In some states, if a police officer or firefighter is killed in the line of duty, their dependent family members are cut off from their health coverage. AFSCME members in Alaska have been fighting to change that – and they won after three years of advocating.
The Alaska state legislature just passed a bill that guarantees health benefits for the families of fallen officers that need the coverage.
“The legislature’s decision to pass House Bill 23 is a huge victory for the public safety community,” said Jake Metcalfe, PSEA/AFSCME Local 803 executive director. “Our members and other public safety workers put their duty first. It’s our responsibility to look out for their families after our members fall while providing a noble service.”
HB 23 was introduced by Alaska State Rep. Andy Josephson, grandson of AFSCME founder Arnold Zander. Rep. Josephson isn’t the only descendant of Brother Zander doing good for the labor community in Alaska. Sarah E. Josephson, Zander’s granddaughter, is the labor and employment attorney for JDO Law in Anchorage, Alaska. She represents municipal employees from AFSCME affiliate, AMEA Local 16.
Alaska State Troopers received prominence in 2009 when the National Geographic Channel launched a series highlighting the uniqueness of their jobs. Sadly, our brave Sisters and Brothers gained national attention again in 2014 when two officers who appeared on the show were shot and killed after responding to a dispute in a remote village. The survivors of both officers had to secure health coverage on their own.
“Nothing can fill the void of our Brothers and Sisters fallen in the line of duty, but gaining health coverage for the families is a good way to honor them and their service to our communities,” said Doug Massie, president of the Alaska Department of Public Safety unit within PSEA.
AFSCME public safety members across the country serve our communities and advocate on behalf of families in need. Alaska’s HB 23 is an example of the tenacious efforts AFSCME members put forth to protect workers and their families. The bill was unanimously approved by the state House and Senate and awaits the governor's signature to become law.