AFSCME.org Blog and Press Release Feed http://www.afscme.org/rss/blog AFSCME.org Blog and Press Release Feed Tue, 3 May 2011 05:00:00 +0000 AMPS en hourly 1 On the (AFSCME Strong) Road Again http://www.afscme.org/blog/on-the-afscme-strong-road-again Mon, 23 May 2016 15:00:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/on-the-afscme-strong-road-again Minnesota state patrol vehicle inspector Jim Ullmer Jr. had been building strength in his union through member-to-member engagement long before the idea became the foundation for our AFSCME Strong program, which launched early last year to build a stronger union nationwide through one-on-one conversations with fellow workers.

“Our mission throughout the year is to visit every single member at their workplace to make sure they know we’re there,” says Ullmer, a member of the executive board of Department of Public Safety Local 3142 (AFSCME Council 5). In fact, he and Catherine Claude, the local’s treasurer, travel throughout the state each year to meet face-to-face with the nearly 700 members of the unit, who work in every county in the state.

“We’ve done that every year for probably the last 10 to 15 years,” Ullmer says. He’s been working for the Minnesota Department of Public Safety for 32 years, and has always been an active member of his union.

Recently, he and Claude traveled 1,009 miles – from Worthington to Thief River Falls – to talk with workers about issues that matter to them in their workplaces. Ullmer acknowledged that it’s hard on them and their families to be on the road so often. “You adjust, you adapt, but we get it done,” he says. “Sometimes, I don’t know how, but we do.”

They also personally deliver the union’s contract, discuss any grievances and make sure to talk about the importance of staying with the union, or joining if they haven’t already. 

“When we go into a workplace, everybody knows your name, because we’ve been there so many times,” he says. “There’s no surprise when we walk in.” 

They’re even welcomed by the supervisors and managers, he adds. “For the most part, we have really good relationships with everybody.”

Ullmer makes that trek with Claude a few days at a time, then return to their regular jobs (he inspects school buses in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul metropolitan area; she’s a driver-examiner in St. Cloud).

Last fall, Council 5 launched its AFSCME Strong training program and Ullmer was among the first to learn. He discovered that AFSCME Strong was “more focused than what we did” during his previous one-on-one meetings with fellow workers.

“I probably collected close to 300 recommitment cards and got 35 to 40 fee payers to convert to membership during the latest campaign we’ve been on,” Ullmer says.

Overall, members of Local 3142 who participated in the AFSCME Strong blitz had one-on-one conversations with about 500 workers who recommitted to our union by signing “maintenance of membership” (recommitment) cards during the AFSCME Strong training blitz.

Even though the blitz is done, Ullmer and Claude are still at it. “We still have a couple of spots we’ve got to go,” he says. “We’re going to see everybody. I do it, quite honestly, because it’s important and because my local supports me – our officers, Executive Board, stewards. It’s a local mindset we have. We don’t have all the answers but we sure try. We’ll never quit, we’ll never surrender. We’ll keep going, no matter what it takes. We’re going to do it!”

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May Is a Month to Keep Labor History Alive http://www.afscme.org/blog/may-is-a-month-to-keep-labor-history-alive Mon, 23 May 2016 11:09:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/may-is-a-month-to-keep-labor-history-alive May 1 is International Workers’ Day. But did you know that the entire month of May is often celebrated as Labor History Month?

It was working people who made America what it is today. America became an industrial power thanks to the workers who laid down railroads, toiled away in mines and assembled machinery—and a modern nation thanks to those who taught schoolchildren, cared for the sick and provided sanitation. We enjoy quality of life and peace of mind because of the efforts of brave women and men who stood up for safe working conditions, shorter workdays and an end to child labor.

But we don’t always hear these stories in history class. Too often, the names of rich and powerful people dominate our memory of the past while the contributions of ordinary people are overlooked or forgotten entirely. That’s why states like California have established Labor History Month as a time to learn more about our roots.

The history month is meant as a time for schools to teach about the history of labor. But if your area doesn’t recognize the month, there are plenty of resources to help you learn more on your own.

The AFL-CIO has a timeline of labor history that can help you get started. This page has detailed biographies, oral histories and classroom resources for more in-depth reading. Some cities even have labor history trails, like this one in Chicago, so that you can walk in the footsteps of famous strikers and activists.

The year 2016 marks a number of important anniversaries. It’s now been 130 years since the Haymarket Incident, a turning point in the fight for the eight-hour workday. Ninety years ago this month, the Railway Labor Act created the first federal protection for the right to organize as a union. Seventy-five years ago, A. Philip Randolph of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters first called for a march on Washington to end racial discrimination in the workplace. And 50 years ago, agricultural workers’ unions joined forces to create the United Farm Workers.

The working conditions that we enjoy today didn’t simply materialize out of thin air. Our predecessors had to fight for them. Let’s take time this month to talk to our children about why we’re union and why that legacy is worth defending. If we want to keep the labor movement alive, we have to make sure that future generations understand how we got here.

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Nursing Assistant Works to Improve Health Care in New Hampshire http://www.afscme.org/blog/nursing-assistant-works-to-improve-health-care-in-new-hampshire Fri, 20 May 2016 15:44:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/nursing-assistant-works-to-improve-health-care-in-new-hampshire WESTMORELAND, N.H. – Brenda Howard has served patients at Maplewood Nursing Home for 32 years. As a medication nursing assistant and licensed nursing assistant (MNA/LNA), she assists registered nurses in daily nursing care for people of all ages. The main reason she’s done this difficult work for so long, she said, is to care for people. It isn’t just a job, it’s a calling.

“It’s not only the residents,” Howard, an executive board member of AFSCME Local 2679 (Council 93), said. “I’ve met a lot of great families that still keep in touch with me after they’ve lost their loved one. Yes, I care for grandma, but the outside family members are just as important.”

Howard noted that her facility serves an essential role in the community, which the people in the area understand and respect. Many family members volunteer at the home, and the staff provides counseling, support groups and other services that help during the difficult time of losing a loved one. The building is also in a beautiful location, she added, which allows residents and families – who face difficult circumstances – to draw comfort.

“It’s a county home so we take anybody,” Howard said. “There are other homes that can pick and choose. We don’t discriminate. We help in bad situations, like when people have no place else to go.”

In recognition of Howard’s experience in direct nursing care, New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan appointed Howard to a new commission that will address the state’s health care workforce shortage. The path to Howard’s selection started with a phone call between Harriett Spencer, Council 93’s New Hampshire coordinator, and Amy Kennedy, the governor’s policy director, to discuss representation of health care workers in the state.

Howard will be the sole union representative on this special commission, which plans to tackle the statewide shortage of health care workers. Howard’s six years of service on the New Hampshire Board of Nursing provide her with a clear understanding of how the shortage affects health care facilities throughout the state. It’s a crisis that has even caused a delay in the opening of a mental health facility.

And Howard’s experience gives her more than a few ideas of how to change the health care workforce for the better. While a lot of focus is on recruiting new workers into health care, Howard says that retention of health care workers is a major issue as well.

“Keeping the ones you have is just as important as hiring new workers,” Howard said. “We lose a lot of them. We need to nurture them, make them feel more wanted and treat them better to make sure they want to stay.”

Their work is hard and largely unsung, but it matters because they help make their communities better.

She helped develop the idea of the medication nursing assistant (MNA), who assists nurses by providing non-injection medications, as a member of the Board of Nursing. This frees nurses to focus on more intensive treatments and perform more medical assessments.

“Over the years, nurses have come to respect MNAs and see that they are a benefit,” she said.

Howard’s experience and knowledge clearly will help improve New Hampshire’s health care workforce, but the job goes beyond that for her.

“The quality of time that you can give a person at the end of life is the most special,” Howard said. “I’ve taken care of all age groups. Sometimes it’s more difficult, but sometimes it’s good that you had the opportunity.”

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Overtime Rule Will Give Millions an Overdue Raise http://www.afscme.org/blog/overtime-rule-will-give-millions-an-overdue-raise Fri, 20 May 2016 11:50:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/overtime-rule-will-give-millions-an-overdue-raise Thanks to a new rule issued this week by the Obama administration, roughly 12.5 million working Americans are very close to receiving a long overdue and much deserved raise. The administration’s overtime rule, which becomes effective December 1, more than doubles the existing overtime salary threshold from $23,660 to $47,476. That means white collar, salaried employees who earn less than $47,476 annually will now be eligible for overtime pay if they work more than 40 hours in a week. The salary threshold will be adjusted every three years. The rule represents one of the most sweeping steps taken by the administration to address income inequality in an economy that is out of balance and favors a wealthy few.

“The administration’s overtime rule will help to reverse this imbalance by helping to ensure that working people get paid for the work they already do,” said AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders in a statement. Raising the overtime threshold, Saunders said, “will not only help to restore the 40-hour work week, but also improve incomes and grow the middle class.” As President Obama explains in a message on whitehouse.gov, the rule is expected to put $12 billion more in the pockets of hardworking people during the next 10 years.

For decades, middle-class Americans have seen their wages decrease while a handful of already wealthy and powerful people get even richer. While this troubling trend persists, working people in this country are actually working longer hours and are even more productive than ever. Still, no matter how hard they work, no matter how efficient they are or how many hours they put in on the job, everyday Americans are finding it harder and harder to sustain themselves and their families, let alone get ahead.

“As someone who has worked 20 years in public service on the front line in my community, I believe my colleagues and I deserve respect, dignity and fair treatment and wages,” said Leslie Tilton, an Ohio Department of Corrections Employee and OCSEA member who attended an event to promote the rule, in Ohio with Vice Pres. Joe Biden, Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, and Sen. Sherrod Brown. “That’s why as a union we fight to achieve that goal every day, not just for ourselves, but for our communities and other hard-working people across the country.”

Tilton has seen friends and family, including parents with young children, struggle under the burden of working long hours without being compensated fairly. “That kind of situation puts a tremendous and unfair burden on a working family. I think the rule speaks very highly of the administration’s commitment to help reinforce the continuing contributions of the labor movement to all working people in this country.”

Immediately after the overtime rule was released, right-wing members of Congress announced preparations to block the rule. AFSCME will vigorously oppose any attempts to overturn this economic boost for working families.

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AFSCME Members Help Twin Cities Renters Find Better, Safer Homes http://www.afscme.org/blog/afscme-members-help-twin-cities-renters-find-better-safer-homes Thu, 19 May 2016 14:33:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/afscme-members-help-twin-cities-renters-find-better-safer-homes It happens too often. In the suburbs of Minnesota’s Twin Cities, fully half of all low-income families who are granted federal Section 8 rent subsidy vouchers can’t find a decent place to live in a community with good schools for their children.

But thanks to the Metropolitan Council and members of AFSCME Local 668 (Council 5), who operate the largest housing and development authority in Minnesota, some 45 families are getting counseling to help them find a place to live in a safe neighborhood with good schools and better opportunities for their kids to succeed.

“Housing does matter. Place matters,” said Local 668 member Terry Hardin, a Met Council senior outreach coordinator. “You are helping families do better. You are helping children do better.”

The Met Council’s Community Choice program is part of a national movement affirming what research and data analysis show: A better neighborhood often means better long-term outcomes for children. President Obama proposed $15 million for mobility counseling to help low-income families move to safer neighborhoods with better schools and access to jobs.

Met Council staffers spent months crunching data on neighborhoods – looking at school performance, poverty rates, access to parks and even grocery stores. Then they recruited families who must commit to two years, set career and housing goals and agree to take courses on topics such as financial literacy, conflict resolution and housekeeping.

Families then create a rental résumé, including credit and job history. “It's like a job résumé. We tell them to treat this as if it's a professional application,” Hardin said.

For landlords, Section 8 tenants mean a guaranteed payment each month and Community Choice families receive more oversight than typical families on Section 8, which provides more peace of mind for potential landlords.

Hardin, along with fellow Local 668 member Corina Serrano, also a Met Council senior outreach coordinator, often go with clients to look at apartments and explain the Section 8 program to landlords.

“The challenges we are seeing is the landlords just don't have enough information,” she said.

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9,300 Phone Calls + 1,400 House Visits Proves CSEA Is AFSCME Strong http://www.afscme.org/blog/9300-phone-calls-1400-house-visits-proves-csea-is-afscme-strong Thu, 19 May 2016 14:10:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/9300-phone-calls-1400-house-visits-proves-csea-is-afscme-strong For the past several months, New York’s CSEA Local 1000 has conducted its own version of AFSCME Strong, our program to build a stronger union through one-on-one conversations with co-workers, called “Never Quit.”  It’s already achieved amazing results, and last week’s blitz in the Albany region is the latest proof of that success.

During the blitz, CSEA members made 9,300 phone calls to co-workers, distributed 6,500 flyers, conducted 1,400 visits to members’ homes and worksites, and signed more than 1,800 Never Quit campaign cards, demonstrating their commitment to their union.

“The Albany blitz was a team effort,” said Danny Donohue, CSEA president and also AFSCME International vice president. “Members and leaders came in from all over the state to carry out one of our most successful blitzes. It was truly empowering to see and feel the energy and engagement.

“Reengaging our members through the ‘Never Quit’ program is lighting a fire that will spread from the work trucks to the negotiating table, from the nursing home to the halls of the state capital and will continue to grow our union,” added Donohue.

CSEA, the largest public employee union in New York state with more than 265,000 members, plans to build on its recent successes with blitzes coming to Suffolk and Erie counties.

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EMS Workers Save Lives and Communities http://www.afscme.org/blog/ems-workers-save-lives-and-communities Wed, 18 May 2016 15:42:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/ems-workers-save-lives-and-communities Robert Mills was visiting relatives in southern New Mexico when he heard the sound of a crash. About 150 yards away, a neighbor riding an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) had driven into the side of a passing vehicle and was lying unconscious on the road, apparently unable to breathe.

“His face was kind of smashed in, and he looked like he was fighting to get air in,” Mills recalls. “It looked like his lungs were trying to catch breath but couldn’t.”

The car’s two passengers had stepped outside but didn’t know what to do, were standing there frozen. The victim’s wife and daughter had come running down the road and were hysterical. They were crying and screaming. Another person with a cell phone had called 911.

Mills didn’t have any medical training, but he’d heard that when a person is unconscious sometimes the tongue can block the airway. So he opened the man’s mouth and stuck his fingers in there.

“He was able to get some air in and started to come awake,” Mills says. “But he was pretty dazed. I lay him on his side so the fluids could drain out of his mouth, and he started saying, ‘Oh, God, help me! Oh, God, help me!’ I was trying to keep him from getting up. I said. ‘You need to stay down, you’ve been in an accident. But I believe God is helping you right now. We’ve got an ambulance on the way.’”

The victim survived, and no doubt God was on his side that day. But so were Mills and the paramedics who arrived shortly after. Mills says he felt so good about what he’d been able to do – save a person’s life – that when he came back to Independence, Missouri, he decided to change careers and become an EMT.

Since then, Mills has saved lots of lives, not just in his home city of Independence but as far away as Iraq, where he served as a medic in a unit of combat engineers whose mission was to find roadside bombs and neutralize them. Mills and his team worked around the clock, seven days a week, and for every 10 explosives they found, they were able to disarm seven of them before they went off.

“We were literally saving people, soldiers and civilians, from getting blown up,” Mills says. “It doesn’t get much better than that.”

Today, Mills works for American Medical Response (AMR) in Independence and is a member of AFSCME Local 1812. He is an active member of his union, he says, because it’s through their union that he and his co-workers can have a voice and make improvements to their profession, potentially saving even more lives.

“You absolutely need to have a collective voice,” he says. “We’ve learned this. We’ve tried to speak out without a union, on our own, individually. We’ve tried to make improvements, talk to the company, advocate for changes. But it doesn’t work unless you’re speaking collectively with one voice.”

Although AMR has a high turnover rate, Mills says he will stay in his job for the foreseeable future because he wants his city to have excellent ambulance service. Residents deserve it, he says, and he’s eager to make some progress.

“This is the best shot we’ve had, since we formed a union,” Mills says. “And we’re going to get there.”

On EMS Week, which was established in 1974 to celebrate EMS practitioners and the important work they do, let’s remember and give thanks to Mills and the many EMS professionals who save lives and make their communities better.

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Moving Through the Storm http://www.afscme.org/blog/moving-through-the-storm Wed, 18 May 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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Q&A With Johanna Puno Hester http://www.afscme.org/blog/qa-with-johanna-puno-hester Tue, 17 May 2016 10:23:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/qa-with-johanna-puno-hester May is a time to celebrate the contributions and influence of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to our country’s economy, diverse culture and richness. During Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (APAHM), we pay tribute to the fastest-growing minority group in the nation, as well as the accomplishments of its many individuals, including labor leaders.

Labor leaders like  Ah Quon McElrath, Philip Vera Cruz and Larry Itliong inspired many of their contemporaries and followers, and they carved out the road ahead for the rest of us.

One of AFSCME’s very own, Johanna Puno Hester, is a champion for the homecare cause in California and leader of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), where she serves as national president. She began her career with AFSCME in 1999 as lead organizer for the Organizing and Field Services Department, organizing 2,000 recreation and park assistants in Los Angeles. She also worked in several other organizing campaigns, including at the University of Maryland and New Mexico University. Today she serves as special assistant to the executive director of United Domestic Workers (UDW), The Homecare Providers Union/AFSCME Local 3930. She is also an AFSCME International vice president.

How did you first become interested in the labor movement?

I was exposed to it through my father, who was a hotel worker and active in his union. He was a shop steward. I was born in the Philippines and by the time I joined him in the U.S. when I was 15, he was a business agent for HERE (as it was known then), Local 2 in San Francisco. I got started in the labor movement because every weekend I had to go to a picket line with him in San Francisco. There was a restaurant that they were viciously fighting with at the time, and a few other hotels. So I was introduced to it in an action-oriented way.

Who inspires you?

Right now who inspires me are mothers who are hard-working and who give their all for their families and to uplift other women. (Johanna is a mother herself; her daughter, Isabel Malaya, is 5 years old.)

What motivates you to keep going every day?

I think what motivates me is my own family and its history in this country. I am lucky to have a job and be documented and working and able to vote in this country. So many immigrants, especially the undocumented, suffer abuse at the hands of employers. That really angers me. But the anger gets turned into motivation to fight back. We have a responsibility to fight back because other people can’t.

What are some of the issues or campaigns you’re currently working on?

I am privileged to work on a campaign called Interpreting for California to build medical interpreting services into the Medi-Cal program. About 50 percent of Medi-Cal patients of California speak English less than well and the interpretation needs are mostly being filled by children or strangers in the hospital halls. We need to change that. Another campaign I am privileged to work on is the child care campaign in California: We’re trying to get more families to have access to quality child care services. We want to win collective bargaining rights for Family Child Care Providers because everyone deserves a voice on the job!  

What personal contribution are you most proud of?

I am personally proud of the work I have done to build a San Diego Chapter of APALA, where we are creating space and uplifting progressive API voices where there has been little or none, as well as the work I have put in to bring the labor-faith, community with border patrol workers in San Diego.  I am truly in a privileged position to be the national president of APALA, which gives a voice to often-unheard Asian American Pacific Islander union members. It’s a national platform to give a progressive voice to union workers. I will continue to use that platform to build power and a better understanding of our community so unions can organize our Asian American Pacific Islander workers, but also to build power for APIs and other workers of color, to form and or join a union.

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How to Enjoy a Zika-Free Summer http://www.afscme.org/blog/how-to-enjoy-a-zika-free-summer Mon, 16 May 2016 15:36:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/how-to-enjoy-a-zika-free-summer It’s almost here, the season when it becomes so hard to stay indoors! One weekend you’re off to the beach, another weekend you’re going camping. Almost every night, it seems, somebody in your neighborhood is grilling in their backyard.

Many public service workers also spend their days outdoors. For highway, public works and parks workers, environmental and conservation officers, fresh air is part of the job.

That’s why it’s important to know that this spring and summer, mosquito season could be more than just a nuisance. To ensure your nature outings are memorable for all the right reasons, and that the public service you perform so proudly doesn’t endanger your health, take a few preventive measures to keep the Zika virus away.

The Zika virus is spread through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. An outbreak began in Brazil in May 2015 and has spread to several Latin American countries and U.S. territories, including Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and American Samoa.

The symptoms of the virus are fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes). But a Zika infection during pregnancy can cause a serious birth defects including microcephaly brain defects and death.

Unlike other mosquito-borne illnesses, Zika can be sexually transmitted by men to their partners. And there is currently no vaccine for it.

Although there have only been few cases of the virus in the continental U.S., it is almost certain to spread during the warmer months ahead. That’s why it’s important to take a few preventive steps:

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
  • Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents.
  • Treat clothing and gear with permethrin or buy permethrin-treated items.
  • Install or repair window and door screens. Do not leave doors propped open.
  • Mosquitoes lay eggs near water. So, once a week, empty and scrub, turn over, cover or throw out any items that hold water like tires, buckets, planters, toys, pools, birdbaths, flowerpot saucers or trash containers.
  • Tightly cover water storage containers (buckets, cisterns, rain barrels) so that mosquitoes cannot get inside.
  • Mosquitoes rest in dark, humid areas such as under patio furniture. Use an outdoor flying insect spray in such areas.
  • If you have a septic tank, repair cracks or gaps. Cover open vents or plumbing pipes. Use wire mesh with holes smaller than an adult mosquito.
  • Kill mosquitoes inside your home. Use an indoor flying insect fogger or indoor insect spray to kill mosquitoes and treat areas where they rest. Always follow label directions.

For more preventive measures, visit the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Does Your Pet Have Union Pride? http://www.afscme.org/blog/does-your-pet-have-union-pride Mon, 16 May 2016 12:45:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/does-your-pet-have-union-pride We work hard to support our families – that means our pets, too! Just like your union, your pet is always there for you when you need a friend. It's a species-to-species spirit of solidarity that we think deserves recognition.

We want to see how your four-legged friends wear their union pride. Whether it's a cat that looks great in an AFSCME scarf or a lizard that's proud to be green, all pets are welcome to join our new Arf-SCME Strong nation! Just email a photo of your pet to works@afscme.org, text us your photo at 237-263, or submit it to http://arfscmestrong.tumblr.com/. Don’t forget to include your contact info and local number!

Your pet might be featured on AFSCME’s website or in AFSCME WORKS magazine.

AFSCME also has resources to help your pet live a long and healthy life. With Union Plus, you can get affordable pet insurance so that you don't have to worry about vet bills. For as little as $11.99 per month, the Union Plus plan allows you to use any veterinarian with no coverage limit – no matter what Fido decides to eat next.

Pets are such an important part of our lives. They brighten our days and bring us joy. Share some of that happiness! We can't wait to see your pictures.

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AFSCME Members Help Defeat Paycheck Deception in Missouri http://www.afscme.org/blog/afscme-members-help-defeat-paycheck-deception-in-missouri Fri, 13 May 2016 17:59:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/afscme-members-help-defeat-paycheck-deception-in-missouri Just after midnight on Friday the 13th, an attempt to override Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of anti-worker legislation known as “paycheck deception” failed, with a bipartisan group of senators voting to support workers’ rights.

The measure, HB 1891, would have required cumbersome annual reauthorizations of union membership, as well a slew of other anti-worker provisions.  It was all designed to undermine the ability of public service workers to stand together in union to improve their jobs, serve their communities and earn a better living for their families.  

The bill originally passed earlier this year, with 109 votes in the House and 23 votes in the Senate – the minimum number of votes needed to override the veto.

After Gov. Jay Nixon issued the veto, AFSCME members sprang into action, calling and emailing their elected officials to encourage them to sustain the veto and support workers’ rights. 

AFSCME members like Travis Case, a shopkeeper employed in the Missouri Department of Corrections, and Malissa Parker, a certified nursing assistant at the Missouri Veterans Nursing Center, regularly called their legislators, wrote letters, sent emails and signed petitions opposing the legislation. In March, hundreds of members of AFSCME and other unions and allies rallied at the Capitol against paycheck deception.

AFSCME members and members of other unions canvassed their neighborhoods urging their neighbors to write letters to their elected officials to sustain the veto. They also met daily with senators at the Capitol in Jefferson City to deliver letters and messages from constituents about the concerns they had with the bill and to urge the lawmakers to support workers’ rights. Their efforts were successful, as two Republicans joined every Democrat in standing up for Missouri workers, rejecting the paycheck deception bill inspired by the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

“We are appreciative of Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, who continues to support collective bargaining and workers’ rights,” said Rachelle Leonard, a Psych Tech II at Metropolitan St. Louis Psychiatric Center. “Workers have been meeting with her to address community concerns, and we look forward to continuing our dialogue and finding ways we can continue to work together.”

Marcus Jones, a bus driver with North Kansas City Schools, said, “I know my co-workers and I are also looking forward to working with legislators from both parties in the future on finding solutions to the real problems facing public employees across Missouri, like low pay and the increasing turn-over rate in public jobs.”

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Help Collect Food for the Hungry on May 14 http://www.afscme.org/blog/help-collect-food-for-the-hungry-on-may-14 Thu, 12 May 2016 10:00:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/help-collect-food-for-the-hungry-on-may-14 There are about 46 million people in the United States who worry about where their next meal will come from. One in seven American families will rely on a food pantry at some point in any given year. Those food pantries are a critical lifeline, but they rely on volunteers and donations, and many pantries struggle to meet the needs of their communities.

Our sisters and brothers with the National Association of Letter Carriers (AFL-CIO) are trying to help. Every year, they organize an event called Stamp Out Hunger to collect food for local pantries across the United States. Last year, postal workers collected more than 70 million pounds of food. This year’s drive will occur Saturday, May 14.

“Letter carriers touch every residential and business address in this country at least six days a week,” NALC Pres. Fredric Rolando said, “and our continued effort in the fight against hunger—often in our own neighborhoods—has made us all too familiar with the staggering numbers of people in need.”

It’s easy to participate. Before your letter carrier arrives on Saturday, gather non-perishable items that you wish to donate and put them in a bag near your mailbox. Some AFSCME locals are distributing bags specifically for the drive, but any kind of bag is fine. When your letter carrier arrives to deliver your mail, they will also pick up your donation.

If you aren’t sure what to donate, you can find some ideas here. The food drive accepts pet food and toiletries, but please note that they cannot accept individual containers of baby food. Read more about the dos and don’ts on the NALC website.

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Nurses Help Us Every Day – Now it’s Our Turn to Help Them http://www.afscme.org/blog/nurses-help-us-every-day-now-its-our-turn-to-help-them Wed, 11 May 2016 17:02:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/nurses-help-us-every-day-now-its-our-turn-to-help-them Nurses never ask if you’re dangerous before they treat you. As professionals, your health is upper-most on their minds, not their own health and safety. Yet it’s their safety we should be thinking about this week – National Nurses Week (May 6-12). That’s because theirs is a potentially dangerous occupation, and more can be done to prevent the kind of violence they face every day.

More than 60,000 nurses are members of AFSCME United Nurses of America. They include members of United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals (UNAC/UHCP), representing 25,000 registered nurses and other health care professionals. Their efforts to fight for safe staffing levels for nurses and patients have already led to progress, and they continue to urge the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health to take additional steps to reduce violence initiated by patients.

Violence against nursing professionals is not a minor problem. A March 2016 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) describes the problem in detail. For instance, it reported that California found 1,169 of 4,449 workplace injuries analyzed from 2003 to 2013 “were due to patient assaults and amounted to $16.6 million in worker’s compensation costs over this time period.”

A workplace violence survey of 763 nurses from one hospital system, reviewed by the GAO, found that in just one 12-month period, 30 percent of those completing the survey “reported experiencing physical abuse perpetrated by patients, and 54 percent reported experiencing verbal abuse perpetrated by patients.”

Any percent of violence in the workplace is too high, but violence in a hospital setting should be – and can be – reduced or avoided entirely. The GAO recommended that, at the federal level, the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) “provide additional information to assist inspectors in developing citations, develop a policy for following up on hazard alert letters concerning workplace violence hazards in health care facilities, and assess its current efforts.”

The GAO said “OSHA agreed with GAO’s recommendations and stated that it would take action to address them.”

More should be done at the local level, as well. In April, a delegation of UNAC/UHCP members delivered more than 500 safe staffing petition signatures to Kaiser Permanente in San Diego. They also packed the office of Kaiser’s senior vice president to demand a meeting over unsafe staffing and other patient care issues. She refused and walked away.

Nurses Help Us Every Day – Now it’s Our Turn to Help Them UNAC/UHCP’s Woodland Hills affiliate celebrating Nurses Week by hosting a lunch for, and by making a substantial donation of household items to victims of domestic violence.

This is unfortunate, because the nursing professionals at UNAC/UHCP deserve respect. They never quit serving their communities and demonstrated that never-quit spirit for National Nurses Week by following in the tradition of Florence Nightingale. On May 5, members of UNAC/UHCP’s South Bay affiliate provided medical and educational assistance to hundreds of high-risk and recently homeless mothers and children participating in Compton’s Shields for Families program, providing general medical assessments and giving a variety of tests and screenings. They also made a $3,000 contribution to the Shields program.  

In addition, UNAC/UHCP’s Woodland Hills affiliate celebrated Nurses Week by hosting a lunch for, and by donating household items to, victims of domestic violence living at Haven Hills, a women’s shelter in the hospital’s service area.  They also donated $500 to the Haven Hills clients.

AFSCME salutes these hard-working nursing professionals who never quit serving their communities, and we will never quit supporting them, including efforts to increase safe staffing levels. Learn more about the history of National Nurses Week here.

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President Obama Meets with AFSCME Member in Flint http://www.afscme.org/blog/president-obama-meets-with-afscme-member-in-flint Tue, 10 May 2016 16:15:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/president-obama-meets-with-afscme-member-in-flint FLINT, Mich. – For Tyrone Wooten, a member of AFSCME Local 1603 (Council 25), May 4 was a big day for him and his hometown. He personally met with President Obama to discuss the water crisis.

President Obama then addressed the city’s residents, reassuring them that “I’ve got your back” and “you’ve got power.”

Wooten took part, with six other Flint residents, in a roundtable with the President. They talked about their personal struggles living day to day without usable water, what it will take for residents to regain trust in government and what Flint needs to move forward.

“It was a very face-to-face meeting,” said Wooten. “It was just us and him (and the Secret Service) telling it like it is. I told the President, ‘My union serves the people of Flint, and we want to get busy fixing this problem, but we need the resources to get to work and get this fixed.’”

The whirlwind day wasn’t over for Wooten after his meeting with the President. He was also interviewed by statewide news media and was quoted in the Detroit Free Press. The AFSCME member, who works at Hurley Medical Center in Flint, produced a video, posted on YouTube, called Bottled Water, about his family’s challenges during the crisis.

“All of our pipes in Flint need to be replaced,” said Wooten. “Our city has been leading the way the best they can, but the state has yet to replace a single pipe in Flint. We need those resources and we need the federal help that President Obama has pledged to make sure our families are safe.”

For now, AFSCME members and residents of Flint keep waiting for real dollars and decisive actions to flow from the Snyder administration to fix this health crisis. 

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New York City Scraps Veolia Contract http://www.afscme.org/blog/new-york-city-scraps-veolia-contract Fri, 06 May 2016 17:39:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/new-york-city-scraps-veolia-contract In a victory for consumers and providers of public services, New York City officials say a multi-million dollar contract with a private French conglomerate to manage the city’s 14 waste­water treatment plants will not be renewed.

The contract with Veolia, a $27 billion company based in Paris, is set to expire in June. The contract came with a few one-year extension options that will not be exercised, city officials told DC 37.

Privatization oppo­nents and public service workers hailed the decision.

“We are pleased that the city has decided to bring this contract to an end,” said Jim Tucciarelli, president of Sewage Treatment and Senior Sewage Treatment Workers Local 1320, whose members operate the Department of Environmental Protection’s wastewater treatment plants and collections facilities.

DC 37 locals worked with advocacy groups, such as Food and Water Watch and Corporate Accountability Inter­national, to make the case against privatization.

“This was a coalition effort,” DC 37 Exec. Dir. Henry Garrido said.

DC 37 first brought attention to the Veolia contract in New York City after the Flint, Michigan, water crisis became widely known earlier this year. Other press reports on the tragedy in Flint – where residents’ complaints of contami­nated water fell on deaf ears for two years – revealed the state of Michigan paid Veolia $50,000 in March 2015 to test the water. The company recommended water softeners for iron corrosion but didn’t expose the deadly lead contamination because such tests were not in the scope of the contract.

DC 37 pointed to Veolia’s murky record of chemical explosions, sewage spills and soaring water rate hikes that were documented by global activists.

Some of Veolia’s critics expressed concern that the wastewater management contract was a “foot in the door” that could open opportuni­ties to further privatize the city’s water system.

“I am glad our message reached officials who listened and agreed to do what’s best for New Yorkers,” Garrido said.

“And we want to thank the environmental advo­cates who stood ready to keep the pressure on and speak out against privatization.”

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Correctional Sgt. Rick Neyssen: Professionalism Key to a Dangerous Job http://www.afscme.org/blog/correctional-sgt-rick-neyssen-professionalism-key-to-a-dangerous-job Fri, 06 May 2016 11:24:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/correctional-sgt-rick-neyssen-professionalism-key-to-a-dangerous-job ST CLOUD, Minn. – Every day, Correctional Sgt. Rick Neyssen makes a five-minute commute to the Minnesota Correctional Facility – St. Cloud, one of the state’s largest prison facilities, and joins his co-workers to provide dedicated, professional security in one of the hardest work environments you can imagine.

To understand the dangerous work that Sgt. Neyssen, a member of AFSCME Local 599 (Council 5), and his co-workers do is to appreciate the critical public service they perform. They face these conditions day in and day out, sometimes without adequate staff support.

Corrections officers and other personnel who work in jails, prisons, and community corrections facilities across the country put their lives on the line each time they check in. That’s why, during National Correctional Officers and Employees Week (the first week in May), we salute these brave women and men who serve us with distinction.

National Correctional Officers’ Week was established in 1984 and later modified by Congress to include other public service workers in correctional facilities like the institution in St. Cloud, which is operated by the Minnesota Department of Corrections. It is the state’s main intake facility for inmates, many of whom come with mental health and addiction issues.

Sgt. Neyssen and his co-workers have many responsibilities. In addition to his job as a Corrections Sergeant, for instance, he also serves as a Yard Sergeant and a Tool Control Sergeant, in charge of overseeing the tools in use throughout the prison.

At any one time there are roughly 120-150 inmates for every two to four officers. Sgt. Neyssen operates on the conviction that the highest standard of professionalism is critical, ensuring the best outcomes for everyone – the public, his co-workers and the inmates themselves.

“Every time you deal with an offender you’re selling your ability and authority,” he said. “It’s important that you show up to work clean-cut, in a clean uniform, and sharp. … It’s imperative that we’re all business to keep control of the situation. 

“Security is job number one,” he added. “Whether it’s maintenance or plant ops [operations], it’s still security first.”

Sgt. Neyssen noted that many offenders are eventually released back into society. That’s why “it’s incumbent on us to be professional at all times,” he said. “It’s best for the community when they get out, for the offender, and for you.”

Despite the hazards of his job, Sgt. Neyssen said one of the hardest parts is leaving it at the door. They see inmates at their best as well as their worst, all while struggling with mental health and addiction. Sgt. Neyssen and his co-workers are not uncaring. “There is this preconceived notion that we’re all large, knuckle dragging Neanderthals,” he said. “It’s not true. We’re a very intellectual, well spoken, and thoughtful group. We have to be. People need to know we’re like anyone else. We’re doing a serious job and take it very seriously. We’re not just a bunch of thugs and lugs.”

Some 62,000 corrections officers and 23,000 corrections employees are proud members of AFSCME Corrections United (ACU). To each and every one of you, we salute you during National Correctional Officers and Employees Week – and every week – for working hard to make our communities safe. You never quit on us and AFSCME won’t quit working to make sure you have the staffing you need to keep you safe.

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Verizon Workers on Strike Need Our Support http://www.afscme.org/blog/verizon-workers-on-strike-need-our-support Thu, 05 May 2016 16:23:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/verizon-workers-on-strike-need-our-support As Verizon workers enter the fourth week of a historic strike, they’ve got a message for management: Can you hear us now?

The wireless giant is doing everything in its power to break the strike, but members of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) won’t be silenced. This is the largest strike in the United States since 2011, and it’s still going strong.

Verizon is raking in profits of more than a billion dollars each month, but the workers who make it possible are getting low wages and substandard benefits. The people on the picket lines do the work that allows us to video-chat with grandma from our smartphones or stream HD movies on a laptop. It’s the kind of work that the 21st century will be built on. But Verizon doesn’t want these to be the kind of jobs that can support a middle-class American family. Instead, it’s sending jobs overseas or outsourcing to part-time, low-wage contractors.

AFSCME is standing in solidarity with members of CWA and IBEW as they stick up for the idea that hard work should be rewarded with a living wage, security and benefits. In keeping with their high-tech job titles, Verizon workers are making it easier than ever for us to support working people. The unions are asking members of the community to tweet, share, and Instagram as part of the “virtual picket line.”

You can learn more about how to support the strike on this CWA web page, where you can add your name to a petition and find a picket line near you. You can also tweet with the hashtag #StandUp2VZ. As technology becomes a central focus of our economy, we must make sure that good jobs remain a top priority.

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Serious Dangers for Workers Behind Prison Walls http://www.afscme.org/blog/serious-dangers-for-workers-behind-prison-walls Wed, 04 May 2016 12:00:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/serious-dangers-for-workers-behind-prison-walls WARREN, Maine – The 40-foot wall topped with razor wire surrounding Maine State Prison in Warren helps to protect the public from the inmates inside. But these barriers do little to protect AFSCME corrections officers like Sergeant Curtis Doyle.

A 20-year veteran officer and AFSCME Local 2968 member, Doyle must rely primarily on his experience, intelligence and sometimes even his sense of humor to get him home safely to his family every day.

The prison’s official website lists a staff of 410 and an inmate capacity of 916. But only about 220 are correctional officers, according to payroll data, and those officers are split across three shifts. As a result, Doyle and his colleagues sometimes find themselves alone with up to 70 inmates, including convicted murderers, rapists and armed robbers.

When it comes time to feed the prisoners, two officers are left alone to maintain order among 150 prisoners gathered in the “chow hall.” A “man down” body alarm carried by the officers will trigger a quick response if an officer is able to push it in time. But as Doyle is quick to point out, it only takes a few seconds for someone to be assaulted or even killed.

To illustrate his point, Doyle took an AFSCME Council 93 staff member on a tour of the prison.

The tour included a visit to a two-tier cell “pod” housing approximately 65 inmates who at the time were freely roaming the common area. When the two reached the end of a cellblock, approximately 40 yards from the only exit, Doyle told the staffer to turn around and look at the crowd of prisoners standing between them and the exit.

“You see,” Doyle said. “Every time you turn your back in here, there’s a chance you’re turning your back on a killer. If they wanted us right now, they could get us.”

Indeed, officers have been assaulted many times during Doyle’s tenure. He has seen staff members doused with blood, urine and feces, beaten, stabbed and held hostage. In the past few years, inmates were killed by other inmates, according to the Bangor Daily News.

Countless difficult experiences and memories take their toll on officers. Studies show that corrections officers have an average life expectancy of 59 years, according to the Denver Post. And as Doyle points out, it’s not just the officers who are affected.

“When you sign on to work at the Maine State Prison, your family signs on too,” Doyle said. “It brings a great deal of stress to everyone.”

So the next time you hear someone claiming public service workers have easy jobs, tell them about Sergeant Curtis Doyle and the women and men who put their lives on the line every day at the Maine State Prison.

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Correctional Officers and Employees Never Quit; We Won’t Either http://www.afscme.org/blog/correctional-officers-and-employees-never-quit-we-wont-either Tue, 03 May 2016 12:49:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/correctional-officers-and-employees-never-quit-we-wont-either Correctional officers and employees in public institutions all over the country help keep our communities safe. And just as they never quit doing their jobs 24/7, their union will never quit fighting for their rights on the job.

AFSCME is the union of 85,000 correctional officers and employees. During National Correctional Officers’ and Employees’ Week, we thank them for their service and recommit to always standing with them to make our union stronger.

In the last year, our union has become a lot stronger. Our AFSCME Strong campaign has structured our conversations with our co-workers about issues we care about and can fix together. We’ve had more than 340,000 one-on-one conversations with AFSCME members from correctional officers to school bus drivers. More than 26,000 have joined our political action fund, PEOPLE, because to improve public services and secure our jobs we need to elect lawmakers who stand with working families.

Safety is key in many workplaces. But in correctional settings, it is often a top priority. That’s why having a voice on the job is so important.

Not long ago, a correctional officer was taken hostage by an inmate at Mansfield Correctional Institution in Ohio. It was no accident. It happened because, despite warnings about short-staffing, she was left alone in the presence of a violent felon.

Chronic understaffing is an issue in facilities from Iowa to New Mexico and Maryland. State prison populations continue to increase while many governors and state legislatures continue to slash budgets. AFSCME and affiliate unions are urging lawmakers to improve staffing levels and make other systemic changes that reduce safety risks to prison staff, inmates and surrounding communities.

It’s because we never quit that we’ve achieved important organizing victories. In Anoka County, Minnesota, juvenile probation officers formed their own AFSCME local union after the county board froze their wages while giving other county unionized employees the raises they deserved. And it’s because we never quit that we’ve achieved important contract victories, including one won by Hawaii public safety officers, who recently achieved substantial wage increases.

Next week, leaders of AFSCME correctional units from around the country will meet to discuss strengthening our power in the sector, including key issues such as prison privatization, mass incarceration and federal legislation affecting our members.

Also, they will join members of the AFSCME Law Enforcement Advisory Committee at the candle light vigil for fallen law enforcement officers, among whom are corrections officers.

So, yes, this week let’s be extra thankful to our sisters and brothers who serve our communities as corrections officers and employees.

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#ThankATeacher Today – National Teachers Appreciation Day http://www.afscme.org/blog/thank-a-teacher-today-national-teachers-appreciation-day Tue, 03 May 2016 10:00:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/thank-a-teacher-today-national-teachers-appreciation-day When you think about the persons who influenced you the most, besides your parents, a teacher no doubt comes to mind. Many of us still recall the name of our favorite teacher – the one who gave you the encouragement to become the person you are today. So, today – on National Teachers Appreciation Day – take a moment to thank that person who made such a difference in your life, or the life of your child.

How? The National Education Association (NEA), together with the National PTA offer several good suggestions for giving a shout-out on to that special teacher this week (May 2-6 is National Teacher’s Appreciation Week). They suggest:

  • Post a picture of yourself with your favorite teacher, past or present;
  • Post a picture of yourself holding a piece of paper with a simple message saying “thank you” to a teacher and why you’re thanking her or him;
  • Post a picture of your child with her or his teacher.

Use the hashtag #ThankATeacher when sharing. Also, use this graphic when you share with friends.

“Teachers are real life superheroes. They make an immense difference in the well-being and long-term success of children nationwide,” said Laura Bay, president of National PTA.

Did you know that, on average, teachers work more than 52 hours a week? That includes 30 hours on instruction and 22 hours on such tasks as preparing lessons and grading papers, reports the NEA, citing a survey by the National Center for Education Statistics 2011-12 Schools and Staffing Survey.

Another interesting fact about U.S teachers: The average annual base salary of a full-time public school teacher is $53,100, the NEA noted, also based on the same survey for the period of 2011-12.

President Obama’s proclamation this year for National Teacher Appreciation Day and National Teacher Appreciation Week, states,” In working to ensure all our daughters and sons have the chance to add their voice and perspective to America's story, our teachers help shape a nation that better reflects the values we were founded upon.”

Yet, it notes, “there is still work to be done” to ensure that America’s children get the best possible education.

“That is why my administration has been committed to better recruiting, preparing, retraining, and rewarding America's teachers,” the proclamation says. “Following the worst economic crisis our country has seen since the Great Depression, my administration supported significant investments in education through the Recovery Act to keep more than 300,000 educators in the classroom.”

AFSCME is proud to represent the many women and men who teach and care for children in homes, day care centers, pre-K classrooms, before-and-after school child care and Head Start programs. Learn more here. They also work in K-12 schools and also institutions of higher learning, helping to make sure that children and students have the best environment for learning.

So here’s to our teachers – and also the many people who help them perform their daily tasks – who never quit making our nation great by helping the next generation. We are in your debt.

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Child Care Services Are Worth a Living Wage http://www.afscme.org/blog/child-care-services-are-worth-a-living-wage Sun, 01 May 2016 10:00:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/child-care-services-are-worth-a-living-wage Can you put a price on the safety, happiness and education of a child? Child care is an absolutely critical service. The women and men who do this kind of work aren’t just part of our economy, they’re part of our families and communities.

But wages for child care providers aren’t in step with the value of the work they do. Hourly wages in the child care sector are just $10.31, which is 39 percent lower than the national average for hourly earners. One in seven child care providers lives in a household with an income below the poverty line. The cost that parents pay for child care has skyrocketed in the past 25 years, but real wages for the workers who spend time with our children haven’t risen at all.

That’s why we recognize May 1 as Worthy Wage Day. Since 1992, on this day, child care providers and their allies advocate for better wages and working conditions. This is a problem that must be addressed at every level. State programs are underfunded, labor laws have historically undermined the value of child care workers, and our culture does not always recognize the importance of child care services.

AFSCME represents thousands of child care workers who devote their careers to enriching the lives of children. We stand in solidarity with our sisters and brothers as they call for respect and a living wage. 

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AFSCME Couple to Celebrate 14 Years of Love at Convention http://www.afscme.org/blog/afscme-couple-to-celebrate-14-years-of-love-at-convention Thu, 28 Apr 2016 18:48:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/afscme-couple-to-celebrate-14-years-of-love-at-convention Cindy and Doug Cook couldn’t be more excited about attending AFSCME’s 42nd International Convention in Las Vegas this July.  Not only because they’ve been AFSCME members for a combined total of more than 60 years. And not just because they’re big believers in what workers can achieve when they stand together, even in the face of a great challenge. Their trip will be unique for a very personal reason. 

Cindy and Doug met at the AFSCME International Convention in Las Vegas in 2002. They were married in Las Vegas in 2006. So this year they’re going back to celebrate the 14th anniversary of their meeting and their 10th wedding anniversary. Their union was “literally union-made,” they say, and they are looking forward to sharing this special moment with their AFSCME sisters and brothers.

How they met

On the Sunday before Convention 2002, Doug was swimming in the pool at the Paris Hotel when he first set eyes on Cindy. “I saw this beautiful girl sitting by the pool, dangling her feet in the water,” he says. “So I swam up to her and we started talking.”

“We clicked immediately,” Cindy recalls, “and we ended up talking for over two hours. He made me feel like I had known him all my life.” 

At the time, Cindy was an employee of the City of Erie, Pennsylvania, and president of AFSCME Local 2206 (Council 13). Doug was (and still is) an equipment operator for Thurston County, in Olympia, Washington. He’s also a member of AFSCME Local 618 (Council 2), where he has served as vice president. Though they came from opposite sides of the country, they had much in common, including their union activism. They spent the rest of the week together, attending convention activities and getting to know each other. 

“It was then that our friendship was born,” Cindy says.

They never quit on each other                                                                                                                                                  

Love in the UnionAfter the 2002 Convention, Doug and Cindy went back to their respective homes. For the next three-and-a-half years, they did the “East Coast/West Coast thing,” as Cindy puts it.  At first, they visited each other in Las Vegas, then Doug visited Erie. Cindy then visited Olympia. Through 2005 they spent all of their vacation time traveling back and forth.

“When we weren’t together, we spent hours on the phone,” Cindy recalls. “It was crazy because we both realized we had found something completely unexpected and extremely rare and special.”

Their love for each other resulted in the decision to spend the rest of their lives together. “It was frightening to leave my family and friends, which I will always miss,” Cindy says, “but it turned out to be the best decision of our lives. We’ve never been happier.”  Cindy found a job with the Washington State Department of Ecology and, within one month, moved to Washington. They bought a house and married on Feb. 19, 2006. She is now a member of AFSCME Council 28.

Going Strong

While the past 10 years have been full of happiness, the couple has not been free from struggle. In 2012, Doug was diagnosed with a type of cancer called non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. For the next six months, he would have to undergo chemotherapy at the University of Washington in Seattle, 60 miles away.  

“Going through something like that changes your whole outlook on life,” Cindy says.  “Going through this struggle made us stronger and drew us even closer together.”

“How Cindy stuck with me was remarkable,” Doug says. “She was by my side at every appointment, every test, and every session of chemotherapy.”

Thanks to her union contract and her co-workers, Cindy was able to use shared leave on the days that Doug was being treated. It’s what allowed her to be by Doug’s side.  “It was so important for me to be with him,” she says, “because we had no idea what the future held for us.”  

“Cindy was unbelievable,” Doug says. “Her love and support is why I’m here today.”

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Workers Memorial Day: Fighting for the Living http://www.afscme.org/blog/workers-memorial-day-fighting-for-the-living Thu, 28 Apr 2016 09:00:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/workers-memorial-day-fighting-for-the-living We go to work every day to make a living — but all too often, the workplace takes lives instead. Today is Workers Memorial Day, a time to reflect on the working women and men who were killed or injured on the job.

Thanks to the efforts of advocates and activists in the labor movement, workplace safety has improved considerably in recent decades. We lobbied for laws and negotiated collectively for contracts that require protective equipment and thorough safety procedures. But the battle isn’t over.

In 2014, the most recent year for available statistics, more than 4,800 working people died as the result of workplace accidents and injuries, and another 50,000 died from diseases caused by workplace exposure. That’s 150 lives lost every day as the result of unsafe working conditions. (This is the highest annual total since 2008.)

Some workers are at higher risk than others. Latino workers, particularly those who were born outside the United States, are more likely to be injured or killed on the job than the general population.  In 2014, 748 Latino workers died as the result of workplace injury.

As public sector employees, AFSCME members are also at particular risk. Federal OSHA standards do not cover many state and local government workers, and public sector employees are 56 percent more likely to be injured on the job than our private-sector counterparts. Although some states have state OSHA laws that protect public sector workers.

It’s up to all of us to make sure our workplaces are safe and healthy. We need strong contracts, comprehensive laws and co-workers who are willing to speak up when they see potential dangers. Let’s put an end to these preventable tragedies.

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Splash Medics Continue Mission to Prevent Child Drownings http://www.afscme.org/blog/splash-medics-continue-mission-to-prevent-child-drownings Wed, 27 Apr 2016 12:17:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/blog/splash-medics-continue-mission-to-prevent-child-drownings RIVERSIDE COUNTY, Calif. – Splash Medics has provided life-saving water safety tips to more than 2,000 children since AFSCME Local 4911 members founded the nonprofit in 2015. The group plans to visit another 50 schools this summer and release a children’s book, Toby the Dolphin. This is just part of their effort to reduce the high number of water-related injuries and deaths in their county.

“We’ve had a lot of drownings this year already, and this month there were two kids that drowned in one weekend,” said Paramedic Lisa La Russo, a member of AFSCME Local 4911. “We are working to get education to every school, parent and child.” 

Drowning is the leading cause of death for children under five, according to Riverside County Injury Prevention Services. This statistic is no surprise to the front-line Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) and paramedics who often respond to emergencies involving children, and many of which are preventable water-related incidents.

Several members of Local 4911 have volunteered with Splash Medics to educate the public on the importance of water safety. EMT Fawn Lawson-Huntington was recently featured on CBS Local 2. "We're teaching kids to always swim with a buddy, always have a grown-up watching, no running, and wear your life vest,” Lawson told reporter Laura Yanez.

“It only takes seconds for a child to drown,” Lawson-Huntington added. “And I know how tempting the cell phone is, but even in the moments that you’re answering a phone call [or] scrolling through Facebook, a child could drown.”

These tips are highlighted in their upcoming children’s book, Toby the Dolphin and Water Safety. Splash Medics will read their book to school children at Amelia Earhart Elementary School in Indio, Calif., on May 4 at 9 a.m.

Click here to make a contribution to Splash Medics.

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AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders Statement on the Senate Fast Track Vote http://www.afscme.org/news/press-room/press-releases/afscme-pres-lee-saunders-statement-on-the-senate-fast-track-vote Tue, 23 Jun 2015 16:59:53 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/news/press-room/press-releases/afscme-pres-lee-saunders-statement-on-the-senate-fast-track-vote 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.”

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