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AFSCME Across America: Organizing for Power

Despite the unprecedented attacks from corporate-backed politicians, workers continue to organize with AFSCME for a stronger voice on the job. Here are some recent victories:


At a time when budget cuts pose an imminent danger to home care providers, approximately 1,240 of them in Humboldt County voted to join California United Homecare Workers (CUHW) Local 4034, a joint affiliation between AFSCME and the Service Employees International Union. CUHW represents more than 15,000 providers in 25 counties, and United Domestic Workers (AFSCME Local 3930) represents another 60,000 throughout the state.

In Montebello, 270 registered nurses at Beverly Hospital voted by a nearly three-to-one margin to join United Nurses Association of California/Union of Health Care Professionals (UNAC/UHCP), a 19,000-strong AFSCME affiliate. In addition, after employer opposition caused a lengthy administrative delay, 125 nurses at Chino Valley Medical Center in the city of Chino gained representation with UNAC/UHCP. Although they voted “yes” by a strong majority last year, hospital administrators challenged the results, delaying certification of the workers’ victory until an administrative law judge dismissed the challenge. The employer appealed that decision, but it was ultimately upheld.

One hundred thirty-eight medical professionals organized with the Union of American Physicians and Dentists, (UAPD)/AFSCME Local 206. They included 78 doctors, dentists and nurse practitioners at the Northeast Valley Community Health Care Clinics in Los Angeles, and 60 doctors working in public clinics and hospitals in Kern County.

Two independent associations have affiliated with Council 36. The 700-member Association of Deputy District Attorneys in Los Angeles County — the nation’s largest prosecutors’ union — voted overwhelmingly for affiliation with AFSCME. Their action came in the wake of a two-year effort by Council 36 on behalf of the deputy DAs, who were then able to negotiate a stronger contract. Also joining Council 36: the 60-member Huntington Park City Employees Association.


One hundred seventy blue-collar employees in the city of Pensacola — including airport traffic officers, building maintenance workers, garage mechanics and groundskeepers — joined Council 79. This is one of numerous organizing campaigns AFSCME is waging in Florida despite the current anti-worker political climate there.


employees of Chicago’s Smith Retirement Village
We Won’t Be Stopped! | Employer opposition did not keep approximately 200 employees of Chicago’s Smith Retirement Village from forming a union with Council 31. (Photo by Jeff Dexter)

In Fulton County, whose government had never before recognized unions, Local 3 has gained exclusive rights to represent approximately 1,300 county employees. Although AFSCME Local 1644 is recognized in Atlanta (the county’s major city), Local 3 was unable to meet and confer with Fulton officials over issues of wages, benefits and conditions of employment. But last year, the county passed an ordinance giving AFSCME exclusive representation rights once it achieved majority status in each department. Nine departments are now represented: Environmental and Community Development, Emergency Services, General Services, Health and Wellness, Juvenile Courts, Parks and Recreation, the Public Defender’s office, Public Works and the Sheriff’s office. AFSCME also scored a victory in Atlanta, where 95 employees of the South Side Medical Center joined Local 1644.


Overcoming a fierce anti-worker campaign, approximately 200 employees of the Smith Retirement Village, a private nursing home in Chicago, joined Council 31.


Roughly 1,000 employees of the City of Shreveport are now represented by Council 17. In achieving their card-check victory, workers in the departments of Operational Services, Public Assembly and Recreation, and Property Standards overcame employer opposition, including a hired consulting firm that raised numerous roadblocks throughout the organizing campaign. Success followed passage, three months earlier, of a city resolution authorizing card check. A panel of religious leaders conducted the vote count.


Four hundred Howard County employees voted overwhelmingly to join Council 67. They had attempted to organize for years, but the wide geographic dispersal of their workforce made it difficult. The employees, including administrative assistants, building inspectors, paralegals, crime-lab clericals and 911 call-center administrators, intensified their efforts after recent cuts hurt both their families and their ability to serve the county’s neediest citizens. A key factor in the organizing campaign’s success was the efforts of four other Howard County units already represented by Council 67 to educate the workforce about AFSCME.


Howard County (Maryland) employees join Council 67
A Voice On The Job | Budget cuts motivated 400 Howard County (Maryland) employees to join Council 67. Pictured with some of the new members are Council 67 Pres. Dale Chase (second row, far left) and Exec. Dir. Glenn Middleton (third row, far left). (Photo by Selena Britton)

Racking up a very heavy majority, 400 temporary employees at multiple campuses of the University of Massachusetts voted to join Council 93.


More and more workers in non-traditional jobs, recognizing the need for representation, are forming a union with AFSCME. That’s why the achievement of 147 employees of the Guardian Ad Litem Board is notable. The board manages court-appointed guardians for troubled youth and looks out for the latter’s best interests during court proceedings. Court clerical workers represented by Local 3688 were instrumental in organizing this statewide unit, which voted by a large margin to join Council 5. Council 65 also had successes, organizing eight units totaling approximately 150 workers in a variety of offices in several cities.

New York

Westchester County witnessed a big victory for seasonal workers: more than 1,000 of them joined Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA)/AFSCME Local 1000.


Two hundred forty-six employees of American Behavioral Health Systems, which provides substance-abuse treatment services in Spokane, formed a union with Council 28. Their victory is significant because the workers were able to gain card check and neutrality agreements with the employer, even as corporations and right-wing ideologues fight workers’ efforts to reform the union election process to ensure a vote free from intimidation.

At Seattle’s publicly owned electric-power utility, Seattle City Light, 140 supervisors, managers and strategic advisers also made successful use of voluntary card check to join Council 2. In addition, 37 Vancouver recreation department employees formed a union with that council.

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