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AFSCME members share stories of progress over the last two years

Photo Credit: Getty Images
AFSCME members share stories of progress over the last two years
By AFSCME Staff ·

AFSCME members joined President Lee Saunders in a tele-town hall this week to share their stories of how things have improved for them and their communities over the past couple of years.

“For decades, working people have confronted a rigged system that has kept us from getting ahead no matter how hard we work,” Saunders said to thousands of our union’s members. “Corporate special interests called the shots. Politicians in Washington more often than not gave us the cold shoulder.”

But things have changed under President Joe Biden.

“Things are starting to turn around,” Saunders said. “We now have leaders at the federal level who understand the challenges facing working families, who share our values and fight for them, who put our interests front and center when they’re making big decisions.”

AFSCME · Tele-Town Hall 9/12/22

The victories that AFSCME members have helped achieve over the past two years include passage of the American Rescue Plan, which brought the economy back from the brink and put money in the pockets of working families; passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which is creating good union jobs while fixing and upgrading critical infrastructure in communities across the country; passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, which will lower costs, including prescription drug costs, and fight climate change, among other things; and student debt relief, which will help up to 43 million people lower the balances of their student loans.

“The bottom line is this: working people are finally catching a break,” Saunders said. “Job growth is strong. After months and months of high prices putting the squeeze on working families, there are signs that inflation is coming under control, while average hourly earnings are up more than 5% from a year ago.”

AFSCME members on the call agreed.

Laura Morand, president of AFSCME Local 2627 (District Council 37) in New York City, had nearly $200,000 of her student loans forgiven through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.

“I can’t begin to explain what this meant for me and my family,” she said. “I thought I was going to die with the debt. Now, I can plan for things I never thought I could plan for. I can live a life I never thought I’d live. I feel like I can finally breathe.”

Craig Missel, a member of AFSCME Retirees Chapter 31 who spent his career at the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, said he suffers from Type I diabetes and has watched the cost of insulin skyrocket out of control.

Together with his wife, who is also a diabetic, they have struggled to afford the cost of treatment.

“This year alone, my wife and I have paid over seven thousand dollars for our deductibles and our out of pocket for those medications,” he said.

But that is about to change with the Inflation Reduction Act, which puts a $35 monthly cap on the cost of insulin for Medicare recipients.

“This is going to be a game-changer for my household and millions of other retirees like me,” Missel added.

Chris McDonald, a wastewater collections inspector for the City of Cincinnati and president of AFSCME Local 240 (Ohio Council 8), said the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will make a huge difference to communities like his.

McDonald noted that the infrastructure law will provide a total of nearly $12 billion for drinking water projects and $12 billion for wastewater projects. Another $15 billion will help cities replace their aging lead pipes, and $5 billion will help remove dangerous chemicals from drinking water.

“Cities across our country need help building a modern infrastructure to support their growth and maintain healthy drinking water for al their residents,” he said. “They need help making improvements to protect themselves from unforeseen climate events.”

AFSCME members were joined on the call by U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh, who said our union’s members and retirees “are part of the historic progress we’ve made in the Biden-Harris administration under President Biden’s leadership.”

Walsh told AFSCME members that such victories “will help millions of American families and strengthen the communities that you serve.”

But to protect the progress we’ve made our union must support and help elect pro-worker and pro-union candidates up and down the ballot this fall.

“Everything we’ve discussed today is on the ballot on Tuesday, November 8,” Saunders said. “Over the next eight weeks, it is essential that we protect the progress of the last two years – and make it possible for more change and further progress. That will require boots on the ground to get out the vote. That will require time, effort and energy from all of you.”

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