AFSCME.org Press Release Feed http://www.afscme.org/rss/press-releases AFSCME.org Press Releases Tue, 3 May 2011 05:00:00 +0000 AMPS en hourly 1 AFSCME Statement on DOL Announcement re: Overtime Protections For Home Care Workers http://www.afscme.org/news/press-room/press-releases/2014/afscme-statement-on-dol-announcement-re-overtime-protections-for-home-care-workers Tue, 07 Oct 2014 00:00:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/news/press-room/press-releases/2014/afscme-statement-on-dol-announcement-re-overtime-protections-for-home-care-workers Contact: Erick Sanchez, 202-429-5074

WASHINGTON, DC –AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders issued the following statement in response to the Department of Labor’s announcement concerning the implementation of the overtime rule for home care workers:

“We support the administration’s continuing commitment to implementation of overtime protections for home care workers as scheduled. Home care workers finally will be afforded the same overtime protections as the rest of the U.S. workforce beginning Jan 1, 2015. 

“Home care workers, many of whom are female, single heads-of-households and earn barely above the minimum wage, deserve the overtime protections that have existed for most of the American workforce for nearly 80 years. The disabled and elderly clients they serve deserve the quality services made possible by a stable and secure workforce.

“States and other employers have been on notice for more than a year that minimum wage and overtime protections would be extended to home care workers. Although some states continue to claim that they are unprepared to make the administrative changes to facilitate this basic protection, they should be able to fully comply in short order and the DOL has indicated it will assist them with implementation. Fortunately, states employing the vast majority of home care workers have indicated they will begin applying the overtime and minimum wage rule on January 1. 

“We call on all states to act responsibly in order to extend the protections of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to home care workers as quickly as possible.” 

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AFSCME's 1.6 million members provide the vital services that make America happen. With members in hundreds of different occupations — from nurses to corrections officers, child care providers to sanitation workers — AFSCME advocates for fairness in the workplace, excellence in public services and prosperity and opportunity for all working families.

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Stop Corporate Inversion: Restore Economic Patriotism http://www.afscme.org/news/press-room/press-releases/2014/stop-corporate-inversion-restore-economic-patriotism Tue, 23 Sep 2014 17:06:50 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/news/press-room/press-releases/2014/stop-corporate-inversion-restore-economic-patriotism AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders issued the following statement in response to the Administration’s efforts to limit corporate inversions.

“If companies want the benefits of being an American company, they must pay their fair share of taxes here. This is what’s fair and it’s what the American people expect.

“Today, the Administration took much-needed action to limit corporate tax inversions. This is an important first step, but more needs to be done to restore our economic patriotism and stop U.S. companies from taking refuge in other countries to avoid paying their fair share.

“We can no longer allow corporate tax dodgers to unfairly burden taxpayers, small businesses and hardworking Americans. We look forward to further needed action by the U.S. Department of Treasury. Congress has to act now to stop this new craze in corporate tax dodging and pass solid legislation to eliminate corporate tax loopholes.”

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Public Service Union Champions Higher Education http://www.afscme.org/news/press-room/press-releases/2014/public-service-union-champions-higher-education Mon, 22 Sep 2014 12:40:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/news/press-room/press-releases/2014/public-service-union-champions-higher-education The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), AFL-CIO, the nation's largest  public services employees union, announced today a partnership with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) in its Union Scholars Program to provide educational opportunities and scholarships to talented students of color from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and other colleges and universities.

"Our commitment to students of color at historically black and other colleges and universities is unwavering," said AFSCME President Lee Saunders. "AFSCME's partnership with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund enables us to continue a tradition of developing young leaders who are dedicated and passionate about making a difference in our society." 

"HBCUs have a history of educating minorities, which contributes to the diversity of today's workforce," said TMCF President & CEO Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.  "The increased cost of college, along with stricter grant and loan payments, make gifts like this more important, and demonstrates AFSCME's commitment to improve education and build a pipeline for tomorrow's workforce."

Named for Justice Thurgood Marshall, the first African American on the U.S. Supreme Court, TMCF is the only national organization providing scholarships and programmatic and capacity-building support to the 47 publicly supported HBCUs, medical schools and law schools. TMCF supports and represents nearly 300,000 students from its member schools, and has awarded more than $200 million in financial assistance.

AFSCME launched its Union Scholars Program in 2003 and, since its inception, students from more than 40 institutions of higher learning have participated. Students must be a second-semester sophomore or junior with a minimum 2.5 grade point average majoring in American Studies, Ethnic Studies, History, Labor Studies, Political Science, Psychology, Public Policy, Social Work, Sociology, Women's Studies and other fields of study.

The AFSCME Union Scholars Program provides students with an internship and the opportunity to earn money for college. They work on the frontlines of organizing campaigns, helping workers gain a voice on the job and better their lives for themselves and their families.

AFSCME has a long history of activism and a historic connection with civil rights. On April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed in Memphis, where he'd gone to support the 1,300 black sanitation workers of AFSCME Local 1733 in their strike for better pay, union recognition and respect.

Today, AFSCME represents 1.6 million members, including home care and child care workers, nurses, clerical workers and sanitation workers and countless others who work for cities, counties, states, the federal government and universities, non-profit agencies and private companies. 

ABOUT THE THURGOOD MARSHALL COLLEGE FUND (TMCF)
TMCF is named for the U.S. Supreme Court's first African-American Justice. Established in 1987, TMCF supports and represents nearly 300,000 students attending its 47 member-schools that include public Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), medical schools and law schools. Through its scholarships and programs, TMCF plays a key role in preparing the leaders of tomorrow. Visit TMCF at www.thurgoodmarshallcollegefund.org.

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AFSCME Stands in Solidarity with Ferguson Community http://www.afscme.org/news/press-room/press-releases/2014/afscme-stands-in-solidarity-with-ferguson-community Wed, 20 Aug 2014 17:35:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/news/press-room/press-releases/2014/afscme-stands-in-solidarity-with-ferguson-community AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders issued the following statement in regards to the situation in Ferguson, Missouri:

“The thoughts and prayers of our union, AFSCME, are with the family of Michael Brown. As parents, as community members, and as members of a union that works each day for economic and social justice, our hearts go out to them.

“Our union stands in solidarity with the entire Ferguson community. And we stand with our labor and faith allies to urge a peaceful resolution to this tragic situation.”

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An Increase in the Minimum Wage Is Long Past Due http://www.afscme.org/news/press-room/press-releases/2014/an-increase-in-the-minimum-wage-is-long-past-due Thu, 24 Jul 2014 17:43:42 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/news/press-room/press-releases/2014/an-increase-in-the-minimum-wage-is-long-past-due AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders issued the following statement marking the fifth anniversary of the last federal minimum wage increase and urging Congress to pass a long-overdue additional increase:

“It has been seven years since Congress passed a minimum wage increase and five long years since that increase, to $7.25, went into effect. Today, that minimum is well below what hardworking Americans need to get by, and what our economy needs to get moving again.

“The last minimum wage adjustment occurred as our nation struggled with a crippling recession and our communities were hit with home foreclosures because of predatory loans. While that toxic economic climate is beginning to lift, too many families are having difficulty making ends meet.

“Last year, impatient for Congress to act, 13 states took it upon themselves to raise their minimum wages because they understood that the current wage does not work for middle-class families and their overall economies. Today, we repeat the call for Congress to pass legislation that would raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 by 2015.

“Each member of Congress could receive a $2,800 cost-of-living increase in January 2015, and it’s only right that they should vote to give those earning the minimum wage this small increase.”

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The Affordable Care Act ‘Will Continue to Help Families’ http://www.afscme.org/news/press-room/press-releases/2014/the-affordable-care-act-will-continue-to-help-families Wed, 23 Jul 2014 10:11:05 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/news/press-room/press-releases/2014/the-affordable-care-act-will-continue-to-help-families AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders issued the following statement today on the D.C. Court of Appeals ruling in Halbig v. Burwell, which challenges tax credits for people who purchased insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act through the federal health marketplace.

“The ruling in Halbig v. Burwell does not change the fact that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is working to provide more Americans with health care they can afford. 

“The number of uninsured adults and young adults has fallen sharply. Millions of Americans are no longer at the mercy of insurance companies, thanks to protections in the Affordable Care Act that stop denials of coverage based on pre-existing conditions. 

“The ruling in Halbig v. Burwell will not prevail. The ACA will continue to help families to achieve economic security through the availability of tax credits to purchase the coverage they need.

“Direct and indirect efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act are misguided and will not stand the test of time.”

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Home Care, Child Care Providers Resolute in Face of Supreme Court Decision http://www.afscme.org/news/press-room/press-releases/2014/home-care-child-care-providers-resolute-in-face-of-supreme-court-decision Mon, 30 Jun 2014 14:10:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/news/press-room/press-releases/2014/home-care-child-care-providers-resolute-in-face-of-supreme-court-decision AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders said home care and child care workers will continue to stand up for quality care in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling in Harris v. Quinn today.

“Today’s Supreme Court decision does not dampen the resolve of home care workers and child care providers to come together to have a strong voice for good jobs and to give care to millions of seniors, people with disabilities and children,” said AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders.

The ruling places at risk a system of consumer-directed home care that has proved successful in raising wages, providing affordable care and increasing training. The number of elderly Americans will increase dramatically in the coming years.

Child care workers make it possible for working parents to support their families without the agony of trying to juggle their jobs and their kids. States need to build a stable, qualified workforce to meet the growing need for home care and child care – and having a strong union for care providers is the approach that has proven most effective.

Today’s ruling did not hand anti-worker extremists the victory they’d been hoping for because the Court did not revoke collective bargaining rights for public service workers or care providers. It did not eliminate existing contracts.

“That would have been a fundamental gutting of the American Dream,” Saunders said. “But make no mistake – Justice Alito’s opinion made clear that the relentless assault on workers’ rights will not abate.”

As always, AFSCME members nationwide will remain steadfast and fight for the simple rights and dignity that every working American deserves. A court ruling doesn’t change our obligation as proud union workers and it doesn’t negate our obligation to keep fighting to restore the American middle class.

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AFSCME Stands in Solidarity with Edward Lane http://www.afscme.org/news/press-room/press-releases/2014/afscme-stands-in-solidarity-with-edward-lane Thu, 19 Jun 2014 15:49:57 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/news/press-room/press-releases/2014/afscme-stands-in-solidarity-with-edward-lane AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders issued this statement following the Supreme Court ruling in Lane v. Franks.

“Today’s ruling by the Supreme Court is a victory for free speech by public employees.  Edward Lane deserved to be rewarded, not fired, for speaking the truth and putting students first.  All too often it is the everyday heroes like teachers, first responders and other public service workers who must speak up on behalf of their students and communities, and they should not be punished but rather protected by the law.

“But we are disappointed that the Court’s decision did not go far enough and establish a clear rule that sworn testimony by public employees should never be the basis for any retaliatory action by a public employer. Those in the public service should not have to worry about losing their jobs when they are witnesses before a court, a key part of our democracy.

“AFSCME stands in solidarity with Edward Lane, and will continue to seek real solutions to protect the constitutional rights of all public service workers.”

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AFSCME Stands with Teachers in Vergara v. California http://www.afscme.org/news/press-room/press-releases/2014/afscme-stands-with-teachers-in-vergara-v-california Wed, 11 Jun 2014 12:00:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/news/press-room/press-releases/2014/afscme-stands-with-teachers-in-vergara-v-california AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders issued this statement following the Los Angeles County Superior Court’s decision in Vergara v. California.

“The decision rendered yesterday by a Superior Court judge in Vergara v. California threatens to punish and silence hundreds of thousands of dedicated public school teachers who work day in and day out to help students achieve their potential. This ruling unnecessarily pits teachers against students, while ignoring what really prevents students from receiving a quality education: unfair and unequal funding, damaging segregation and high rates of poverty.

“No one should tolerate bad teachers in the classroom. There is no argument about that. But hard-working professionals, who devoted their careers to their students, should not be unfairly stripped of their rights and job security on a judicial whim.

“This fight isn’t over. AFSCME stands in solidarity with proud educators nationwide as they seek real solutions to the challenges facing students in our nation’s public schools.”

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AFSCME Lauds Representative Lynch’s Bill Establishing National EMS Memorial, Urges Swift Passage http://www.afscme.org/news/press-room/press-releases/2014/afscme-lauds-representative-lynchs-bill-establishing-national-ems-memorial-urges-swift-passage Tue, 27 May 2014 17:53:34 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/news/press-room/press-releases/2014/afscme-lauds-representative-lynchs-bill-establishing-national-ems-memorial-urges-swift-passage “Emergency medical services (EMS) personnel are often our nation’s first line of defense in public safety emergencies such as terrorist attacks, natural and man-made disasters and medical crises. These dedicated women and men put their lives on the line every day to provide critical care to their patients and the public. Tragically, more than 600 EMS workers gave their lives while serving the public and doing their job.

I want to thank Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA) for introducing this important legislation and urge Congress to pass H.R. 4690 without delay. As the fastest growing union for EMS workers, AFSCME is proud of the 23,000 EMS personnel we represent, and we will work to pass this legislation to ensure those who made the ultimate sacrifice, and their families and loved ones are properly recognized.”

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AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders on National Police Week http://www.afscme.org/news/press-room/press-releases/2014/afscme-pres-lee-saunders-on-national-police-week Thu, 15 May 2014 12:00:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/news/press-room/press-releases/2014/afscme-pres-lee-saunders-on-national-police-week AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders issued the following statement in honor of National Police Week:

“In 1962, President John F. Kennedy proclaimed May 15 National Peace Officers Memorial Day and the calendar week in which May 15 falls as National Police Week. This week, tens of thousands of police officers from across our country will come to Washington, DC, to remember and honor their sisters and brothers who fell in the line of duty.

In 2013, 111 federal, state and local police officers were killed while performing their jobs. We remember State Troopers Tage Toll, Scott Johnson, and Gabe Rich, members of Public Safety Employee Employees Association/AFSCME Local 803 in Alaska. Trooper Toll passed away in March 2013, and Troopers Johnson and Rich passed away earlier this month.

“Law enforcement officers work hard to keep our families and communities safe. AFSCME has represented law enforcement officers since 1945. Today we represent more than 100,000 public safety personnel and we are proud of the difficult work they do, often under dangerous conditions, walking their beats and patrolling our communities. This week, we join law enforcement officers nationwide in paying tribute to those who lost their lives in the line of duty, and we thank them as well for risking all every day to keep us safe.

“AFSCME is proud to support the National Law Enforcement Memorial and Museum Foundation in recognition of the ultimate sacrifice many law enforcement officers made. Trooper Toll will be added to the memorial this year, and Troopers Johnson and Rich will be added next year.”

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Statement of AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders: Congress Must Guarantee the Right to Vote http://www.afscme.org/news/press-room/press-releases/2014/statement-of-afscme-pres-lee-saunders-congress-must-guarantee-the-right-to-vote Thu, 15 May 2014 10:17:16 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/news/press-room/press-releases/2014/statement-of-afscme-pres-lee-saunders-congress-must-guarantee-the-right-to-vote AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders issued the following statement today urging Congress to take action on the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014 (H.R. 3899).

“James Chaney, Medgar Evers, Viola Liuzzo, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner aren’t household names, but these activists stood at the forefront in the fight for voting rights and they gave their lives so that others could participate in the political process. Today, we remember their tireless work and demand justice at the ballot box for all Americans in their names.

“Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act that ensured all Americans had access to the ballot box free of past racial restrictions. It is imperative that Congress take action to repair the damage that has been done to the most important piece of civil rights legislation in modern history by supporting the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014 (H.R. 3899). I urge immediate action by the U.S. House of Representatives.

“The Voting Rights Amendment Act is a first step toward ensuring that all citizens can exercise their right to vote.”

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AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders on Public Service Recognition Week http://www.afscme.org/news/press-room/press-releases/2014/afscme-pres-lee-saunders-on-public-service-recognition-week Tue, 06 May 2014 16:19:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/news/press-room/press-releases/2014/afscme-pres-lee-saunders-on-public-service-recognition-week AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders made the following statement regarding Public Service Recognition Week, May 4-10:

“This week, we honor our 1.6 million sisters and brothers and all public sector workers who serve our nation as federal, state, county and local government employees, providing the services that make our communities work. They are the nurses, librarians, law enforcement & corrections officers, child care providers, EMTs, sanitation workers, hospital workers, social workers, zoo keepers and many more who prove every day the value of a vibrant public sector.

“Unfortunately, these men and women have been the targets of extremists who disregard and minimize the contributions of public service workers and the attacks come at a high price. Public service workers enhance the quality of life in our country – without them, our neighborhoods are less safe and families have less access to vital services during difficult economic times.  From protecting our children to paving our roads to being the first to rush to a disaster, public service workers form the government all citizens rely on.

“We must all honor the work of our sisters and brothers by standing united in the struggle for quality public services.”

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AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders on Corrections Officers and Employees Week http://www.afscme.org/news/press-room/press-releases/2014/afscme-pres-lee-saunders-on-corrections-officers-and-employees-week Sun, 04 May 2014 12:00:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/news/press-room/press-releases/2014/afscme-pres-lee-saunders-on-corrections-officers-and-employees-week AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders made the following statement for Corrections Officers and Employees Week, which starts May 4 and runs until May 10:

“Corrections officers and employees have some of the most dangerous jobs in the country. Without them, our communities would be less safe and our prison system would be in jeopardy. During National Corrections Officers and Employees Week, we remember the extraordinary services provided to us by our 85,000 sisters and brothers in AFSCME Corrections United and by officers and employees everywhere. These women and men work hard in both maximum and minimum-security facilities, state prisons and county jails.

“We will always honor the sacrifices corrections employees make on our behalf by standing with them in their struggle, which is also ours. We will continue to oppose prison privatization and support our members’ calls for safety and dignity on the job, not only to ensure public safety, but also because it’s the right thing to do by our communities and our members.”

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AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders on May Day http://www.afscme.org/news/press-room/press-releases/2014/afscme-pres-lee-saunders-on-may-day Thu, 01 May 2014 10:55:32 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/news/press-room/press-releases/2014/afscme-pres-lee-saunders-on-may-day AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders made the following statement on May Day:

“Every year, working people around the world come together to commemorate May Day and celebrate workers’ contributions to our communities. Today, we are united with the simple message that workers’ rights should be universally acknowledged and that every person deserves the opportunity to achieve a better life for themselves and their families.

“This nation was built by hardworking people and thrives on the labor of such workers today, including the 1.6 million members of AFSCME. At a time in the life of our country when achievement of the American Dream eludes too many families, when students graduate from college with mountains of debt, when retirement security seems certain for only a privileged few who have been fortunate enough to inherit massive wealth, workers from all walks of life must stand together today and every day to demand fairness and opportunity.  Unions have always been a vehicle, helping to create a strong middle class for working families.  This is why we urge Congress to act quickly to pass comprehensive immigration reform and raise the minimum wage. This is why we continue to call attention to the economic inequality that threatens the extinction of our middle class. This is why we fight so hard for policies that help level the playing field.”

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AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders Statement on HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius http://www.afscme.org/news/press-room/press-releases/2014/afscme-pres-lee-saunders-statement-on-hhs-secretary-kathleen-sebelius Fri, 11 Apr 2014 15:48:14 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/news/press-room/press-releases/2014/afscme-pres-lee-saunders-statement-on-hhs-secretary-kathleen-sebelius 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.”

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AFSCME President Blasts House Approval of Budget for Wealthy http://www.afscme.org/news/press-room/press-releases/2014/afscme-president-blasts-house-approval-of-budget-for-the-wealthy Thu, 10 Apr 2014 15:11:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/news/press-room/press-releases/2014/afscme-president-blasts-house-approval-of-budget-for-the-wealthy 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.”

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Our Mothers, Wives and Daughters Deserve Equal Pay for Equal Work http://www.afscme.org/news/press-room/press-releases/2014/our-mothers-wives-and-daughters-deserve-equal-pay-for-equal-work Tue, 08 Apr 2014 10:32:01 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/news/press-room/press-releases/2014/our-mothers-wives-and-daughters-deserve-equal-pay-for-equal-work 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.”

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AFSCME Applauds Senate Approval of Jobless Aid and Calls on House to Act Without Delay http://www.afscme.org/news/press-room/press-releases/2014/afscme-applauds-senate-approval-of-jobless-aid-and-calls-on-house-to-act-without-delay Mon, 07 Apr 2014 19:30:19 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/news/press-room/press-releases/2014/afscme-applauds-senate-approval-of-jobless-aid-and-calls-on-house-to-act-without-delay 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.” 

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“The dream lives on when we take a stand against injustice.” http://www.afscme.org/news/press-room/press-releases/2014/the-dream-lives-on-when-we-take-a-stand-against-injustice Fri, 04 Apr 2014 10:26:45 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/news/press-room/press-releases/2014/the-dream-lives-on-when-we-take-a-stand-against-injustice 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.”

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AFSCME's Saunders: "Supreme Court Ruling is a Step Backwards" http://www.afscme.org/news/press-room/press-releases/2014/afscmes-saunders-supreme-court-ruling-is-a-step-backwards Wed, 02 Apr 2014 18:00:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/news/press-room/press-releases/2014/afscmes-saunders-supreme-court-ruling-is-a-step-backwards 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.”

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AFSCME’s Saunders on GOP Tax Plan: “Give Us a Break” http://www.afscme.org/news/press-room/press-releases/2014/afscmes-saunders-on-gop-tax-plan-give-us-a-break Wed, 26 Feb 2014 12:00:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/news/press-room/press-releases/2014/afscmes-saunders-on-gop-tax-plan-give-us-a-break 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.”

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AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders on the Retirement of Rep. John Dingell http://www.afscme.org/news/press-room/press-releases/2014/afscme-pres-lee-saunders-on-the-retirement-of-rep-john-dingell Tue, 25 Feb 2014 12:00:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/news/press-room/press-releases/2014/afscme-pres-lee-saunders-on-the-retirement-of-rep-john-dingell 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.”

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Institutional Investors Press Companies for Disclosure of Lobbying in 2014 http://www.afscme.org/news/press-room/press-releases/2014/institutional-investors Tue, 18 Feb 2014 16:40:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/news/press-room/press-releases/2014/institutional-investors 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)
IBM (IBM)
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
AFL-CIO
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

Foundations

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

Individuals

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.

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Rep. Henry Waxman: Service with Courage http://www.afscme.org/news/press-room/press-releases/2014/rep-henry-waxman-service-with-courage Fri, 31 Jan 2014 12:00:00 -0500 http://www.afscme.org/news/press-room/press-releases/2014/rep-henry-waxman-service-with-courage 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.”

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