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AFSCME Local 2021 members celebrate pay raises they helped secure through their union

San Antonio, Texas. (Photo credit: Getty Images)
By Luis Botello Faz ·

After a year of relentless work, members of AFSCME San Antonio Local 2021 are celebrating imminent bonus checks that are financed by American Rescue Plan Act (APRA) funds.

Facing an uphill battle after San Antonio City Manager Erik Walsh opposed including the premium pay in the initial draft of the ARPA spending plan, Local 2021 members and city employees signed petitions, sent hundreds of emails, made hundreds of calls, lobbied council members and generated local media coverage to achieve this win.

Walsh announced in late April that all current city employees will each receive one-time $1,000 bonus checks in June. The money is coming from $10 million in ARPA funds. All told, the city received nearly $327 million through ARPA, a federal law that AFSCME members fought hard to pass.

This victory, which is set to benefit more than 7,000 civilian employees, is another example of the difference a union makes in working people’s lives. It also marks the latest achievement for Local 2021 members, who secured a 4% permanent pay raise, a 1% one-time lump sum payment and protected health care benefits in the city’s budget last year.

“After phone calls and letter writing campaigns, we were able to secure $1,000 for every city worker. These checks are another significant step in building a better system with fairer wages and benefits for civilian employees,” said Sheri Van Horsen, executive director of Local 2021. 

Many AFSCME members performed essential work throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Activists have persisted in seeking fair compensation for the sacrifices workers made during some of the most difficult times San Antonio has ever faced.

Local 2021 member Romelia Parvinchi said members of the public supported city employees receiving bonuses.

“I went to almost all public town hall meetings across the city and not one person from the public said no,” said Parvinchi, a big rig driver for the Department of Public Works. “Even citizens were saying city employees deserve the ARPA money for doing public service work during a pandemic. We risked our lives to keep San Antonians safe and public services operating.”

Though securing the bonuses is a huge victory and a step in the right direction, there is still work to do. Members of Local 2021 are now advocating for 5% or more in the current budget for across-the-board cost of living allowances (COLAs).

“To build on our successes and push for more just compensation, we must continue to build our union,” said Van Horsen. 

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