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Bonus payments help Puerto Rico affiliate post strong membership gains

Photo: John and Tina Reid/ Getty Images
Bonus payments help Puerto Rico affiliate post strong membership gains
By Mark McCullough ·

It pays to be an AFSCME member in Puerto Rico.

Through the island territory’s bankruptcy, hurricanes, earthquakes and more, the dedicated members of Servidores Públicos Unidos (SPU) (AFSCME Council 95) never quit on their communities. They also never gave in to attacks on their rights on the job, never let their contracts and retirement benefits go undefended, and never stopped supporting each other. And now the results of tireless bargainingdirect action and legal fights are beginning to show.

Under an agreement with the Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico (FOMB), negotiated as part of the commonwealth’s bankruptcy case, SPU secured, against all odds, improved benefits and thousands of dollars in bonuses and pay increases for AFSCME’s members.

In addition, late last year, SPU decided to use a discretionary fund, granted to SPU as a result of hard-won negotiations with the FOMB, to make a special $500 bonus payment to each SPU member who filled out request forms by the end of November.

“We knew this was an amazing opportunity to communicate with our members about how far we’ve come thanks to the actions they took, as well as to reach out to the roughly 10% of our co-workers who were not yet members,” said Jessica Martinez, SPU president and member of Local 3500.

SPU also decided to blitz all 13 of its locals with emails, text messages, direct mail, flyers, digital ads, and through one-on-one conversations that 10 volunteer member organizers (VMOs) held at worksites and at workers’ homes over a three-month period.

The hard work paid off. Nearly every member filled out their request forms before the deadline, and the council did in-depth assessments on almost half of all the potential members. Hundreds of potential members have now joined the AFSCME family as a result of SPU’s outreach, moving SPU’s membership density up to an impressive 93%.

“We start the new year with renewed purpose, stronger and more united than ever before thanks to the work we did over the past few months,” said Martinez. “Not only have we grown our union family, we have (also) identified new activists, resolved dozens of workplace issues and have a clearer understanding of the priorities we will continue to fight for in 2024.”

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