Blog and Press Release Feed Blog and Press Release Feed Tue, 3 May 2011 05:00:00 +0000 AMPS en hourly 1 Cab Drivers Host Health Care, Medicaid Fairs Thu, 11 Feb 2016 15:43:00 -0500 CHICAGO - With Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace deadlines approaching, Cab Drivers United/AFSCME Local 2500 partnered with Working America in January to host two health care fairs to help drivers sign up for health insurance on the ACA marketplace, or apply for Medicaid if they qualify.

More than 100 drivers came out to the O’Hare DePaul campus, with the vast majority applying for Medicaid.

“We’re seeing a 50 percent drop in business due to unregulated services like Uber, on top of all the expenses we have just to operate,” said Nnamdi Uwazie, a veteran Chicago cab driver and Cab Drivers United/AFSCME Local 2500 member. “Most of us here today qualify for Medicaid.”

“It’s important for cab drivers to understand that they need to factor in their operating expenses when determining health insurance options,” Uwazie said.  “Many of us are paying for insurance on the marketplace, when we could be getting free insurance through Medicaid due to our incomes dropping so much.” 

In the coming weeks and months, Cab Drivers United/AFSCME Local 2500 will hold additional Medicaid signup fairs. Dates and locations will be posted on

DC 37 Takes Fight for City University Funding to Albany Thu, 11 Feb 2016 14:26:00 -0500 NEW YORK – AFSCME DC 37 took its campaign for adequate funding for the City University of New York (CUNY) to the state Capitol in Albany, calling on the Legislature to step up to the plate for higher education.

“If you believe that higher education is a priority then you are going to have to fund it in the proper way,” DC 37 Exec. Dir. Henry Garrido declared at a Feb. 8 news conference. “We believe that is a priority for not only who we represent, but also for the people in our communities who otherwise have no other opportunities to advance themselves.”

Garrido later testified at a legislative hearing about the CUNY funding issue. 

In his proposed budget, Gov. Andrew Cuomo shifts nearly $500 million in CUNY funding from the state to the city. DC 37 wants those funds restored – in part because the cost-shifting would impose a new financial burden on the city. New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio vowed to fight the proposed cuts at CUNY “by any means necessary.” 

The union and other CUNY supporters also want to stop the annual tuition hikes of $300, which students have faced for the last five years. The Cuomo budget calls for these increases to continue for an additional five years.

Speakers at the news conference also called upon legislators to approve a “maintenance-of-effort” bill that would guarantee funding for mandatory annual cost increases of the state and city university systems, and cover collective bargaining costs. CUNY employees represented by DC 37 have been working without a contract since 2010, and they have not received a raise since 2009.

Governor Cuomo in December vetoed an earlier maintenance-of-effort bill that the Assembly and the Senate had passed unanimously.

Andy Pallotta, executive vice president of the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), said the money is there for contract settlements. “For year after year we were told, ‘we are broke, we have no money, you have to understand.’ This time around there is a $5 billion surplus. This money – during this budget session – must be used to take care of this.”

“This is a cause,” said Dr. Barbara Bowen, head of the Professional Staff Congress, which represents CUNY faculty and other professional workers. “What it really means is not killing CUNY and SUNY (the State University of New York) by the death of a thousand cuts. That is what the maintenance of effort is about.”

Learn more about how you can support CUNY workers and their fight for a fair contract at

Love with a Union Label on Valentine’s Day Thu, 11 Feb 2016 10:13:00 -0500 Why not give your valentine some union-made sweets this Feb. 14, toast your love with champagne that carries a union label or touch up your pheromones a bit with some smell-good union-made scents.

It turns out there are many union-made treats you can give out on Valentine's Day. The iconic Necco candy Sweethearts conversation hearts are made by members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM). Several familiar sparkling libations such as J. Roget and Tott’s are produced by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW). Here are some more products compiled by our friends at Labor 411, the union business directory from the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, made by union members.


  • Ghirardelli Chocolate
  • Hershey’s Hugs and Kisses
  • Russell Stover
  • See’s Candies


  • Andre
  • Cook’s
  • Eden Roc
  • J. Roget
  • Jacques Bonet
  • Jacques Reynard
  • JFJ
  • Le Domaine
  • Tott’s
  • Wycliff

Smell Good

  • Avon
  • Hugo Boss
  • Old Spice
  • Pierre Cardin
OCSEA Presses Case of Understaffed Prisons Wed, 10 Feb 2016 13:00:00 -0500 Correctional officer Mollie Jansen and some of her colleagues at Ohio’s Mansfield Correctional Institution are helping to put a human face on the critical issue of understaffing that is threatening the health and safety of officers and inmates at the state facility.

Jansen, who has worked for almost  three years at the mixed-security prison for men, is a member of Ohio Civil Service Employees Association /AFSCME Local 11, which has been calling on state authorities to fill vacant positions at Mansfield and other correctional institutions in the state to relieve the understaffing. The issue has grown even more critical since last October, when an inmate in Mansfield took a female correction officer (not Jansen) hostage for nearly 11 hours.

This past weekend, the Mansfield News Journal and other Gannett newspapers focused on the issue, airing OCSEA’s concern that “programing and staffing issues” are root causes for the hostage-taking. OCSEA’s efforts to inform the public and elected officials about the issue have made it a subject of news media attention like never before.

The News Journal interviewed CO Jansen about her anxiety working at Mansfield, pointing out “she’s already undergone counseling for post-traumatic stress disorder” that began about six months ago “when an inmate grabbed her as she tried to escort him to his cell and he couldn’t be subdued with pepper spray. Now, she said, she’s had enough. “I won’t stay a correction officer,” the paper quoted her saying. “I can’t. It’s too dangerous.”

The News Journal story noted that of all the state correctional facilities, Mansfield has had the highest number of staff assaults between 2011 and 2013, with 55 injured. The facility, which opened in 1990, housed 2,589 inmates as of Jan. 4, 2016. It has a security staff of 436, according to the prison’s website.

“Statewide, there are 6,547 correction officers, about eight inmates for each correction officer compared to seven to one in November 2008 when the prison population was at its peak,” the paper said.

CO Shawn Gruber, an OCSEA board member, suggested three ways to reduce assaults against staff: lower the prison population, increase correctional staff and listen to staff on the frontlines.

OCSEA also says that state prison officials need to end the practice of allowing officers to work alone with inmates.

The Future for Black Workers Wed, 10 Feb 2016 10:29:00 -0500 The AFL-CIO on Feb. 4 launched the first in a series of nationwide symposiums to address the growing economic inequality among U.S. workers – particularly African Americans. Working in partnership with the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU), the AFL-CIO intends to identify the many ways systemic racism affects black workers, and provide real policy solutions to address the growing disparity.

The typical black household now has just 6 percent of the wealth of the typical white household, according to a Demos report, “The Racial Wealth Gap.” “We need to fix the rules of our economy to treat everyone the same,” said AFL-CIO Exec. Vice. Pres. Tefere Gebre in his welcome address. People of color need the biggest ladder to move up to the middle class, and that way is through public-sector employment, he added.

The steady loss of public-sector jobs after the Great Recession disproportionately affected African Americans. And with the looming threat of an adverse decision in the Supreme Court case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, the black middle class might become obsolete.    

“We realize that black workers are the canary in the mines. Everything that happens to labor will happen to us harder,” cautioned the Rev. Terry Melvin, president of CBTU and co-author of “A Future for Workers: A Contribution from Black Labor.”

“Black workers comprise the segment of the working class that normally is subject to the forward thrusts of employer offensives. It is the segment of the working class that suffers the most from unemployment and underemployment,” the report concludes.

Now more than ever, African-American workers need good jobs with strong benefits and wages. And just as urgently, labor needs to organize black workers to grow the labor movement.

William Lucy on How We Win: Union Mon, 08 Feb 2016 17:56:00 -0500 Former AFSCME Sec.-Treas. William Lucy returned to the union’s headquarters Feb. 8 to celebrate Black History Month, declaring that low-wage jobs are the new slavery and that unions – particularly AFSCME – are powerful instruments that can bring people together and elevate dignity and respect for all working people.

“AFSCME started as just an idea, because we were not granted the same rights that unions in the public sector got under Franklin Roosevelt,” he said.  “We’ve had to fight for everything we’ve gotten, turning our good idea into a great organization. We’ve empowered African Americans, and all public service workers.”

Lucy was introduced by AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders, who noted not only his nearly five decades of leadership with AFSCME, but also Lucy’s work as the president of Public Service International, which represents millions of public service workers around the globe, and how he co-founded both the Free South Africa Movement and the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU).

“Bill was also in Memphis in 1968, working with the 1,300 sanitation workers, standing shoulder to shoulder with them as they fought for representation with AFSCME,” President Saunders said. “This union is in his heart, and his soul, and his blood.”

Lucy traced historical milestones that benefited African Americans and AFSCME, such as President Kennedy’s executive order that opened union representation for federal public employees, and which AFSCME used in lobbying state governments to expand union rights for public service workers. While many African Americans were leery of President Johnson, he said, the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act that came out of his administration are landmarks.

The formation of the CBTU came about because African-American trade unionists were disappointed that the AFL-CIO decided to remain “neutral” in the Presidential race between Richard Nixon and George McGovern, Lucy said. “We thought there was a big difference between the two, so we called a meeting in Chicago. We were not the only ones concerned, because 1,300 other black trade unionists showed up for that meeting.”

Lucy compared President Obama to FDR, noting that the two had pulled our nation out of great depressions and recessions. “And now the same crowd that caused our problems are asking for another chance.”

He said the coalition of labor, African Americans, women and Hispanics is key for progressives to win elections. “Our opponents want to divide and conquer, but if we stay united, we will win.”

Judge Rules Local ‘Right to Work’ Illegal Fri, 05 Feb 2016 16:49:00 -0500 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.

California Home Care Providers Win Overtime Pay Fri, 05 Feb 2016 14:50:00 -0500 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.

Iowa Among States Leading Way for Equal Pay Wed, 03 Feb 2016 09:00:00 -0500 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.

“We Have to Keep on Building This Union … We Can Never Give Up” Tue, 02 Feb 2016 12:49:00 -0500 Carolyn Park enjoys having AFSCME Strong conversations with her co-workers.

“It makes you feel good,” she says. “It helps others understand that there’s more power in numbers…. One member thought union dues were used for political purposes. I assured her they were not, and then invited her and others to join the PEOPLE program. Talking to people, it gives them clarity and erases misconceptions.”

Park works with special needs students – 7th thru 11th graders – in Cincinnati Public Schools. She’s been an AFSCME member for 15 years and always active in her union.

“The union is the only tool that working people have to fight for a better life,” she says. “The union helps workers secure a contract, and that contract gives certain guarantees. I know what my benefits are going to be, I know what my wages are going to be, and I like that. That, to me, is a comfort.”

Working with special needs children, Park says her voice on the job has made it possible for her to advocate for the education and care her students need. As a member of the executive board of Local 232 (Ohio Council 8), she’s a firm believer in the power of face-to-face conversations with fellow co-workers to strengthen their union and amplify their voice on the job.

In January, Park participated in an AFSCME Strong training that she says properly conveyed the sense of urgency we need to feel at a time when public workers are constantly under the attack.

“This attack with the Friedrichs case, it’s just so blatantly wrong,” she says. “It’s more important now than ever to shore things up, to sign people up. And to talk union. People need to ‘talk union’ to their co-workers, their friends and their families. Everyone needs to understand the severity of the current attacks against unions and what is at stake! Unions set a bar in this country, a level for higher wages and better benefits. So, unless we want to spiral downward and race to the bottom, we need to keep our union strong! We need for people to understand that even if they’re not in a union, unions help keep wages and benefits up for non-organized workers as well.”

During a four-day blitz following the AFSCME Strong training, Park and her fellow AFSCME executive board members and trustees engaged more than 1,000 of their co-workers. More than 250 former fair share fee payers are now full-fledged members.

“It was a team effort,” she says.

Part of what helped them get such good results, Park says, was incorporating a specific local issue – in this case, a wage reopener – into their AFSCME Strong conversations.

“People are always ready for a raise,” she says. “That was kind of a lead-in, and if you want us to be able to do better or to do as good as we possibly can at the negotiating table, then it would make sense to sign a membership card or recommit, because it would be good if management knows we have strength in numbers.”

Park added, “We have to keep on building this union, building and strengthening this union. We can never give up.”

Indiana-Kentucky Council 962 is Born Tue, 02 Feb 2016 12:00:00 -0500 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!”


AFSCME Volunteers Rally with Bill Clinton in Iowa Mon, 01 Feb 2016 17:12:00 -0500 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.

In Florida, Stepping Up the Drive for Respect Mon, 01 Feb 2016 15:45:00 -0500 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.

Why Hillary Clinton Matters to Iowans Mon, 01 Feb 2016 11:52:00 -0500 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,, 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.

Ledbetter Law Important First Step to Fair Pay Fri, 29 Jan 2016 12:00:00 -0500 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.

AFSCME Members Wrestle with ‘Snowzilla’ Fri, 29 Jan 2016 09:00:00 -0500 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.

VIDEO: Hillary Stands with Workers Thu, 28 Jan 2016 16:16:00 -0500

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.

AFSCME Strong Training in New Jersey: Small in Size, Big on Energy Thu, 28 Jan 2016 14:03:00 -0500 Workers from five New Jersey Council 52 locals welcomed the New Year by getting strong-er, participating in an AFSCME Strong training on Jan. 9 in Passaic County. Half of them also signed up as PEOPLE MVPs.

Though small in size – 14 participants – the training was big on energy. And since then, participants have had hundreds of conversations with their co-workers, getting 200 of them to recommit to their union.

Lakishia Hamm, a dietary worker at Preakness Healthcare Center and the acting president of Local 2273, said the training made participants “aware of the challenges ahead, of what the union stands for and what we’re capable of doing together.”

“It was an excellent training,” she said.

Bob DeVirgilio, director of fire and safety for Passaic County and president of Local 2522, said it was important for his union to go in the direction of AFSCME Strong.

“In my local every single member has joined AFSCME Strong,” he said. “In New Jersey, under Governor Christie, he’s out to destroy us, that’s his goal. So it’s important we work together and stay together. AFSCME Strong is about staying together and working together.”

Maryland Members in Tough Budget Fight Thu, 28 Jan 2016 08:50:00 -0500 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.

Oregon AFSCME Alerts Members to Friedrichs Threat Wed, 27 Jan 2016 16:46:00 -0500 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.

Change the Rules, Be the Power: Dr. King Honored with Recommitment to His Ideals Wed, 20 Jan 2016 16:33:00 -0500 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.

Middle Class Fall Tied Directly to Union Decline Wed, 20 Jan 2016 15:08:00 -0500 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.”

Council 5’s MoM is About Sustainable Membership Wed, 20 Jan 2016 14:35:00 -0500 Everybody knows how many hours are in a day, but not necessarily in a week or a month. AFSCME Council 5, on the other hand, knows how many hours there are between now and the end of June.

That’s because the approach of our Minnesota sisters and brothers to strengthening their union has been systematic and precise. Beginning this year, Council 5 began implementing its Maintenance of Membership (MoM) program, a tool through which public workers are re-committing to their union for an entire year, no matter what changes loom on the horizon. It’s like signing a new membership card, but instead of being able to withdraw at any time, the MoM program allows workers to sign a membership contract with their union for the entire year. This benefits them by making their union stronger, by creating a more sustainable membership.

Council 5 represents more than 38,000 workers throughout Minnesota, of which 73 percent are full members (the rest are fee payers). The council’s goal is to move towards 94 percent membership by the end of June, and for every member to be part of the MoM program. Logistically, this means having 36,000 conversations with fellow co-workers (members and agency fee payers). And that’s where the math comes in: If you know how many hours there are between now and the end of June, and you divide that number by the number of staff and Volunteer Member Organizers (VMOs) trained to have these conversations, then it turns out that this highly ambitious goal is perfectly attainable if every staff person and VMO can complete an average of eight conversations a day.

The council also learned, through focus groups, the importance of building relationships with workers before asking them to get active in their union. One fee payer said: “AFSCME feels like a club I don’t belong to…. They tell me to wear green on Wednesdays. Why? They say we’re strong together, but they don’t know my name. They’ve never taken the time to know me – or care about me as a person.”

AFSCME’s “Never Quit” campaign is a big part of the MoM program. Its message is that just as public workers never stop serving their communities, their union will never quit.

Christina St. Germaine, a VMO for the MoM campaign who is also vice president of AFSCME Local 1092 in Moose Lake, Minn., says given the potentially disastrous consequences of Friedrichs, the work of the MoM program is “hugely important.”

“It’s important that we’re talking to our co-workers and letting them know what’s at stake,” she says. “We don’t want what happened in Wisconsin to happen here in Minnesota. Our goal is 94 percent membership and I’m pretty confident we can achieve that.”

On Jan. 11, the day oral arguments were heard in Friedrichs, St. Germaine began preparing for the MoM program. It was a four-day training that allowed her to practice having productive conversations with other public workers in the state who are AFSCME members or agency fee payers.

“It was really fun to be able to go out and talk to people,” she says. “It’s interesting to hear some of their stories, to listen to what they have to say, and to let them know about what might be ahead for us, what the extremists will try to do and are already doing, but also what we can do about it and fight back.”

Eric Halvorson, a VMO for the MoM campaign and member of AFSCME Local 789, has been active with his union since he started working for the state’s Department of Transportation in 1988. The MoM campaign has given him a chance to talk to state employees outside of his department.

“I’m getting to know a lot of the folks in other areas of the state, and I’m learning about their struggles and the issues they deal with,” he says. “It’s been a unique experience for me, an eye-opening experience.”

Although workplace issues vary from department to department, Halvorson says, the common denominator among AFSCME members is “the resolve for our union and for the AFSCME Strong program. I think we all seem to be on the same page.”

Choosing to Grow in Florida’s ‘City of Choice’ Wed, 20 Jan 2016 11:35:00 -0500 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.

AFL-CIO Sees Positive Movement on Wages Tue, 19 Jan 2016 15:54:00 -0500 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.

AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders Statement on the Senate Fast Track Vote Tue, 23 Jun 2015 16:59:53 -0500 AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders issued the following statement regarding the Senate’s vote to advance fast track legislation:

“It is unfortunate that the Senate sided with corporate interests over the American people by advancing legislation that will allow dangerous trade deals to be negotiated in secret. The past is prologue when it comes to American trade policy and fast track will only continue the terrible legacy of putting corporate profits ahead of American jobs, the environment, and our health care. We will now turn our focus to the deeply flawed Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) and similar deals, which will open up vital public services to outsourcing. While this is a blow to working Americans, we will not give up the fight for transparency, fairness, and accountability in our country’s trade policies.”