An arbitrator empowered to determine a contract impasse between the state of Iowa and its 19,000 state and judicial branch employees, represented by AFSCME Iowa Council 61, ruled in favor of the workers by accepting the union’s proposal requiring the overwhelming majority of them to pay a $20 monthly health care premium – saving most state employees thousands of dollars per year.
The health insurance issue was a major sticking point in reaching a new two-year collective bargaining pact with Gov. Terry Brandstad’s negotiators, who sought a 10 percent premium share for AFSCME members in fiscal 2016, and 15 percent in fiscal 2017. The talks started in November and failed to net a voluntary agreement by the mid-February deadline.
“We are pleased that the arbitrator found in our favor on health insurance,” said AFSCME Iowa Council 61 Pres. Danny Homan, also an AFSCME International vice president. “We believe the process worked in such a way as to appropriately balance the interests of state employees and state government. The arbitration award shows that Iowa’s current collective bargaining process works.”
Governor Brandstad has long been at odds with state employees, pushing for higher employee premium payments and no wage increases during his eight terms in office. The latest contract calls for pay raises of approximately 6 percent over two years, but Brandstad won’t propose a bill to fund the raises, saying the costs must come from each agency’s budget. State workers have not had a raise in three years.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Emergency medical service (EMS) professionals working in 13 counties across California voted to ratify a new three-year agreement with the ambulance company, American Medical Response. The deal will improve safety by limiting the number of consecutive work shifts, providing pay increases and protecting health care for the nation’s largest collective bargaining unit of private EMS personnel.
The new collective bargaining agreement improves work conditions for 1,800 EMTs, paramedics, dispatchers, registered nurses, mechanics, vehicle supply technicians and office support personnel employed at AMR in Contra Costa, Placer, Sacramento, San Benito, San Francisco, San Joaquin, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, Shasta, Stanislaus, Sonoma, Tulare and Yolo counties.
The victory is the result of two years of intense negotiations with a company that—despite growing corporate profits—proposed increasing workers’ health insurance premiums, deductibles, and out-of-pocket costs. Workers rejected the company’s backward proposals and stood united for a contract that advances their profession while improving EMS in their communities.
“Standing together in a union gives us strength to improve patient care and provide security for our families,” said Sami Abed, a 13-year paramedic in Santa Cruz county and president of United EMS Workers-AFSCME Local 4911. “Having that power is important for EMS professionals anywhere.”
The Teamsters First Student Negotiating Committee wrapped up the third round of contract talks on March 24-25, but major issues are still unresolved.
On March 26, 2015, workers at PSC Environmental Outsourcing, LLC in Philadelphia voted 11-0 to join Teamsters Local 107.
Today, Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa took part in a ceremony recognizing the first graduates of a program that helps active military personnel transition to a career in transportation. The ceremony was held at the Army’s new Industrial Training Complex (ITC) in Fort Sill, Okla. A ribbon-cutting ceremony was also held to inaugurate the ITC.
NEGOTIATORS FROM NEARLY 200 countries will meet in Paris in December to seek a climate change agreement aimed at keeping the global average temperature from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). Beyond that threshold, many scientists believe, the Earth will suffer catastrophic and irreparable climate harm.
The Paris summit, known as COP21 (Conference of the Parties, 21st year), follows a December 2014 meeting in Lima, Peru (COP 20), which laid the groundwork for a possible agreement.
ATLANTA – Employees of the Atlanta Public School System (APS) are taking the fight for school children directly to Atlanta’s Mayor Kasim Reed, calling him out for withholding millions of dollars owed to the school system by the city.
APS workers rallied outside police headquarters March 25th, holding “Wanted” posters with a picture of Mayor Reed and calling for the Atlanta police chief to investigate for the mayor’s theft of funds owed to APS.
“Mayor Reed is stealing from Atlanta’s children and we have had enough of it,” said Susan McCaskill, an APS bus operator and member of AFSCME Local 1644. “In cases of theft, it’s up to law enforcement to investigate. Just because Kasim Reed is the mayor doesn’t mean that he should get away with thievery. ”
The money in question is two years of delinquent annual payments from the city to APS, more than $13 million. The money is supposed to be paid to the system in exchange for APS’s portion of property tax revenue generated from a green space project called, the Beltline. In addition to Beltline money, the APS workers are also calling out the mayor to release deeds to 12 abandoned properties owned by APS that could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
“I don’t understand why the mayor would stop funding from going to our schools,” said Khalia Roberts-Harris, an honor student and senior from Grady High School in Atlanta, who took off school to attend the rally. “We are told if we work hard we can be something when we get older, but the mayor is taking resources from our schools that will help us succeed.”
At a rally two weeks earlier, APS workers were accompanied by local news cameras as they walked into City Hall and asked to speak with Mayor Reed. An aide told the workers that he was unavailable.
“This rally is about what is best for our kids,” said Quentin Hutchins, an APS bus operator. “They deserve a school system that is fully funded and a mayor that doesn’t bully his way into getting what he wants for the benefit of his corporate buddies.”
The best source for finding a quality, union printed in your area is the Graphic Communications Conference (GCC).
Here are today's top news stories of interest to Teamsters for March 27, 2015.http://teamsternation.blogspot.com/2015/03/teamster-news-today90.html
The following is the official statement of Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa in response to a proposed amendment to the Senate’s budget resolution bill set to be introduced today by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). The language would protect the pensions of thousands of retirees of multiemployer pension plans.
WikiLeaks did the public a big favor by making ISDS chapter language available. Now people can see for themselves they are going to get the short-shrift from TPP.http://www.huffingtonpost.com/james-p-hoffa/tpp-investor-language-wil_b_6948982.html
Teamster warehouse workers, operators, and drivers at Northwest Steel and Pipe in Tacoma, Washington, voted unanimously to strike last night. The strike vote took place Tuesday evening outside the company’s facility in Tacoma.
The University of Washington was taught an important lesson by approximately 20 skilled trades workers who play a vital role in making the university a world-class facility. If you violate the collective bargaining agreement, undermining the importance of the skilled workers, you can expect to pay a huge price.
In 2013, heat and air conditioning specialists, plumbers, electricians and other skilled trades workers represented by AFSCME Local 1488 WFSE, blew the whistle when the UW improperly outsourced maintenance work for renovation of the landmark Husky Stadium.
In February of this year, the Public Employee Relations Board (PERB) sided with workers, ordering the university to pay $45,000, divided up among the workers.
“Every time the university contracts out, it costs the taxpayers more money and I’m a taxpayer and it also costs me more money,” said Paula Lukaszek, president of Local 1488 WFSE.
The agreement settles three unfair labor practice complaints filed by the union. Key provisions include:
Hear Local 1488 WFSE members talk about the settlement here.
Local 1482 member Rita Meade, the library information supervisor at Bay Ridge branch library in Brooklyn, helps out a patron.
Since 2009, front-line staffing at New York City's public libraries has plummeted by 21 percent, according to union records.
The city's three library systems are struggling to provide services after being hit with millions of dollars in budget cuts during the three-terms of former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.
Because of cuts to staff and funding during the Bloomberg administration, patrons often wait weeks before they receive book requests.
Schoolchildren flock to branch libraries. But after-school programs are shrinking. Many branches are now staffed by only one full-time or part-time children's Librarian.
Neighborhood libraries can't meet the demand for English language instruction for immigrants.
Libraries are the principal gateway to the Internet for people without broadband access in their home. Yet the libraries cannot provide enough training and access to computers for the city's 3 million residents who lack Internet service at home.
"We are trying to do more with less, as the saying goes," said John Hyslop, president of Queens Library Guild Local 1321. "But there is only so much you can do when you lack resources. We're facing a crisis after years of deep budget reductions and downsizing."
"Branches of Opportunity," a 2013 report by the Center for an Urban Future, documents the need for an infusion of funds into the library systems. Between 2002 and 2011, the city reduced its contributions 8 percent, from $296 million to $274 million, according to the report.
The report also notes that since 2008, the New York Public Library recorded a net loss of $28.2 million in city funding while Queens Public Library absorbed a $17.5 million loss and Brooklyn Public Library was hit with an $18.1 million reduction.
"Due to these funding reductions, all three systems have had to reduce their hours of operation to an average of five days a week, down from six days a week in 2008," the report says. "The budget cuts have also forced the libraries in New York to curtail the amount they spend on books and other materials."
"The budget cuts have devastated the libraries," said DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido.
Spending on books and other materials has dropped dramatically. According to the report, the Queens Library acquisition budget has fallen from $15 million to $5 million in recent years.A skeleton staff
Children's Librarian Laura Bishop reads to kids at a community garden at 9th Street and Avenue C in Manhattan.
Children's Librarian Laura Bishop reads to kids at a community garden at 9th Street and Avenue C in Manhattan.
Through layoffs, attrition and hiring freezes, the libraries have eliminated hundreds of good jobs with decent benefits, at a time when the city's middle class has felt squeezed by an economic recovery that has solely benefitted New York's richest residents.
"We are so underfunded and understaffed, we can't give the public the level of service they deserve," said Eileen Muller, president of Brooklyn Library Guild Local 1482. "We have lost so many people. I don't think our membership has ever been so low."
"Those branches that do operate on Saturdays often do so with a skeleton staff," said Valentin Colon, president of New York Public Library Guild Local 1930.
When a staffer calls in sick, NYPL branches are sometimes forced to shut down the children's section for the day. On some occasions, libraries have run operations without a Librarian.
"I have people who say ˜I can't take a day off because the staff will be short,'" Colon said.
And gone are the days when you could count on finding a best seller when you go to the library. "You are put on the waiting list when you reserve a popular book, but you may be number 235 on the waiting list," Muller said.
Because of underfunding and understaffing, city libraries cannot provide enough training for patrons, according to Ron Barber, a Local 1482 executive board member.
Barber added that buildings do not have the bandwidth needed for speedy Internet service, and branches don't have enough laptops, tablets and PCs. The libraries are encouraging patrons to take out e-books, but the staff's schedules do not allow sufficient time to show patrons, especially seniors, how to access those books. Despite promoting e-lending, electronic checkouts account for only 5 percent of the circulation at NYPL and 1 percent in Queens and Brooklyn, according to the Center for an Urban Future report.
To carry out downsizing, the city's libraries have used technology, such as self-checkout machines. This has increased the workload of clericals who often do what used to be back-room work - such as preparing books and magazines for circulation - while seated at the circulation desk.
"If we had more staff, we could do more programs," said Rita Meade, the library information supervisor at the Bay Ridge branch in Brooklyn.
Parents want more story time for their children and more academically-oriented after-school programs, Meade said, but because of the staffing crunch Bay Ridge cannot accommodate their wishes or organize activities such as a teen book club.
City libraries can only meet the needs of a small number of people who wish to attend English Speakers of Other Language classes and GED courses. The Flushing branch in Queens is only able to serve 20 percent of the people on the waiting list for GED classes. This is a city where nearly 30 percent of the working people in New York City lack a high school diploma. The city also has one of the lowest GED attainment rates in the nation.Security concerns
Security is a big concern of both the staff and the public. Recently, Queens Library agreed to Local 1321's request for a Police Officer at a branch where gangs congregated, intimidating the staff and patrons. Union leaders report that workers at the New York Public Library have been assaulted.
And in a city where homelessness has skyrocketed, "The library has become like a hotel," said Cuthbert Dickenson, president of Quasi-Public Employees Local 374, which represents blue-collar workers, including security guards, at NYPL, which serves Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island. "People come in the morning and don't leave," Dickenson said. "This creates a security issue."
DC 37 and the union's four library locals are part of a coalition campaigning to secure an additional $65 million for annual operating expenses and $1.1 billion for a 10-year capital plan. City Council Majority leader Jimmy Van Bramer, who chairs the council's committee on libraries and cultural institutions, is coordinating the campaign. Also participating are the Center for an Urban Future, The Charles H. Revson Foundation and community groups.
The funding sought by the DC 37-supported library working group would improve services dramatically:
"Today's public library is about much more than books," Garrido said.
"The branch libraries are the heart of our neighborhoods," he said. "They offer a safe haven for children after school; a place where seniors can meet and read the newspaper; job assistance for the unemployed, and educational programs for immigrants and people seeking their GED. The city must increase its support for the libraries, which sustain our quality of life and help keep the economy humming."
This article originally appeared in DC 37’s Public Employee Press.