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Grassroots calls intensify for state, local aid from the U.S. Senate

By AFSCME Staff ·

AFSCME’s “Fund the Front Lines” grassroots campaign is going strong throughout the country.

Members of our union are urging their U.S. senators to provide state and local aid, talking to their state and local officials to put pressure on Congress to approve such aid, and building public support for our campaign by writing letters to the editor and op-eds in local media outlets.

Fund the Front Lines has become a true grassroots movement – and it’s thriving far outside the Washington Beltway.

Many of the members taking the initiative are public service workers who have been on the front lines, fighting the coronavirus pandemic since day one, putting their lives on the line for their communities. They know firsthand just how vital it is for their states, cities, towns and schools to get federal aid. They also know how important this assistance is to continue providing public services, retain the workers who provide them, and safely reopen the economy and schools.

Members of AFSCME Council 8 in Ohio have been particularly active. Scores of members have sent letters to local and state elected officials, urging them to talk to Congress.

“Your voice carries a lot of weight,” the letters say. “We need you to call our representatives in Washington, D.C. – especially our senators – and urge Congress to pass as much federal aid as possible to states, cities, towns and school boards to fix the budget mess that the coronavirus has caused to prevent essential public services from being gutted.”

Multiple members have written to Ohio officials, including Gov. Mike DeWine; the mayors of Olmstead, Norwood, Hamilton, Columbus, Cincinnati and Cleveland; the commissioners of Adams and Hamilton counties; and the superintendent of Cincinnati Public Schools.

Julie Albers, a respiratory therapist at a Cleveland hospital and president of AFSCME Local 3360 (Council 8), wrote a column in the Columbus Dispatch discussing how the lack of federal aid to Ohio could shortchange her hospital.

“We could see personal protective equipment shortages for health care providers, staffing cuts that can force burnout and diminished quality of care and more patients delaying or going without treatment,” Albers wrote.

John Duran, a member of AFSCME Local 449 who works at the El Rio Community Health Center in Tucson, Arizona, wrote in an op-ed in the Tucson Sentinel that the Senate needs to provide state and local aid and increase the federal share of spending on Medicaid, the health program for low-income and disabled Americans.

Most of El Rio’s patients are on Medicaid and his facility risks getting overwhelmed as Arizona sees a spike in coronavirus infections, wrote Durand, a medical lab specialist.

“Without $1 trillion in aid to states, cities and towns to maintain essential public services, we will see drastic cuts at places like El Rio,” he wrote. “To prevent the worst public health crisis in modern history from becoming even more dire, Congress should increase the federal government share of Medicaid costs.”

In addition to launching a national ad campaign, AFSCME has also launched cable television ads in AlaskaArizonaColorado, GeorgiaIowaKentuckyMaineMissouri and North Carolina to press senators from those states to vote for state and local aid. Polls show strong support in those states for federal assistance.

This member-led outreach is taking place as the U.S. Senate unveiled a sub-par relief package that “focuses on protecting corporations while abandoning working people, and is seemingly content to let state and local governments go bankrupt,” as AFSCME President Lee Saunders put it.

Back in May, the House passed the Heroes Act, which contains more than $1 trillion in federal aid for states, cities, towns and schools. However, the Senate has refused to take up this legislation and has on vacation despite not having reached a deal.

Members of HOPE AFSCME Local 123 are involved in a persuasion campaign to get the Lone Star State’s senators to support passage of the Heroes Act. Last month, they joined with other members of the Texas Gulf Coast Labor Foundation in calling Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz to put partisanship aside and show Texans that they stand with them.

The House “passed the Heroes Act two months ago, in that time, things have only gotten worse for Houstonians," said HOPE Local 123 member Roy Sanchez.  

The members underscored that working people need safe jobs, economic security and freedom from systemic racism, and that the Heroes Act is a step in the right direction on all counts. During a solidarity action, HOPE Local 123 members marched holding tombstone-like signs to signify the death of the public services if the Heroes Act isn't passed.

(Mark McCullough and Antonio Lewis contributed to this story)

Fund the Front Lines

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