Louisiana public employees had not received a pay increase for nearly a decade. That changed in June after members of AFSCME Council 17 engaged in a successful campaign to persuade the Legislature and Civil Service Commission to raise wages.
A session of the Legislature that ended June 13 was the opening that AFSCME members needed to press their case for a 2 percent across-the-board raise for nearly all classified workers. It was a goal many thought was unachievable after the House of Representatives passed a budget plan that banned pay raises for state workers and substantially slashed spending for vital public services and health care.
Determined to stop and reverse the deteriorating level and availability of services, AFSCME members began in April to lobby lawmakers and members of the Civil Service Commission, each responsible for different aspects of their wage hike campaign. They called representatives and commissioners, testified at legislative hearings, wrote letters to the editor, spoke to the news media, circulated petitions and released a study on the enormous tax loopholes and breaks for big companies that should be ended to avoid spending cuts on public services.
These efforts, involving members statewide, focused attention on how low pay for new and experienced workers led to dangerous understaffing at correctional facilities. They also exposed how inadequate wages made it difficult to recruit new employees and prevent experienced workers from leaving for higher-paying jobs in the private sector.