Press Release Feed Press Releases Tue, 3 May 2011 05:00:00 +0000 AMPS en hourly 1 AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders Statement on HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius Fri, 11 Apr 2014 15:48:14 -0500 AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders issued the following statement on Kathleen Sebelius’ leadership as Secretary of Health and Human Services:

“Secretary Sebelius’ legacy is the more than 10 million Americans who now have quality, affordable health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act. Millions more have improved coverage, including seniors who can now access free, preventive services and lower prescription drug costs through their Medicare coverage. Secretary Sebelius worked to put Medicare on even firmer financial footing, rooting out fraud and waste, and prioritizing unprecedented transparency. She tirelessly worked to ensure that women can access essential reproductive health care.

“Throughout her tenure, Secretary Sebelius faced enormous obstacles from those who do not share our belief that quality health care for all is a right. She served her country admirably, and AFSCME wishes her the best in her upcoming endeavors.”

AFSCME President Blasts House Approval of Budget for Wealthy Thu, 10 Apr 2014 15:11:44 -0500 AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders released the following statement following the House approval of the budget drafted by Rep. Paul Ryan:

“Yet again, the House GOP has voted for a budget proposal that hurts families, kills jobs and would send the economy back into a tailspin. Only corporations and the wealthy benefit from its wide-open tax loopholes and additional tax breaks.

“The Ryan budget once again calls for replacing Medicare with a voucher, shifting costs to already struggling seniors and putting profit-motivated insurance company executives in charge of their health care decisions. The budget slashes Medicaid, forcing states to cut health care services for the poor, elderly and people with disabilities. It repeals the Affordable Care Act, eliminating health care for more than 10 million people. It cuts domestic spending, devastating public services provided by federal, state and local governments.

“The party-line vote for this budget underscores that House Republicans are motivated by an obsession with cutting crucial government services upon which our communities rely, and boosting the bank accounts of billionaires. They are out of touch with the pressing needs and values of most Americans.”

Our Mothers, Wives and Daughters Deserve Equal Pay for Equal Work Tue, 08 Apr 2014 10:32:01 -0500 AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders issued the following statement today acknowledging Equal Pay Day. The day that marks the end of the extra period of time that women in the U.S. must work in order to earn what men earned during the previous year:

“Many people probably don’t know why we celebrate Equal Pay Day. Today marks the number of extra days women need to work to earn what men earned during the previous year. So U.S. women must work until April 8 this year to earn what men made as of Dec. 31 last year. This is unacceptable. Our mothers, wives and daughters deserve equal pay for equal work. Fifty years after the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and five years after the signing of the Lilly Ledbetter Act, it is unconscionable that in 2014 equal pay is still up for debate. 

“Equal pay is not just a women’s issue ─ it’s a family issue. Women make up almost half of our workforce, yet they are paid 77 percent of what men are paid, and the pay gap is worse for women of color. A majority of women in the workforce are mothers and one-third are the sole breadwinners for their families. Their incomes are critical to making ends meet.

“When women working full time earn 23 percent less than men over a lifetime, their retirement security is jeopardized.  The pay gap limits a woman’s ability to contribute to her retirement income, including Social Security.

“When women receive equal pay for equal work our families, communities are on stronger economic footing.”

AFSCME Applauds Senate Approval of Jobless Aid and Calls on House to Act Without Delay Mon, 07 Apr 2014 19:30:19 -0500 AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders issued the following statement today on the Senate’s approval of jobless aid to millions of Americans.

“Earlier today, the Senate passed long-overdue legislation to restore emergency unemployment insurance to more than 2 million Americans. While we applaud the bipartisan work that made today’s passage possible, this is a program that never should have been allowed to expire. Millions of Americans and their families depend on these benefits to put food on the table and keep the lights on while they continue to find stable work with a living wage. It’s a shame that political obstruction in the U.S. Senate held up this vital aid for more than three months.

“AFSCME calls on House leadership to bring this legislation to the floor for an immediate vote and passage before the upcoming congressional recess at the end of this week.” 

“The dream lives on when we take a stand against injustice.” Fri, 04 Apr 2014 10:26:45 -0500 AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders issued the following statement on the anniversary of the 1968 AFSCME Sanitation Strike in Memphis and the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:

“On April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated as he stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. Dr. King was in Memphis in solidarity with 1,300 striking AFSCME sanitation workers. Workers like Joe Warren, Taylor Rogers, Alvin Turner, Ben Jones, Rev. Cleo Smith, Baxter Leach and countless others who were denied their rights as city employees and their dignity as men.

“Working for $1.80 cents an hour under the most inhumane conditions, these men suffered grave indignity as they put in a 60-hour work week for 40 hours of pay. Their defining moment came with their declaration “I Am A Man” – held aloft on signs – as they took to the streets of Memphis on Feb. 11, 1968, to protest decades of discrimination, disrespect and dangerous working conditions.

 “We now face a defining moment. With income inequality plaguing this nation, and a shot at the American Dream disappearing for many, the struggle continues today as it did in 1968.  Today, we honor  Dr. King by re-dedicating ourselves to the struggle for economic justice and equal opportunity  for all.”

AFSCME's Saunders: "Supreme Court Ruling is a Step Backwards" Wed, 02 Apr 2014 18:00:00 -0500 AFSCME President Lee Saunders released the following statement after the Supreme Court issued their ruling on McCutcheon v. FEC:

“Instead of moving us forward to a place where electoral politics truly levels the playing field, today’s Supreme Court ruling mires us even deeper in the mud of big money campaigns and weakens public confidence in the campaign finance system.

“At a time when the Koch brothers and their ilk have already taken unfair advantage of ‘dark money’ politics, today’s ruling confirms the worst fears of millions of Americans. They deeply believe in our democracy but their checkbooks are no match for the deep pockets of those who want to gain even more power and wealth at the expense of working people.     

“It is up to us to pull together, educate, mobilize, and energize the millions of like-minded Americans and send a message in the streets and at the ballot box that our country’s values are not for sale.”

AFSCME’s Saunders on GOP Tax Plan: “Give Us a Break” Wed, 26 Feb 2014 12:00:00 -0500 AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders issued the following statement today on the House GOP tax plan.

“There are those in Congress whose idea of a tax plan is to lower corporate tax rates so corporations rake in more and contribute less to our own national well-being. Unfortunately, those representatives include the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

“Corporations don’t need a reduction in tax rates when many pay no or few taxes now.

“The architects of this tax plan sidestepped an opportunity and responsibility to create a fairer tax system that ensures corporations and the wealthy pay their fair share; ends tax breaks that encourage corporations to ship profits and jobs overseas; and raises much-needed tax revenue to help fund education, law enforcement and the other services on which we all rely.

“This is a very difficult time for working families to make it in America and it’s even harder when there are two sets of rules: one for the wealthy and corporations, and another for the rest of us. One way families can regain the security they lost is when everyone is required to pay their fair share in taxes.”

AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders on the Retirement of Rep. John Dingell Tue, 25 Feb 2014 12:00:00 -0500 AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders issued the following statement today on the retirement of Rep. John Dingell.

“For five decades, Rep. John Dingell stood up for the dignity of working families in Michigan and across the country.  He made their well-being the primary focus of his work.  He steadily pursued universal health care coverage, from the first day he stepped onto the House floor 59 years ago. He championed manufacturing, particularly the auto industry, and fought for an economy that would deliver economic benefits for all Americans, not just the wealthy.  His belief in dignity and fairness drove him to take on the hard fights.  While the successes never came easy, more often than not, he won.”

AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders issued the following statement today on the retirement of Rep. John Dingell.

“For five decades, Rep. John Dingell stood up for the dignity of working families in Michigan and across the country.  He made their well-being the primary focus of his work.  He steadily pursued universal health care coverage, from the first day he stepped onto the House floor 59 years ago. He championed manufacturing, particularly the auto industry, and fought for an economy that would deliver economic benefits for all Americans, not just the wealthy.  His belief in dignity and fairness drove him to take on the hard fights.  While the successes never came easy, more often than not, he won.”

Institutional Investors Press Companies for Disclosure of Lobbying in 2014 Tue, 18 Feb 2014 16:40:00 -0500 Investors today announced the filing of shareholder resolutions at 48 corporations as part of a 2014 proxy season initiative asking companies to annually report their federal and state lobbying. That includes any payments to trade associations used for lobbying as well as support for tax-exempt organizations that write and endorse model legislation.

The lobbying disclosure initiative is a natural extension of ongoing shareholder efforts seeking greater corporate political spending transparency and accountability. Specifically, enhanced lobbying disclosure will enable shareholders to better evaluate whether a company’s lobbying expenditures and actions advance the company’s interests and do not present risks to company value. 

A 2014 report by Glass Lewis found that 2013 resolutions relating to political spending of a company were the most common shareholder proposal put forth during the proxy season for the third consecutive year.[1] Reflecting investors’ interest in enhanced disclosure, a rulemaking petition at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) requiring public companies to disclose their political spending to shareholders attracted a record level of support for SEC rulemaking, with more than 700,000 comment letters submitted – the vast majority in support.

While the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision and the unprecedented amount of political spending in the 2012 elections attracted a great deal of media attention, company expenditures on federal lobbying far exceed political election contributions, often by more than a 10-to-1 ratio. For example, a 2013 Stanford study found that during the 2010 election, $3.6 billion was spent on federal elections while $7.5 billion was spent on federal lobbying, out of which corporations spent $246 million on federal campaign expenditures but spent at least $5.1 billion on federal lobbying. During the same period, the Chamber of Commerce spent $33 million on political contributions and $302 million on lobbying.[2] These figures do not include state level lobbying expenditures by companies, where there is incomplete disclosure and yearly spending exceeds $1 billion.

Moreover, lobbying by trade associations is supported by corporate contributions that are substantial and largely unreported. For example the Chamber of Commerce spent more than $1 billion on lobbying since 1998, making it the country’s largest lobbying spender. The majority of companies do not disclose the portions of their trade association payments used for lobbying. These payments can create reputational risks for companies. Lobbying disclosure proponents believe companies need to manage these risks by assessing whether their memberships in and lobbying through trade associations accurately represent their corporate interests and policy positions, and that shareholders need to understand their companies’ expenditures for trade association lobbying and the risks they can represent.

The resolutions also ask companies to disclose payments to and membership in tax-exempt organizations that write and endorse model legislation, which includes the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC approved model legislation based on Florida’s Stand Your Ground law that gained national attention after the tragic killing of teenager Trayvon Martin. In response to investor and grassroots pressure, more than 70 companies, including Amgen, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Coca-Cola, Darden Restaurants, Endo Health Solutions, General Electric, Johnson & Johnson, Kraft, Pepsi, Sallie Mae, Unilever, Visa, Walgreens and Yum! Brands, evaluated the risk to their corporate reputations, compared to the benefits of continuing membership, and made the decision to leave ALEC.

New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, an active proponent of corporate disclosure of both political spending and lobbying, stated, “Transparency is fundamental to strong corporate governance and key to the New York State Common Retirement Fund's engagement with our portfolio companies.”  DiNapoli's office oversees the $160.7 billion state fund.  “We need sunlight on lobbying operations so we can evaluate potential risks to our investments. Any political spending, including lobbying, made with shareholder dollars should be disclosed.”

Lee Saunders, president of AFSCME and chair of the AFSCME Employees Pension Plan’s Pension Committee, stated, “Lobbying disclosure is in both companies’ and shareholders’ best interests and will help ensure corporate assets are used in the best interest of the company and its shareholders. There’s a saying that if you’re ashamed to talk about it, then maybe you shouldn’t be doing it. Companies already have this lobbying information so disclosure wouldn’t be difficult.”

Timothy Smith, director of environmental, social and governance (ESG) shareowner engagement at Walden Asset Management and one of the coordinators of this initiative, stated, “Over the last 10 years, investors increasingly have urged companies to disclose their spending aimed at influencing elections. This year, investors have once again taken a logical next step and asked companies to disclose their direct and indirect lobbying activities. Whether the issue is environmental impact, consumer protection, financial reform or shareholder rights, it is important for investors to understand how company dollars are spent to influence our laws and regulations by lobbying activities. While many companies have modest government affairs budgets, others spend tens of millions of dollars annually on lobbying directly and through trade associations. In addition, many companies work through lobbying organizations like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to influence legislation and regulation at the state level such as their attack on renewable energy regulation. We believe it is timely and appropriate for companies to be much more transparent.”

This is the fourth year proposals asking for lobbying disclosure were filed by investors. In 2013, 70 proponents filed 50 proposals, and the 40 that went to vote averaged 26 percent support. For 2012, 46 proponents filed 38 proposals, and the 20 that went to vote averaged 24 percent. And in 2011, the AFSCME Employees Pension Plan filed six proposals and the five that went to vote averaged 24 percent. The proposals led many companies to improve their lobbying disclosure, leading to settlements and improved disclosure at more than 25 companies, including 3M, Accenture, Amgen, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Endo Health Solutions and St. Jude Medical.

Sixty investors joined in filing and co-filing the resolution seeking comprehensive disclosure of corporate lobbying. This unique investor network is organized by the AFSCME Employees Pension Plan and Walden Asset Management, a division of Boston Trust & Investment Management Company.  

Specifically, the resolution asks for disclosure of:

  1. Company policy and procedures governing lobbying, including that done on the company’s behalf by trade associations.
  2. Payments used for lobbying and grassroots lobbying communications.
  3. Membership in and payments to any tax-exempt organization that writes and endorses model legislation.
  4. Decision-making processes and oversight by management and the board.
Among companies receiving lobbying disclosure resolutions for 2014 are:
Abbott Laboratories (ABT)
Accenture (ACN)
Alliant Techsystems (ATK)
Allstate (ALL)
Altria Group (MO)
Ameren (AEE)
Amgen (AMGN)
AT&T (T)
Bank of America (BAC)
BlackRock (BLK)
Boeing (BA)
Celgene (CELG)
Chevron (CVX)
Citigroup (C)
Comcast (CMCSA) ConocoPhillips (COP)
CVS Caremark Corporation (CVS)
Devon Energy (DVN)
Dominion Resources Services (D)
EBay Inc. (EBAY)
Emerson Electric (EMR)
ExxonMobil Corporation (XOM)
Facebook (FB)
FirstEnergy (FE)
General Dynamics (GD)
Google (GOOG)
Honeywell (HON)
JPMorgan Chase (JPM)
Lorillard (LO)
Marathon Oil Company (MRO)
Marathon Petroleum (MPC)
Morgan Stanley (MS)
Norfolk Southern (NSC)
Peabody Energy (BTU)
Philip Morris International (PM)
Raytheon (RTN)
Reynolds American (RAI)
Sallie Mae (SLM Corporation)(SLM)
Time Warner Cable (TWC)
United Parcel Service (UPS)
United Technologies (UTX)
UnitedHealth Group (UNH)
Verizon Communications (VZ)
VISA U.S.A. Inc. (V)
Wal-Mart (WMT)
Yahoo (YHOO)

Filers of Lobbying Disclosure Resolutions

Public Pension Funds

State of Connecticut Treasurer’s Office
New York State Common Retirement Fund

Labor Pension Plans and Organizations

AFSCME Employees Pension Plan
CTW Investment Group
United Steelworkers

Asset Management Companies

Boston Common Asset Management
Domini Social Investments
First Affirmative Financial Network
Green Century Funds
Rockefeller and Co.
Sustainability Group, Loring, Wolcott & Coolidge
Trillium Asset Management
Walden Asset Management
Zevin Asset Management


Brainerd Foundation
Center for Community Change
Christopher Reynolds Foundation
Edward W. Hazen Foundation
Haymarket People's Fund
Lemmon Foundation
Max and Anna Levinson Foundation
Merck Family Fund
Needmor Fund
Oneida Tribe of Indians Trust Fund
Russell Family Foundation
Tides Foundation

Non-Profit Institutional Investors

Manhattan Country School

Religious Filers

Benedictine Sisters Charitable Trust, Boerne, TX
Benedictine Sisters of Baltimore – Emmanuel Monastery
Benedictine Sisters of Mount St. Scholastica
Catholic Health East
Community Church of New York
Congregation of Divine Providence, San Antonio, TX
Congregation of Divine Providence, San Antonio, TX
Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes
Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Cross
Congregation of the Sisters St. Joseph of Brighton
Dignity Health
Episcopal Church
First Parish Unitarian Universalist, Cambridge, MA
First Unitarian Congregational Society in Brooklyn
Friends Fiduciary Corporation
Glenmary Home Missioners
Marianist Province of the United States
Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers
Mercy Investment Services
Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate
Monasterio Pan de Vida
Providence Trust
Province of St. Joseph of the Capuchin Order
Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Sisters of Notre Dame
Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, Boston
Sisters of the Holy Family, CA
Sisters of the Holy Spirit and Mary Immaculate
Unitarian Universalist Association


Gun Denhart
Gwendolen Noyes
Ronald Trimmer

Proposal Example – Google

Whereas, we believe it is important that Google’s lobbying positions, and processes to influence public policy, are transparent.  Public opinion is skeptical of corporate influence on Congress and public policy and controversial lobbying activity may pose risks to our company’s reputation.

Google spent approximately $31.35 million in 2010, 2011 and 2012 on federal lobbying, according to Senate reports.  But this figure may not include grassroots lobbying to influence legislation by mobilizing public support or opposition. Also, not all states require disclosure of lobbying expenditures. The reports also do not include contributions to tax-exempt organizations which write and endorse model legislation.

Resolved, the shareholders of Google request the Board authorize the preparation of a report, updated annually, and disclosing:

  1. Company policy and procedures governing lobbying, both direct and indirect, and grassroots lobbying communications.
  1. Payments by Google used for (a) direct or indirect lobbying or (b) grassroots lobbying communications, in each case including the amount of the payment and the recipient.
  2. Google’s membership in and payments to any tax-exempt organization that writes and endorses model legislation.
  3. Description of the decision making process and oversight by management and the Board for making payments described in sections 2 and 3 above.

For purposes of this proposal, a “grassroots lobbying communication” is a communication directed to the general public that (a) refers to specific legislation or regulation, (b) reflects a view on the legislation or regulation and (c) encourages the recipient of the communication to take action with respect to the legislation or regulation. “Indirect lobbying” is lobbying engaged in by a trade association or other organization of which Google is a member.

Both “direct and indirect lobbying” and “grassroots lobbying communications” include efforts at the local, state and federal levels.

The report shall be presented to the Audit Committee or other relevant Board oversight committees and posted on the company’s website.

Supporting Statement

We encourage transparency about the ways corporate funds influence legislation and regulation, directly and indirectly. We commend Google for updating disclosure on its website on political spending and lobbying but the company still does not disclose details about lobbying through trade associations, maintaining secrecy about its payments used for lobbying by these associations. 

For example, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce spent over $1 billion in lobbying since 1998, yet any Google funding of the Chamber is secret. The Chamber has also sued the EPA for its work on climate regulation. 

In addition, Google reportedly sits on a task force of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) which has launched a “high priority campaign” to repeal renewable energy standards in states.            

In contrast, Google’s website publicly affirms its commitment to “protecting the environment.”

It is in Google’s best interests to review its public policy advocacy and oversight and expand its public disclosure about third party lobbying.

[1] “Political Contributions – A Glass Lewis Issue Report,” Glass Lewis, 2014.

[2] Adam Bonica, “Avenues of Influence: On the Political Expenditures of Corporations and Their Directors and Executives,” December 3, 2013.

Rep. Henry Waxman: Service with Courage Fri, 31 Jan 2014 12:00:00 -0500 AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders issued the following statement today on the retirement of Rep. Henry Waxman.

“Rep. Henry Waxman, one of our nation’s most influential lawmakers, will retire from Congress after four decades of service, but he leaves a legacy of expanded health care and Medicaid coverage, cleaner air and water, and safer and more affordable medicines for Americans. He played a central role in passage of some of the most important legislation of our time. Rep. Waxman doggedly pursued the interests of the voiceless and vulnerable, sometimes over opposition within his own party, because it was simply the right thing to do. Mr. Waxman’s leadership, values and determination will be sorely missed.”

AFSCME’s Saunders: “Equal Pay Is More Than Dollars and Cents” Wed, 29 Jan 2014 12:00:00 -0500 AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders issued the following statement today on paycheck fairness on the fifthanniversary of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act:

“Equal pay is more than dollars and cents; it’s about respect, dignity and equality in the workplace. Five years ago today, 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.

“From Presidents Kennedy to Obama, legislation was signed giving women hope that, one day, the 77 cents they make for every $1 made by men would lead to income equality.  Year after year, we celebrate anniversaries while the wage gap widens.

“In a recovering economy and with record numbers of unemployment, women can no longer afford to be treated like second-class citizens on the company payroll. The pay disparity affects the entire family, as economic security is threatened when women are short-changed.  This is especially significant at a time when more women are becoming the family’s primary breadwinner.”

AFSCME’s Saunders: “We Must Address Income Inequality in America” Tue, 28 Jan 2014 12:00:00 -0500 AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders issued the following statement in response to President Obama’s State of the Union Address:

“Tonight, President Obama presented a comprehensive plan to move our country forward, create jobs and protect vital services for millions of Americans, with a focus on meaningful economic opportunity. Too often, opportunity comes with an inadequate wage for those who are unemployed and that exacerbates income inequality in our nation.  Earlier today the President took the first step to address this issue by raising the minimum wage for new government contract workers through executive order.  Now, Congress must heed his call and we must raise the minimum wage so that all Americans may live and prosper, not live in poverty.

We hope that the Congress will work with the President to take other steps to address the growing income inequality that hampers meaningful economic recovery in our country. This is the defining challenge of our time and we must rise together to meet it.

Combatting income inequality also means empowering workers to bargain for better pay and secure benefits. When unions are strong, all workers benefit. Sadly, the nationwide attacks on collective bargaining persist, as deep-pocketed, anti-worker forces systematically target unions. Their efforts to undo collective bargaining weaken all workers.”

AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders on the Introduction of the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014 Fri, 17 Jan 2014 12:00:00 -0500 AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders issued the following statement on the introduction of the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014 in the U.S. House of Representatives:

“Last year, the Supreme Court caused national outrage when it gutted a crucial section of the Voting Rights Act with the Shelby County v. Holder decision. It pushed our nation in reverse after decades of hard work to make voting accessible for every American.

“A bipartisan group of lawmakers has come together and introduced crucial legislation which would restore voting oversight in states with a history of racial discrimination. Additionally, new measures will be put in place to prevent discrimination, by mandating that voters be informed of  any changes to local election law.

“It’s fitting that this legislation is introduced close to Martin Luther King Day.  We must continue Dr. King’s work by ensuring that every American has easy access to the voting booth. This legislation is a positive first step back in the right direction.”

AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders on Opposition to Fast Track Authorization Thu, 09 Jan 2014 12:00:00 -0500 AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders issued the following statement today in response to a bill introduced by Sen. Max Baucus and Rep. Dave Camp calling for fast track authorization:

“Fast track authorization is a threat to our democracy and our sovereignty.  It is a legislative procedure that facilitates closed-door deal making.  While corporations are present for trade negotiations, Congress and the public are not.

“Trade deals are sending more and more of our jobs and industries overseas. And the scope of trade negotiations extends beyond questions of tariffs, into policies that affect a broad range of U.S. standards – from the safety of our workplaces to the prices paid for life-saving medicines. The stakes are too high for Congress to tie its own hands when it comes to modifying trade deals it had little role in developing in the first place.”

AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders on the 50th anniversary of the “War on Poverty” Wed, 08 Jan 2014 12:00:00 -0500 AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders issued the following statement today on the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty.

“Today we recognize the important successes of Pres. Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty initiatives.  Establishing Medicare and creating cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security cut in half the poverty rate for seniors. Without the many programs that have their roots in that era -- including Medicaid, food stamps (SNAP), subsidized child care, Head Start, housing assistance and many others -- the overall poverty rate would be nearly double what it is today.

“Every day, AFSCME members work to maximize the effectiveness of anti-poverty programs. Our members determine eligibility for social insurance and anti-poverty programs, and provide child care and home care services for the elderly and persons with disabilities. 

“But the safety net alone cannot bring about shared economic prosperity. Since mid-2009, 95 percent of all increased income in the U.S. went to the top 1 percent – the ultra-rich. Worsening income inequality is threatening the very existence of the middle class. To protect and grow the middle class, we must remove impediments to union organizing for public and private sector workers.  Congress must pass legislation that will create jobs. We must increase the federal minimum wage so jobs pay enough to lift families out of poverty.  And, wealthy individuals and corporations must pay their fair share in taxes to fund job growth and other initiatives that will rebuild the middle class.

“At the same time, we must protect and strengthen safety net programs.  Most immediately, Congress must continue jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed.  And, as we mark this important War on Poverty anniversary, anti-poverty programs should receive adequate congressional support, so they can serve all who are eligible.” 

AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders on the Extension of Emergency Unemployment Insurance Tue, 07 Jan 2014 12:00:00 -0500 AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders issued the following statement today on the Senate’s vote to advance debate on emergency unemployment insurance benefits:

"Unemployment insurance is a lifeline for millions of Americans who lost their jobs through no fault of their own. Today, the Senate took an important step to provide some much-needed relief, but their vote advancing debate on unemployment insurance is only a first step toward a temporary fix and not a long-term solution.

“Denying extended unemployment insurance benefits to 1.3 million out-of-work Americans and their families defies logic as our nation tries to rebuild economically. These benefits should have never expired in the first place. Sadly, only six Republicans crossed the aisle to support their constituents. It may be a new year, but the Republican agenda is bogged down by more of the same, harmful anti-worker policies.

“Last year Republicans tried to end Medicare as we know it, cut $40 billion from food assistance, and even shut down the government just to protect tax loopholes for corporations and the wealthy.

“The unemployed are not nameless or faceless. They are parents with children whose lives hang in the balance as they continue their job search in a recovering economy and try to put food on the table for their families. The time is now for Congress to stand up for working people.”

Statement of AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders on the Death of Nelson Mandela — a Champion of Democracy, Justice and Freedom Thu, 05 Dec 2013 00:00:00 -0500 AFSCME joins the world in mourning the death of Nelson Mandela a champion of democracy, justice and freedom.

President Mandela said, “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”

Nelson Mandela changed the course of history by liberating an oppressed nation in pursuit of racial equality. The world’s most famous, political prisoner refused to let 27 years of imprisonment deter him from ending apartheid and bringing democracy to South Africa. Throughout his life he carried a message of hope, peace, equality and non-violence.

Through AFSCME’s support of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, we were fortunate to establish a special relationship with Mandela. He addressed our 1990 International Convention in Miami after his release from prison, inspiring thousands of union activists with his courage, perseverance and his dedication to South Africa and its people.

AFSCME is eternally grateful to President Mandela for the courage and dignity he brought to the global fight for human rights.



AFSCME's Saunders: “Ruling Paves The Way For The Decimation Of Detroit’s Working Class.” Wed, 04 Dec 2013 12:00:00 -0500 AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders issued the following statement today on the Detroit bankruptcy eligibility ruling: 

AFSCME will appeal today’s ruling and will continue to fight back against this assault on the men and women who have worked hard for the City of Detroit.

Today’s ruling helps pave the way for Gov. Rick Snyder’s decimation of Detroit’s working class. If his assault on pensions is left to stand, we will have homeless, hungry retirees on the streets of Detroit.

The Detroit bankruptcy is not just about legality – it is also about morality. AFSCME members in Detroit have taken pay cut after pay cut. The average pension is approximately $19,000 a year. Strong cities are not built by squeezing retirees and dismantling the public sector. It will take real solutions to move Detroit forward and this bankruptcy is just a sorry substitute for the governor’s lack of vision for Detroit and all of Michigan.

Gov. Snyder took an oath to uphold the Michigan constitution, and he has ignored that oath. He has made it clear that his goal is to gut vested pension benefits. The Michigan constitution says these benefits are protected, and they cannot be reduced or impaired.

Statement of AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders: This is a major step toward resolving Senate obstructionism Thu, 21 Nov 2013 17:10:00 -0500 “Washington is broken and the extreme partisan gridlock in the Senate is untenable.

“Senator Reid did the right thing in moving to change Senate rules to allow a majority vote on most executive branch nominations. This is a major step toward resolving Senate obstructionism.”

AFSCME’S SAUNDERS: "This shutdown ordeal has come to an end. It should never happen again." Thu, 17 Oct 2013 14:58:00 -0500 AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders issued the following statement today regarding a deal reached in Congress to end the federal government shutdown and avoid default on the nation’s debts: 

“For two weeks, Republican congressional leaders were derelict in their duty.  They allowed a fringe element in their party – one vastly out of step with American values and priorities -- to shut our government down and bring the country to the brink of defaulting on its financial obligations.  Their actions demonstrated a callous disregard for this nation’s citizens, businesses and the economy.

“The agreement reached is by no means perfect because it continues the Draconian cuts in public services until the next deadline in January.  But after 16 days, this shutdown ordeal has come to an end.  It should never happen again. The hardworking women and men of this country deserve better.”

AFSCME’s Saunders: “It’s Time for Governing to Take Precedence over Partisan Posturing” Tue, 01 Oct 2013 10:03:00 -0500 AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders issued the following statement today regarding the federal government shutdown.

“Radical tea-party Republicans pushed this country right to the tipping point. The nation is collectively fed up with their political theatrics. It is time for governing to take precedence over partisan posturing.

“Instead of working to make this country stronger, they are obsessing over old political fights and throwing a nationwide temper tantrum that harms the economy, hurts our communities and puts people out of work. 

“Their misguided, vendetta-fueled agenda – to repeal the Affordable Care Act, slash Medicare and Medicaid, cut Social Security and other vital services while refusing to make the wealthy and large corporations pay their fair share – must be stopped.”

AFSCME Applauds Department of Labor for Providing Home Care Workers Wage and Hour Protections Tue, 17 Sep 2013 13:41:00 -0500 AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders issued the following statement today after the Department of Labor updated regulations in the Fair Labor Standards Act. The new regulations will provide most home care workers with basic federal wage and hour protections.

“Today the Department of Labor corrected a longstanding injustice by providing home care workers minimum wage and overtime protections. Home care workers, for far too long, were invisible, and today they are invisible no more. These women and men who help our mothers, fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers live at home with dignity will now be given the respect afforded to most other workers. Just as home care providers provide a lifeline for millions of Americans, today Secretary Perez and the Obama administration did the same for them.”

Secretary-Treasurer Reyes: Violence Against Women Act Needs Protection, Not Cuts, on Its Anniversary Fri, 13 Sep 2013 19:59:00 -0500 Today we celebrate the 19th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act, a law that has made a real difference in the lives of many women in this country. It gives local, state, and federal authorities more power and resources to prosecute violent crimes against women.

The law created a national hotline for victims, established a network of shelters, and expanded housing assistance for victims who flee their homes to escape violence. Since the law was signed by Pres. Bill Clinton on Sept. 13, 1994, domestic violence rates against women have declined by 64 percent. This amounts to real progress.

But as President Obama put it when he signed a renewal and expansion of VAWA this March, “We cannot let up – not when domestic violence still kills three women a day, not when one in five women will be a victim of rape in their lifetime, not when one in three women is abused by a partner.”

This year’s renewal of VAWA, which AFSCME supported 19 years ago, is bittersweet. Across-the-board cuts brought about by sequestration are slashing funding and weakening the programs we just fought to continue and strengthen. If Congress does not take positive action to stop the sequester cuts:

  • 112,000 fewer victims will have access to domestic violence programs and shelters;
  • 64,000 fewer victims will receive assistance in obtaining protection orders and other services;
  • Some programs that meet the unique needs of rape and sexual assault victims will be compromised; and
  • Programs that provide services to children and youth exposed to violence will face cuts.

We must continue to demand a fully funded Violence Against Women Act, as AFSCME members and allies have at every turn when the law has been threatened. Just this year, the law almost became a victim of the right-wing, deadlocked Congress after it expired, but AFSCME members pressured lawmakers to do the right thing. The reauthorized version in place today is more inclusive and beneficial than ever.

Here are some of the important developments. It extends federal protections and resources to gay or transgender persons, as well as Native American women victimized on tribal lands by non-Indian men, and undocumented immigrants. Victims of domestic violence who lack legal status can receive the help they need without fear of deportation. And Native American women will no longer suffer twice by seeing their abusers go free. For them, the law’s new provisions are long overdue.

AFSCME will continue to encourage its affiliates to provide counseling and other support services for victims of domestic violence. And as we celebrate its anniversary, we renew our commitment to making VAWA a legislative priority and ensure it is preserved and fully funded.

Statement by Secretary-Treasurer Laura Reyes on the 23rd Anniversary of the ADA Fri, 26 Jul 2013 12:00:00 -0500 Today, we celebrate the 23rd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a farsighted law that continues to improve the lives of millions of Americans each day.

In protecting all Americans from potential discrimination based on disability, the ADA, signed in 1990, was a major achievement for human rights and social justice, protecting every citizen’s right to participate fully in the social and economic life of our country.

AFSCME lobbied for passage of the ADA, and since its passage, we have helped our members take full advantage of its protections. The law is rooted in the principle that discrimination is a threat to individual freedom and that each person’s life has merit – a principle for which AFSCME has always fought. It aligns closely with our mission to protect workers’ rights and ensure fair treatment in the workplace.

As the mother of a young man who was born with a disability, I am proud of what our country achieved through the Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, which broadened protections for disabled workers. These laws aid millions of people living with disabilities, their families and their caregivers. They made a difference in my life, and that of my son, Damian, as we navigated medical care, education, and everything else that comes with growing up with a disability.

It is appropriate on this anniversary that we remember the critical role of home care providers in caring for individuals with disabilities. They must have basic protections that guarantee their dignity and fair treatment in the workplace as they work with the most medically fragile in our communities. Across the country, home care providers are coming together through AFSCME to build their union and advocate for their clients. In Vermont, as we speak, we are helping more than 7,000 home care providers form their own union. They join home care providers in California, Iowa and Maryland, among others states, who have unionized through AFSCME.

As a home care provider and organizer myself, I am proud of what our union achieved in defending these workers’ rights and dignity, and in the advocacy work they performed through AFSCME on behalf of their clients. The benefits and success of the Americans with Disabilities Act would not be possible without those whose work is devoted to caring for individuals with disabilities. Today, as we celebrate this landmark piece of legislation, it is just as important to stand with home care providers throughout our nation and help them improve their own quality of life.

Court Rules in Favor of AFSCME Members, Detroit Bankruptcy Illegal Fri, 19 Jul 2013 18:06:00 -0500 Governor Snyder and Kevin Orr are not above the law and cannot ignore the Michigan constitution. AFSCME members challenged Snyder in court over the unlawful bankruptcy authorization that cleared the way for Detroit Emergency Manager Kevin Orr to attack public worker pensions.

Today, the judge ruled against Snyder and Orr and accused them of using bankruptcy as a backdoor around the state constitutional protection of pension benefits.

We urge Snyder and Orr to immediately abandon their course of action and to follow the judge’s order directing “the Emergency Manager to immediately withdraw the Chapter 9 petition” and to “not authorize any further Chapter 9 filing that threatens to diminish or impair accrued pension benefits.”

There is too much at stake to play political games with the hard earned retirement security of Detroit’s public workers. These retirees worked hard and played by the rules. The average general city employee pension is less than $18,000 per year, attacking these pensions is not only unfair, it is illegal.