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Fighting to Preserve Public Services - State by State

Lobby Day activists urge lawmakers to find new revenue sources, instead of slashing public services.

Florida Council 79
On A Mission - Hundreds of Florida Council 79 activists lobbied state lawmakers in March, including these members of Local 1963 who work at Florida State Hospital in Chattahoochee. (Photo credit: Steve Beasley)

Lobby Day activists urge lawmakers to find new revenue sources, instead of slashing public services.

By Clyde Weiss

AFSCME activists nationwide are standing up to tell their elected representatives that layoffs and furloughs are not the best solution to a budget crisis that threatens critical public services at a time when they are needed most.

Throughout the nation, members have been meeting with their state legislators to make the case that putting more people on the unemployment line will not dig the country out of this recession. Rather, they are encouraging lawmakers to identify additional sources of revenue to plug budget shortfalls.

In Florida, more than 200 Council 79 activists traveled from Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando and Tampa to make their voices heard at the Capitol in Tallahassee. Their top priority is winning funding to prevent the state from closing two hospitals in Miami-Dade County which would eliminate 4,400 jobs — most of those held by members of Jackson Memorial Local 1363.

“We visited all of the senators and representatives to emphasize how Jackson Memorial Hospital serves our community,” says Local 1363 Pres. Viviene Dixon-Shim. “We have to keep those hospitals open to accommodate the health needs of our citizens.”

Rally In The Rotunda
Rally In The Rotunda - ‘Safety first!’ and ‘no more cuts’ were the messages of the day delivered to lawmakers by hundreds of AFSCME members during Kentucky’s Lobby Day at the Capitol in Frankfort. (Photo credit: Mark Cavanah)

 

In Indiana and Kentucky, hundreds of state employees — all members of Council 62 — demonstrated at their respective capitols to press lawmakers to support funding for corrections and other front-line state services. Kentucky activists also delivered 1,500 petition cards signed by state workers with the message, “No cuts — fund public services and find other strategies for fixing the state’s budget crisis.”

 

David Warrick, executive director of Council 62, said their Kentucky priorities included supporting a collective bargaining bill that would apply to all public employees, and full funding of a law intended to hire more social workers and increase security. It was passed in 2007 without adequate financial resources.

Indiana activists also rallied to preserve public services, and for the addition of more green jobs.

Cut Waste First
Members tell lawmakers to pass a “whistleblower” bill to make it safer for state workers to expose waste in government spending — saving taxpayer dollars. (Photo credit: Best Light Photography by Brian Brunkow)

More than 250 members of Kansas Organization of State Employees (KOSE), AFT/ AFSCME Local 300 fanned out throughout the Capitol in Topeka in March to save public services, jobs and members’ pensions. The Legislature was considering closing a $106 million budget hole for the current fiscal year by reducing work on state highways and roads, and other service cuts.

KOSE, representing more than 11,000 non-supervisory, non-confidential classified employees in the executive branch of state government, has better ideas for balancing the budget as Exec. Dir. Jane Carter explains: “We know where the real waste in government is. If employees were better protected from reprisal, they would be more likely to bring their knowledge of such waste out into the open. That’s why we need to pass the Whistleblower Protection Act.”

Sign of the Times
Thousands of demonstrators, including members of Illinois Council 31, tell lawmakers to raise revenues through an increase in the individual income tax rate. (Photo credit: Jonathan Kirshner)

More than 3,000 demonstrators — including hundreds of members of Illinois Council 31 — crowded into the state Capitol rotunda in Springfield for a rally sponsored by the Responsible Budget Coalition, which includes the council. Their demand: passage of legislation to increase the individual income tax rate and expand the state’s sales tax base to help close a $13 billion budget deficit.

 

Iowa's Lobby Day
Meet The Senator - During Iowa’s Lobby Day at the Capitol, Mason City street maintenance worker Dan Daley and Mason City parks employee Randy Gourley — both members of Local 1367 (Council 61) — meet with state Sen. Amanda Ragan (D), assistant majority leader. (Photo credit: Charlie Wishman)

Approximately 300 Iowa Council 61 activists lobbied legislators in Des Moines to protect public services. “AFSCME members know that they cannot sit on the sidelines and hope for change — we fight and win on issues because of members’ activism,” says Council 61 Pres. Danny Homan, also an AFSCME International vice president.

AFSCME Maryland Delegation
Fight Back - A delegation from AFSCME Maryland traveled to the Statehouse in Annapolis to propose alternatives to destructive budget cuts. They carried cards signed by thousands of state workers who want to preserve public services. (Photo credit: AFSCME Maryland)

A delegation of AFSCME activists in Maryland traveled to the Statehouse in Annapolis in January with boxes of “Budget Fight Back” cards signed by more than 3,000 state employees. The cards propose a plan that would generate more than $2 billion in revenue to close the budget gap. It includes drawing on the state’s rainy day fund, extending the so-called millionaires tax, closing loopholes that allow large corporations to avoid paying their fair share of state taxes, charging a service fee on all Internet purchases, expanding the sales tax to more services, and increasing the gas and alcohol taxes by 5 cents each.

“Laying off public workers, cutting critical state services and reducing wages and benefits will not lift the state out of its budget crisis. Elected officials must do what’s necessary to keep our state running, but the best solution is to raise revenue,” says Glen Middleton, executive director of Council 67 and an International vice president.

Minnesota Council 5 Members
No Cuts — More Revenue! Members of Minnesota Council 5 demand legislators raise revenue through fair taxes on wealthy individuals and corporations. (Photo credit: Jennifer Munt)

In Minnesota, 1,000 Council 5 members rallied at the Capitol in Saint Paul this winter to demand that lawmakers save and create good jobs to jumpstart the economy. They also met with their representatives to press for increased revenues, including fair taxes on wealthy individuals and corporations — and stopping privatization that threatens the quality of public services.

 

New Mexico Council 18
Telling It Straight - A delegation from New Mexico Council 18 rallied at the Statehouse in Santa Fe and delivered this message: Raise revenues, don’t cut services! Photo: Rob Trombley (Photo credit: Rob Trombley)

Hundreds of New Mexico public employees — members of Council 18 — rallied at their state Capitol in Santa Fe in January to deliver the message that budget cuts without new sources of revenue will not close an estimated $600 million budget deficit. The council urged lawmakers to prevent out-of-state corporations from dodging state taxes, and to pass legislation to repeal part of a massive 40 percent tax break for the wealthiest New Mexicans that was passed in 2003.

Fired Up!
Fired Up! - In Albany, N.Y., approximately 1,500 AFSCME members from all six state affiliates — DC 37, DC 1707, CSEA and Councils 35, 66 and 82 — get briefed in the Convention Center at the Empire State Plaza before meeting with state legislators to advocate for more revenue to prevent layoffs and furloughs. (Photo credit: Joan Heffler)

 

More than 1,500 New York AFSCME activists met with state legislators in Albany in February to find a fair way to put the state’s economy back on track while protecting essential public services and the jobs that make those services possible.,” declared DC 37 Exec. Dir. Lillian Roberts. “Layoffs are a quick fix that don’t solve anything.”

 

This is not the time to cut services, added Danny Donohue, president of Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA)/AFSCME Local 1000, and also an International vice president. “We’re clearing the roads, helping people in need and taking care of children, the elderly, people who are sick and others in need of daily assistance.”

“Elected leaders are on the verge of destroying vital public services and putting more people out of work. They’re jeopardizing the health and safety of the people and our communities,” AFSCME International Pres. Gerald W. McEntee told members from District Councils 37 and 1707; Councils 35, 66 and 82; and CSEA.

Council 28
Capitol Rally - Members of Washington state Council 28 filled the steps of the state Capitol in Olympia in February to lobby lawmakers to preserve services and raise revenues. (Photo credit: Tim Welch)

In Washington state, more than 500 members of Council 28 rallied at the Capitol in Olympia. High on their list of goals: a simple majority vote to raise revenues. The AFSCME activists also sought to restore $300 million in state employee health insurance funds, close tax loopholes that cost millions in lost revenue, and oppose legislation to authorize state employee furloughs.

 

Wisconsin AFSCME Members
Strength In Numbers - An estimated 500 Wisconsin AFSCME activists representing three councils pose before the state Capitol in Madison before heading in to lobby their lawmakers about the importance of public services. (Photo credit: Robert Allen)

Approximately 500 activists from three Wisconsin councils gathered this March in Madison for their Lobby Day. After a briefing by AFSCME lobbyists and Wisconsin AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Phil Neuenfeldt, they met with legislators to discuss investing in vital services. They also urged lawmakers to reject privatization schemes and to protect worker bargaining rights.

 

“Wisconsin can’t create jobs by continuing to eliminate them, especially when those jobs keep our communities running,” says Rick Badger, executive director of Council 40.

“Cutting essential public jobs only to outsource them means a loss of accountability and inevitably costs more in the long run,” adds Council 24 Exec. Dir. Marty Beil. Rich Abelson, Council 48's executive director, noted the difficult and often dangerous work that public employees perform. “All we ask is that employers honor their side of the bargain,” he says.

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