislators and the public because the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections (DRC) had already spent nearly $9 million to upgrade the farms.

OCSEA, which represents 72 state employees who supervise the inmates at those correctional facilities, filed a lawsuit challenging the sales, alleging a contract violation. The state responded by filing motions seeking to block the union from gaining information about the farm sale. A hearing was just held in a county court on a Preliminary Injunction to stop the sale. A decision on the injunction is pending.

Prisons Director Gary Mohr cited security concerns as reasoning for closing the farms, but some have suggested ulterior motives: that corporations cozy with the Kasich administration are eager to snap up 7,000 or more acres of farmland at the 10 sites.

Under the guise of “improvements,” the Kasich administration outsourced prison food services at a cost to taxpayers of $110 million. Now run by Aramark, Ohio prisons have been the subject of confirmed reports of maggot-infested food.

The prison farms, in existence for more than 100 years, have been, for the most part, self-sustaining. The already completed upgrades were projected to increase both meat and dairy production to three times the current amount as well.

Crops are also grown to help supply food to local food banks. Inmates learn how to operate heavy machinery, weld and repair equipment, and use a variety of tools as well – skills they can use once they’ve served their sentence.

While prisons may not be turning inmates into farmers, some state employees argue it's all about teaching the inmates work ethic. “It's the act of teaching people responsibility, the value of working an eight-hour day and being able to be outside a fence,” Mabe said. “Even Director Mohr praised the farm operations a year ago. Something is not adding up here.”

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AFL-CIO Endorses Hillary Clinton for President http://www.afscme.org/blog/afl-cio-endorses-hillary-clinton-for-president Thu, 16 Jun 2016 15:35:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/afl-cio-endorses-hillary-clinton-for-president The 12.5-million member AFL-CIO voted today to endorse Sec. Hillary Clinton for President of the United States, ending a yearlong process that sought to capture the interests of the working people it represents.

In a press release, the largest federation of labor said it would immediately begin to “put in motion its ground campaign to elect Hillary Clinton and union-endorsed candidates across the country.” AFL-CIO Pres. Richard Trumka said Secretary Clinton has throughout her campaign “demonstrated a strong commitment to the issues that matter to working people, and our members have taken notice.”

He added that working people’s activism “has already been a major force in this election and is now poised to elect Hillary Clinton and move America forward.”

AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders, who is chair of the AFL-CIO Political Committee, said the choice in this year’s Presidential election was clear.

“This election offers a stark choice between an unstoppable champion for working families and an unstable charlatan who made his fortune scamming them,” he said. “Working people know that Hillary Clinton has the temperament and experience to unite all Americans in our fight to increase incomes at home and extinguish threats abroad.”

AFSCME endorsed Secretary Clinton back in October 2015, when our union’s 35-member International Executive Board voted overwhelmingly in support of her. This endorsement was based on overwhelming feedback from AFSCME members collected over six months, including polling data showing nearly two thirds of AFSCME members intended to vote for her in the Democratic primary.

Since becoming the presumptive Democratic nominee, Secretary Clinton has continued to receive the support of AFSCME members.

“The choice between Secretary Clinton and Donald Trump could not be clearer,” said President Saunders. “Trump is a dangerous and unstable demagogue who thinks American wages are too high and has called for gutting workers’ rights. Public service workers are ready to hit the streets to make sure he gets nowhere near the White House.”

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Megan Burger Is This Year’s 2016 Gerald W. McEntee Scholarship Recipient http://www.afscme.org/blog/megan-burger-is-this-years-2016-gerald-w-mcentee-scholarship-recipient Wed, 15 Jun 2016 11:17:18 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/megan-burger-is-this-years-2016-gerald-w-mcentee-scholarship-recipient Megan Burger wants to be an occupational therapist. It’s a goal the U.S. Capitol tour guide will be able to achieve more easily thanks to AFSCME’s Gerald W. McEntee Scholarship.

Burger is this year’s recipient of the one-time award of $5,000, granted annually to one AFSCME member. The scholarship honors the legacy of Gerald McEntee, AFSCME’s president from 1981 until 2012, during which the union grew from 960,000 members to 1.6 million. It is awarded to the candidate who best exemplifies McEntee’s commitment to growing stronger by joining together, building political power for working families, defending workers’ rights and supporting public services.

“I’m honored to get an award as prestigious as this – one that encourages people who have organizing experience to better themselves,” said Burger

Burger’s involvement with labor began with her parents: Her dad was a member of the Plumbers and Pipefitters, and her mother was a secretary for her Postal Workers local. After becoming a U.S. Capitol tour guide in 2007, labor became part of her own life.

When the guides decided they needed a voice on the job, they turned to AFSCME. In October 2010, after nine months organizing, Burger led 138 Capitol tour guides and visitor assistants to win recognition of their union. The next year, the members of the U.S. Capitol Visitor's Center Employees, AFSCME Local 658 (Council 26), were honored with the “Annual Organizing Award from the Metropolitan Washington Council, AFL-CIO. Soon thereafter, approximately 25 employees of the Visitor Center gift shop voted to become part of Local 658.

“After organizing, I was elected our first president of the local,” Burger wrote in her essay for the scholarship. “At 28, I got the training of a lifetime in experience.”

Burger would quickly be called on to use that experience to stand up for her sister and brother visitor assistants (VAs) who were demanding that management allow those working outside to wear winter coats in cold weather. VAs were getting sick and depleting their sick leave and leave without pay, she wrote. Something had to be done, but management refused.

On Sept. 30, 2010, “less than a week after voting in a union, I testified before our Congressional Oversight Committee,” Burger wrote in her essay. The panel was examining safety at the Capitol complex and Burger raised the coat issue. After her testimony, she said, they got their coats.

Burger’s activism continued. Last year she helped lead a Member Action Team (MAT) to help more of her co-workers join together. “Our workplace is partly under 30 and new to membership benefits,” she wrote. “As a full-time student, part-time employee, I have made time to lead another organizing committee.”

Nearly twice the number of co-workers joined, doubling the size of  Local 658 since the start of 2015, an organizing effort that is part of our “AFSCME Strong” program that has signed up more than 200,000 members nationwide.

For their efforts, Local 658 received another “Annual Organizing Award” from the Washington DC Metro-area AFL-CIO, presented this February.

The 2005 graduate of the University of Central Missouri (where she received a communications degree) never quits working to improve her workplace, herself and the lives of her co-workers through AFSCME. “Unions helped me grow up in a hardworking middle-class family, go to college and make a good first career great,” Burger explained in her essay for Union Plus Education Foundation, which announced the award. “It is from the advocacy and leadership opportunities that I discovered something: I enjoy helping people better themselves.”

“People need unions,” she added. “An important next step, for me, is to keep involved by educating and agitating. Unions will be there to weather any storm.”

With her scholarship, Burger plans to take classes at Northern Virginia Community College this fall to prepare to become an occupational therapist, possibly for a federal or state system. Burger said her experience as a Capitol guide, and her union experience as a steward and president, will help her as a therapist.

“I felt the people in my workplace were empowered, and I felt empowered,” working through their union, she explained. “An occupational therapist is an occupation that empowers people to do activities for a daily living.”

Carl Goldman, executive director of AFSCME Council 26, congratulated Burger, saying, “It has been a pleasure working with Megan. She is a natural organizer. With very minimal training, she knew exactly what to do to help to bring her co-workers into AFSCME. For me, it was like working with an experienced staff organizer. As local president and as a leader in the Member Action Team, she continued to help build power and bring a voice on the job to her colleagues. She is very deserving of this honor.”

Only AFSCME members are eligible to apply for the Gerald W. McEntee Scholarship, a one‐time scholarship that may not be awarded twice to the same member. A candidate must apply first for a Union Plus scholarship (Burger received a $750 Union Plus Scholarship).

Learn how to apply for the Gerald W. McEntee Scholarship here. Learn about other AFSCME scholarship programs here.

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We're Turning a Corner Because We Never Quit http://www.afscme.org/blog/were-turning-a-corner-because-we-never-quit Tue, 14 Jun 2016 17:17:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/were-turning-a-corner-because-we-never-quit For years, they’ve worked to destroy us. Funded by massively wealthy special interests, supported by politicians who think public service is something to be ashamed of, the anti-union movement has targeted AFSCME members.

They’ve passed so-called right-to-work to gut our wages, benefits and pensions, and to undermine public services. In their rhetoric, they’ve treated those of us who proudly serve our communities — nurses, librarians, bus drivers, the people who keep our streets safe and clean — as public enemies.

They’re trying to use the courts to declare our unions illegitimate, to take away the power we fought so hard to win so we could stand together and bargain collectively, winning better lives and a secure retirement for our families.

Standing Together

DC37 Exec. Dir. Henry Garrido

ABOVE: DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido (pictured right) spoke at a news conference at union headquarters in January.

We know better. We know what our cities and towns would look like without the dedicated people who work tirelessly to serve the public interest. We know that the work we do is largely unsung, but we do it because it must be done. We work hard and deserve respect for the work we do, not relentless attacks from special interests.

That’s why we fight back. And that’s why we’re turning the corner.

We’re turning the corner in New York, where tens of thousands of city workers will now make a $15-an-hour living wage. DC 37 Exec. Dir. Henry Garrido called it “a moment in history where working people won a major victory in our city.”

We’re turning the corner in Oregon, where corrections officers won a fight to correct inequities stemming from the Great Recession eight years ago.

We’re turning the corner in Florida, where Local 199, working with other unions and community allies, helped pass a paid parental leave ordinance.

We’re turning the corner in Ohio, where a group of AFSCME firefighters convinced fee payers, trainers who also work for the state, to become full union members. “We protect our jobs and negotiate for better pay and benefits,” said Greg Wells, a state employed firefighter trainer through OCSEA Local 11, “so once that was clear, everybody understood the value of signing up as members.”

By standing together, AFSCME members are turning the tables on anti-union forces everywhere they’ve attacked us: in the courts, in the voting booth, and at the bargaining table. Our recent victory at the Supreme Court in the Friedrichs vs. California Teacher’s Association, where the court ruled against anti-union organizations who wanted to destroy our union by banning fair-share fees, will ensure working people can continue to join together and have a voice on the job.

Having Our Voice Heard

In the early primary states, union members have determined the outcomes. AFSCME members have come out in force for Hillary Clinton’s campaign, knocking on thousands of doors to make sure union members' vote drives her victories. In close primaries like Massachusetts, AFSCME member engagement meant the difference between winning and losing. And every candidate in both parties can hear how powerfully organized workers voices are speaking at the ballot box.

Every day, we hear more stories of success at the bargaining table. Negotiations stalled for months or years are finally breaking through. New contracts are bringing higher wages or long-sought benefits that workers had been fighting for years.

A two-year campaign by Local 3299, to make custodians and parking attendants at the University of California permanent university employees, succeeded, meaning nearly 100 people will now receive the wages and benefits they deserve for their hard work. “I’m not asking for special treatment — just for the dignity and respect that my 20-plus years of service demands,” said Antonio Ruiz, a parking attendant.

In July, AFSCME’s elected delegates and leaders will gather in Las Vegas for our 42nd International Convention. Delegates will strategize and plan for more victories in the year ahead.

When we win, we win because we stick together, and because we never quit. Our commitment to public service, to our communities and to each other ensure our co-workers, our families and our union will only continue to grow stronger.

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In Debt? AFSCME and Union Plus Can Help! http://www.afscme.org/blog/in-debt-afscme-and-union-plus-can-help Mon, 13 Jun 2016 16:49:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/in-debt-afscme-and-union-plus-can-help For AFSCME Local 88 member Danielle Jediny-Racies, getting a master’s degree wasn’t just about advancing her career. It was about better serving the children and families that she helps as a mental health counselor. But those qualifications came at a big price.

“Student debt has profoundly affected me,” Danielle says. “I am overwhelmed with how my debt has increased with interest rates.”

Luckily, Danielle applied for a Union Plus Debt Reducer Grant. The money she received helped her catch up on her debt payments so that she could spend her time focused on her work, not her bills.

Check out these resources to help with the costs of education and student debt:

For a list of scholarships available to AFSCME members and their children, visit AFSCME.org/scholarships

AFSCME can help you lower your student loan payments through programs like Public Service Loan Forgiveness or Income-Based Repayment Plans. To learn about options to help reduce student debt, check out: AFSCME.org/student-debt

Through a partnership with Union Plus, AFSCME members have access to additional scholarships, discounts on college prep courses and financial aid advice. Visit: unionplus.org/education

For AFSCME members in Ohio, visit: ocseaeducation.org or AFSCMEcouncil8.org/scholarship-opportunities

And for New York DC 37 members, learn more at: dc37.net/studentdebt

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Cincinnati Unions Key to Successful Book Drive http://www.afscme.org/blog/cincinnati-unions-key-to-successful-book-drive Fri, 10 Jun 2016 13:46:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/cincinnati-unions-key-to-successful-book-drive Cincinnati Unions Key to Successful Book Drive Members of Ohio AFSCME Council 8 gave back to their community by way of donating more than 1,000 books to a Cincinnati elementary school. Front row (left to right): Local 1543 Pres. Tom West, Cincinnati Regional Dir. Renita Jones-Street, Local 3119 Pres. Gina Pratt, Local 3119 Vice Pres. Jacqueline Silas, Local 240 Vice Pres. Christopher McDonald and Local 250 Vice Pres. Kelly Malone. Back row (left to right): Local 217 Pres. Mike Walker, Local 240 Pres. Kevin Sluder, Local 223 Pres. John Lloyd, Local 190 Pres. Don Klapper and Local 223 Vice Pres. Skip Zimmer.

CINCINNATI – AFSCME Council 8 members helped a community book drive surpass its goal of donating 3,000 books to the city’s elementary schools. In fact, AFSCME unions were responsible for nearly half of the 3,400 books collected during the two-week effort.

“Our goal was to place one new book in the hands of each student in kindergarten through third grade before the start of summer vacation, and we succeeded,” said Gina Pratt, president of AFSCME Local 3119, representing the city’s public health nurses.

Summer reading is critical for every student, and especially important in helping to meet Ohio’s Third Grade Reading Guarantee Program, which identifies students from kindergarten through grade 3 who are behind in reading. Schools provide help and support to make sure all students are on track for reading success by the end of third grade.

Each book given to a student will come with corresponding activities and will encourage summer reading through incentives tied to a student’s school.

“This is our way of giving back to the community,” said Renita Jones-Street, Council 8’s Cincinnati Regional Director.  “And in the front of each book there was a label naming the union that provided the book.”

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The Lingering Cost of Education http://www.afscme.org/blog/the-lingering-cost-of-education Thu, 09 Jun 2016 09:00:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/the-lingering-cost-of-education New York DC37 members attend a workshop on debt management and relief programs.

New York DC37 members attend a workshop on debt management and relief programs.

The evidence of a student loan crisis is in the numbers. Americans owe a whopping $1.3 trillion in student loans. For comparison, that’s equal to the total value of all currency circulating in the United States right now.

With many AFSCME members among those facing this massive debt, our union is seeking to help people by spreading the word about programs like Public Service Loan Forgiveness and by advocating for more sensible education policies. The fact is it’s not just young people facing this deficit as they begin their careers, mid-career and even retirees are increasingly feeling its effects.

Taking Debt into Retirement

There are 2.2 million people in the United States over the age of 60 who hold student loan debt. According to the Government Accountability Office, the average borrower in this demographic owes $19,521.

That money has to be paid back one way or another, and for a rising number of seniors that means painful costs. In 2013, about 160,000 seniors had their Social Security checks garnished because of student loan defaults. That number has tripled since the start of the recession.

Some of these retirees have taken out loans for their children’s education, but 80 percent borrowed to cover their own educational expenses.

The situation is a glimpse into the squeeze that middle-class Americans are facing from all sides. Today, workers are trying to pay down debts during the years that they otherwise might spend building their retirement nest eggs.

Yvette Silas

Yvette Silas

“I will be paying for this till I’m old and gray,” says Yvette Silas, a school health aide with Local 44 (Council 67) in Maryland. She has been working in the health field for 15 years, but recently decided to return to school for a masters in administration so that she can move forward in her career. “Public workers are working so hard just to cover the basics. After those day-to-day costs, what’s left over for the big expenses?”

Jobs that offer strong retirement benefits and pensions are hard to come by these days. As a result, many Americans must count on their individual savings and Social Security benefits to last through retirement. But when you’re already struggling to make your loan payments and your $1,200 monthly Social Security check can be garnished by hundreds of dollars a month, how do we get to real retirement security?

Planning for the Future in a World of Debt

People under the age of 30 are less likely to be saving for retirement, and are less likely to be saving at recommended rates, than young people in earlier generations. In fact, the median millennial worker has no retirement savings at all. It’s tough to set aside money for savings while the interest on your loan ticks higher and higher every month.

That’s certainly the case for Kristen Corey, a member of Local 3450 (Council 61) in Iowa. Since she and her husband are already struggling to balance the day-to-day costs of child care with their student debt, saving for the future is tough. “We recently had a second child, and honestly, we have no idea what we're going to do to save up for retirement and save up for college for them,” she says.  “They will potentially be in the same situation that we're finding ourselves in now.”

How Our Union Is Helping

Kristen Corey

Kristen Corey

If we want to protect retirement, we can’t forget about student debt. We need more affordable education, more sensible lending practices, and more robust retirement options for all Americans.

District Council 37 in New York City is hard at work to make sure every AFSCME member is up-to-date when it comes to the student debt issue. Partnered with the nonprofit group Jobs with Justice and AFSCME Next Wave, DC 37 is hosting workshops where members can learn how to enroll in debt management and relief programs.

They’re also making student debt activism a part of the larger AFSCME Strong program that’s strengthening our union. When members talk to their co-workers about union power, they’re also talking about the debt forgiveness options that are available for public service workers.

In Ohio, union members are making dramatic strides toward a more accessible educational system. The Ohio Civil Service Employees Association (OCSEA) and Council 8 partnered with the Eastern Gateway Community College system to provide free education to members and their families. All OCSEA and Council 8 members, and their spouses, children and grandchildren, can get their two-year associate’s degree for free simply by completing a financial aid application. The program is just starting now, but hundreds of working families have already applied. You can find more information at ocseaeducation.org. You can also visit afscmecouncil8.org/scholarship-opportunities.

Nationwide, AFSCME is advocating for policy solutions and working to ensure that all public service workers have the resources and information they need in order to manage their student debt. You may be eligible for federal debt forgiveness or refinancing. Learn how your union can help by going to AFSCME.org/student-debt.

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From an AFSCME Family to a Nashville Star http://www.afscme.org/blog/from-an-afscme-family-to-a-nashville-star Tue, 07 Jun 2016 12:39:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/from-an-afscme-family-to-a-nashville-star This is a sneak peek from the May-June 2016 issue of On The Move, the member newspaper of AFSCME Council 31.

One of the brightest new country music stars in Nashville comes from an AFSCME union family in Illinois.

With her debut album Midwest Farmer’s Daughter, Margo Price has landed a guest spot on “Saturday Night Live,” a video on CMT, and a rave review in Rolling Stone, which called her “undeniable” and compared her to Loretta Lynn.

But what looks like a rocket ride to stardom is really the latest twist in a long road that started in Aledo, Ill., southwest of the Quad Cities, where Margo and her sisters were raised by mom Candace and dad Duane. He worked for 25 years in Illinois prisons, first as a correctional officer at East Moline, where he was a member of AFSCME Local 46, and then as a lieutenant at Hill Correctional Center (Local 1274). Duane was a PEOPLE contributor and after his retirement in 2010 joined AFSCME Retirees.

“From her adolescent years on up, Margo was just very interested in music,” her dad says. “She always had the radio on, went to voice lessons, piano lessons. Then she picked up a guitar. In high school she was a cheerleader and she would sing the national anthem at football and basketball games, a cappella.

“At age 20 she decided she wanted to move to Nashville and try to pursue a music career,” Duane goes on. “Of course, as we all know, that can be a pipedream for a lot of people. She went through some real tough times.”

Those struggles—13 years’ worth from the time she dropped out of Northern Illinois University—are a frequent source of subject matter in Margo’s songs. Besides bad breakups, money troubles and hard drinking, there’s the heart-wrenching death of an infant son that touched off a tailspin and ended with a weekend in jail.

“She’s writing from the heart,” Duane says. “I think she felt she’d come to a point where she was just going to sing what she feels, and with songs like ‘Hurtin’ (On the Bottle)’, I think a lot of people can relate.”

It’s working.

Midwest Farmer’s Daughter got a high-profile release on Third Man Records, the label owned by Jack White of the White Stripes.

In February, Margo performed for the first time at the Grand Ole Opry. Her parents were in the crowd.

Duane had seen the legendary show once before, as a child tagging along with his own parents. To return decades later with his daughter on stage “was euphoric,” he says. “It was just amazing to see her in that center circle where so many great performers have stood.”

The coming months will find Margo making more memories at Willie Nelson’s annual picnic outside Austin, Tex., on July 4, on “The Tonight Show” with Jimmy Fallon on July 14, and at the Pritzker Pavilion in Chicago’s Millennium Park on September 7.

“I’m just so happy for her that things have come around in her direction,” Duane says. “She’s still very humble. Other than her spirits being lifted by a little bit of success, she’s still the same girl she was when I dropped her off in Nashville years ago.”

Duane remains a fan of his union, too.

“AFSCME got me a good wage, good benefits and good representation,” he says. “The union is a necessity, let’s put it that way. Without it, where would the average Joe be?”

Visit Margo Price on the web or watch her play “Hurtin’ (On the Bottle)” live at the Grand Ole Opry below:

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Becoming AFSCME Strong One Door at a Time http://www.afscme.org/blog/becoming-afscme-strong-one-door-at-a-time Tue, 07 Jun 2016 12:00:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/becoming-afscme-strong-one-door-at-a-time After an intensive AFSCME Strong training session, AFSCME Florida leaders across North Florida are taking lessons they learned back to their fellow members.

One of those leaders is Tad Lewek, a plan examiner with the City of Jacksonville’s Building Inspection Division and a member of AFSCME Local 1279. He says he often hears the same problems other leaders report across the county: that the union hasn’t reached out to members individually, that members don’t know how to find information about what’s going on, and that when AFSCME does reach out it may not always be when they are able to participate.

“The problems we face in terms of being spread thin are not unique, so we hoped that an old-fashioned blitz would change things up,” he says. “This way we can have more conversations and jump-start growth at some sites.”

The blitz, held in early May, was a success. Dozens of members and staff spent the week knocking on doors, visiting worksites and having as many face-to-face conversations as possible. AFSCME has a long history in the city and the potential to represent a large number of workers.

“We worked tirelessly every day, from early morning to late in the evening, to get those conversations going and educate the workers,” says Lewek, who serves as a steward and on the Executive Board of his local. “Almost everyone knew about the union but didn’t know how it could help where they worked or were nervous to join because of misinformation and misunderstandings that have built up over time.”

By identifying the issues that mattered to the workers, having quality conversations and beginning the process of working together on shared issues, 71 workers signed up as new members.

“This is really just the start because we had so many more quality conversations,” Lewek says. “And we started the ball rolling in so many places that we are going to be seeing dividends from this for weeks to come. The blitz may be done but the real growth is really just beginning.”

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convention blog test 3 http://www.afscme.org/blog/convention-blog-test-3 Wed, 06 Apr 2016 12:00:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/convention-blog-test-3 convention blog test 2 http://www.afscme.org/blog/convention-blog-test-2 Wed, 02 Mar 2016 12:00:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/convention-blog-test-2 This is a test.

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convention blog test 1 http://www.afscme.org/blog/convention-blog-test-1 Tue, 01 Mar 2016 12:00:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/convention-blog-test-1 This is a test.

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For Scholarship Winner, AFSCME Has Always Been Part of the Family http://www.afscme.org/blog/for-scholarship-winner-afscme-has-always-been-part-of-the-family Tue, 07 Jun 2016 09:19:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/for-scholarship-winner-afscme-has-always-been-part-of-the-family For as long as Manuel Rojas-Romero can remember, AFSCME and higher education have always been central parts of his life. But now, these two elements have joined forces for him.

As the son of two Florida International University employees, Luis Rojas and Maria Belen Romero, he was always hearing about the amazing opportunities a college education presents. And his parent’s union, AFSCME Local 3346, was there to help his father when he had an accident at work and what made sure his parents could afford the medical treatments he needed as a kid.

“Both of my parents are huge advocates for AFSCME,” wrote Rojas-Romero in an essay as part of his AFSCME Family Scholarship application. “They continuously try to teach others that the union is there to fight for equal rights for everyone. To make sure that they all have the same opportunities and a safe working environment.”

Now Rojas-Romero has been accepted into Georgia Tech, where he plans to study computer science and engineering – and he will be paying for it with the help of a renewable $2,000 scholarship from AFSCME.

“Looking back, I can see how AFSCME has been there to support our family, protect my parents’ careers and how union members support each other,” said Rojas-Romero. Like many second-generation immigrants, he has found inspiration in his family’s American journey. 

Romero wrote in his essay that his maternal grandmother “had to escape persecution in her home country and fled for the safety of her family.” His father “was raised in the U.S. in a modest Puerto Rican family and became an unskilled laborer with a high school diploma. They both found jobs at a public university in the city we live in. My mother worked as a secretary for more than 14 years and my father is going on his 17th year as a plumber. They have been fortunate to have had AFSCME backing them up when needed.”

Learning about his family’s ties to labor has helped Rojas-Romero understand how important unions are for America overall, especially in our modern economy.

“Unions impact so many issues and aspects of life but underlying them all is the basic belief that the wellbeing of people matter just as much as the profits they produce, and that is something I hope to keep with me for the rest of my life.”

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Moving Through the Storm http://www.afscme.org/blog/moving-through-the-storm Mon, 06 Jun 2016 12:00:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/moving-through-the-storm Thriving communities are not accidental. Communities thrive because of you: the women and men who maintain roads, care for the sick and seniors, and keep our neighborhoods safe. So your work should come with a paycheck that can help you feed your family and save for a rainy day.

While it has never been easy to make sure the rights you’ve earned are protected, we faced an especially egregious and politically motivated attack brought to the Supreme Court two years ago. The wealthy special interests behind those attacks were not content to make representing you more difficult — they wanted to make representing you impossible.

The future did not seem to hold much promise for us. But we remembered this truth about ourselves: AFSCME always looks to the future with resolve.   
 
Whether it is members of Indiana/Kentucky Council 962 who rallied before the Jefferson County School Board in Kentucky to highlight low wages, short-staffing and increased classroom responsibilities, or Local 3299 in California helping nearly 100 subcontracted custodians and parking attendants at the University of California-Berkeley campus, we never shrink from a battle.

We Are AFSCME Strong

We also answered with a campaign to be strong — AFSCME Strong — to help us better address your needs. Through thousands of one-on-one conversations, we listened to what you discuss at the dinner table after the kids are excused, and what keeps you up after you’ve tucked them in at night.

The hard work is paying off. To date, we welcomed more than 276,400 new members into our union. And we are growing, even in right-to-work states. We are stronger now than even a year ago in states like Florida — for example, where more than 1,000 new members statewide signed up with Council 979 — and Georgia and Texas.   

A Spirit of Confidence, the Will to Grow

So while we still feel the torrential downpour, we are withstanding the winds and moving through the storm.

To be clear, we still have battles to win to protect the rights we earned. And I know about some of the challenges you face. I’ve crisscrossed the country, meeting with you at work sites to listen to your stories, and your worries. You’ve told me about facing layoffs. You’ve shared how you’ve taken on outsourcing like members of Local 1179, who fight those attempts in Narragansett, Rhode Island. And all while you raise and sustain your families.

It is a tall order, but we’ve faced and overcome adversity before. We can either mope — or mobilize.

And we made a clear choice.

AFSCME, let’s proceed with a spirit of confidence and a spine of steel, and seize this opportunity to put our adversaries on notice.

AFSCME will never quit fighting so that our families will thrive.

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Boston Police Officer and AFSCME Member Saves Shooting Victim http://www.afscme.org/blog/boston-police-officer-and-afscme-member-saves-shooting-victim Fri, 03 Jun 2016 16:10:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/boston-police-officer-and-afscme-member-saves-shooting-victim BOSTON – When AFSCME member Jonathan Cahill heard gunshots and watched a young man fall to the ground next to his car, he could have headed for safe cover. Instead, he jumped into action.

A police officer for the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) and a member of Local 787 (Council 93), Cahill was off-duty that day – May 18 – and had just left a nearby grocery store. He was sitting in traffic when gunfire broke out.

“We were sitting in the car, and then you could hear the gunshots echoing,” Cahill said. “People started running and yelling. I heard eight or nine gunshots over 10 seconds, and this kid was running and then he fell. He got shot as he was running away.”

Cahill has more experience than most people in situations like this. The decorated Marine served our country with distinction in Afghanistan as a member of the First Battalion, 25th Marine Infantry. During a tour that lasted more than six months, he was injured in combat and received a Purple Heart for his sacrifice. Eight months later, Cahill joined the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) police force.

But on this particular night, Cahill wasn’t backed by a battalion. He did, however, have a tourniquet in the car that he had received two weeks earlier from fellow Police Officer Frank Nogueira during a Boston Police Academy training session. Grabbing it, he ran to the 19-year-old victim lying on the sidewalk as a crowd gathered around, “just staring at him,” Cahill recalled.

Pulling off the man’s shoe and pant leg, Cahill found that the bullet had penetrated the victim’s femoral artery, putting him in danger of bleeding to death. But because of the pain, the man didn’t want Cahill to put the tourniquet on his swelling leg, caused by internal bleeding, as he later learned from emergency medical technicians (EMTs).

Knowing he had to act fast, Cahill asked the man’s friends to hold him down as he applied the tourniquet, explaining to them that “this will save his leg or save his life,” he said. “The crowd asked if I was a doctor. I told them I was a Marine.”

It worked. The bleeding stopped. Cahill kept the young man calm by talking to him, letting him know that Boston Police and an ambulance would soon be there. When EMTs and other officers arrived, he told them he had applied the tourniquet. The man was taken to a hospital for further care.

“Being overseas fighting for the country makes you realize that you're doing it for a reason,” Cahill said. “So that the things happening overseas don't happen here.”

But when it did, he was prepared. 

BPHC Sgt. Tony DeMarco, also a Local 787 Executive Board member, lauded his union brother for his bravery and quick action. “In today's world, you could flag 100 cars to get a jump, and no one would stop,” he said. “Officer Cahill got out of the car and went to help.

“That's what AFSCME does, we help people in a time of need,” DeMarco added. “You're there to protect people. He helped someone in their time of need. That kid could have bled out.”

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Obama: In the ‘Good Old Days,’ Unions Were Strong and Workers Better Off http://www.afscme.org/blog/obama-in-the-good-old-days-unions-were-strong-and-workers-better-off Thu, 02 Jun 2016 15:22:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/obama-in-the-good-old-days-unions-were-strong-and-workers-better-off With the decline of union membership during the last several decades, “inequality grew and wages stagnated,” President Obama said in a speech delivered June 1 in Elkhart, Indiana. That’s why, he said, “America should not be changing our laws to make it harder for workers to organize.”

Returning to Elkhart, the first city he visited as President, Obama pointed to the economic improvements the city – and the nation – have experienced during the past eight years of his Presidency, and the wage stagnation that continues to plague working families – a problem that can be addressed by supporting the ability of Americans to join in unions of working people. People who work for a living ought to make a good living, and they should be able to set standards, change the rules and create better workplaces.

When Obama visited Elkhart just three weeks after becoming President, he said, “We were just a few months into what turned out to be the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes. Our businesses were losing 800,000 jobs a month. Our auto industry was about to go under. Our families were losing their savings and their health insurance, and, as Kelly pointed out, they were in danger of losing their homes.  And Elkhart was hit harder than most.  Unemployment here would peak at 19.6 percent.”

Today, the city’s unemployment rate is close to 4 percent and, President Obama said, “at the peak of the crisis, nearly one in 10 homeowners in the state of Indiana were either behind on their mortgages or in foreclosure; today, it’s one in 30.”

Nationally, he added, “America’s economy is not just better than it was eight years ago – it is the strongest, most durable economy in the world.” 

Yet wages of working families have not grown enough. One of the key reasons for continued wage inequality “is because some politicians, some businesses, some laws have undermined the ability of workers to bargain for a better deal, and that needs to change.”

We’ve seen this happen at the national level and also in states. In the private sector, corporations – such as the owners of the Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas – continue to oppose workers’ efforts to improve their lives through a union.

President Obama hit the nail on the head when he pointed to opposition to unions as a reason for the income inequality we see today. “We always talk about folks talking about the good old days,” he observed. “Well, let me tell you something. In the good old days, 50 years ago, more than one in four American workers belonged to a union – one in four.”  

That’s why President Obama said we should not make it harder for workers to organize with a union. Rather, he insisted, “we should be changing our laws to make it easier and encourage new forms of worker organizations that can give them more of a voice and more of a say in the economy.”

We also should make sure we elect a President in November who will stand up for working people and support their right to organize. That’s why AFSCME has endorsed Sec. Hillary Clinton for President. She is committed to helping workers improve their lives, their working conditions and their communities through a union.

Read President Obama’s full speech here.

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CSEA Retiree Finds Second Calling in Local Politics http://www.afscme.org/blog/csea-retiree-finds-second-calling-in-local-politics Thu, 02 Jun 2016 11:59:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/csea-retiree-finds-second-calling-in-local-politics Being an active union member is a great way to transform your workplace. But you might also be transformed by the process. We are always working to develop leadership potential in our fellow AFSCME members and support them as they pursue their goals.

That’s true for Sarah Jones, a retired AFSCME member and president of a retiree local for CSEA members who have settled in Florida. She’s a biochemist who spent her career testing for lead and other environmental hazards in Onandaga County, New York (Local 834). But just because she’s retired doesn’t mean she’s done fighting for her community. She’s running for City Council in her home of Port Orange, Florida.

She got there with the help of her union sisters and brothers. “The Florida AFL-CIO and labor councils are very active, and they sponsor a program called the Farm Team. They try to get labor-friendly people into local offices,” she says. Jones was approached by the council and asked if she would be willing to run.

In a right-to-work state where workers’ rights are vulnerable, it’s critical to have a voice for labor in local offices. Jones says her most important tasks on the council would be improving city workers’ wages and protecting pensions so that Port Orange can attract and keep quality workers.

“I want to be a representative of working women and men in the City Council and the local government,” she says. “One of the things I’d like to do—and as I’ve canvassed I’ve found the citizens aren’t against it—is when the local community puts up contracts, they should go to local vendors. And they should go to contractors who have an apprentice program. Our schools don’t have much vocational training, so we need apprenticeships.”

But it takes more than a dream to make it as a political candidate. Jones says that her most important resources are the labor groups that have worked with her to build a viable campaign.

 “The first thing you do if you want to run is get yourself affiliated with a strong campaign program like the one we have with the Florida AFL-CIO. And then you learn from people who have run for office, win or lose, and find out what’s involved. If you’re going to run for anything, you’ve got to have knowledgeable people behind you.”

AFSCME is proud to support leadership training and political programs to ensure that public service workers are well represented at all levels of government. To learn more about Sarah Jones’ campaign, visit her website at sarahjones4portorange.org.

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Don’t Let Wall Street Grab Your Retirement Savings http://www.afscme.org/blog/dont-let-wall-street-grab-your-retirement-savings Wed, 01 Jun 2016 12:00:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/dont-let-wall-street-grab-your-retirement-savings What would you think of a financial adviser who suggested that the life savings of an 80-year-old Alzheimer’s patient be invested in such a way as to lock it up for at least 10 years – with no guarantee of advertised profits at the end of that period – and to receive a severe financial penalty for selling before the investment’s maturity date?

You’d think – find me another adviser!

Given the age and disability of the (actual) person whose investment money was at stake, such advice was not in that person’s best interest. She or he might need that money soon to pay for assisted living or nursing care, for instance. But under current law, it is not illegal for the adviser to suggest such an investment.

Unfortunately, financial advisers are not required to consider the “best interests” of their clients. That’s called “fiduciary duty,” which is legalese for putting the other person’s best interests first. In the case of the Alzheimer’s patient, it means doing the right thing, given the patient’s disability and age, among other factors. Instead, the financial adviser put his own interests first, as the investment he suggested would have garnered the adviser a hefty fee.

How do you protect yourself? Well, you could read all about the particular investment proposed, and if it’s not right, reject it and find another adviser. But that means you’re responsible, not the adviser.

President Obama had a better idea. In February 2015, he called for new rules to prevent retirement brokers (“investment advisers”) from putting their own financial interests ahead of their clients. As he explained at the time, “It's a very simple principle: You want to give financial advice, you’ve got to put your client’s interests first.  You can't have a conflict of interest.”

This is a real problem, a conflict of interest that costs American families an estimated $17 billion in retirement savings losses every year, according to the White House Council of Economic Advisers. 

To protect investors, the Department of Labor recently issued a new regulation that requires investment advisers to provide advice in the best interest of retirement savers

Great, right? Unfortunately, acting at the behest of Wall Street, Congress voted to block the regulation before it could begin to help retirees and those saving for retirement. To protect their legislation from a veto by the President, Republican leaders are trying to use a legislative tactic – inserting language opposing the rule into another, unrelated bill – so it would make it all the way to the President’s desk. They are betting that the President would not want to veto the entire bill to protect his regulation.

AFSCME, the AFL-CIO and allies such as the AARP are working to make sure the new regulation will go into effect. Every investor – whether saving for retirement or not – expects their best interest to be the guiding principle when investment advisers provide advice. 

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