Former AFSCME Sec.-Treas. William Lucy returned to the union’s headquarters Feb. 8 to celebrate Black History Month, declaring that low-wage jobs are the new slavery and that unions – particularly AFSCME – are powerful instruments that can bring people together and elevate dignity and respect for all working people.
“AFSCME started as just an idea, because we were not granted the same rights that unions in the public sector got under Franklin Roosevelt,” he said. “We’ve had to fight for everything we’ve gotten, turning our good idea into a great organization. We’ve empowered African Americans, and all public service workers.”
Lucy was introduced by AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders, who noted not only his nearly five decades of leadership with AFSCME, but also Lucy’s work as the president of Public Service International, which represents millions of public service workers around the globe, and how he co-founded both the Free South Africa Movement and the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU).
“Bill was also in Memphis in 1968, working with the 1,300 sanitation workers, standing shoulder to shoulder with them as they fought for representation with AFSCME,” President Saunders said. “This union is in his heart, and his soul, and his blood.”
Lucy traced historical milestones that benefited African Americans and AFSCME, such as President Kennedy’s executive order that opened union representation for federal public employees, and which AFSCME used in lobbying state governments to expand union rights for public service workers. While many African Americans were leery of President Johnson, he said, the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act that came out of his administration are landmarks.
The formation of the CBTU came about because African-American trade unionists were disappointed that the AFL-CIO decided to remain “neutral” in the Presidential race between Richard Nixon and George McGovern, Lucy said. “We thought there was a big difference between the two, so we called a meeting in Chicago. We were not the only ones concerned, because 1,300 other black trade unionists showed up for that meeting.”
Lucy compared President Obama to FDR, noting that the two had pulled our nation out of great depressions and recessions. “And now the same crowd that caused our problems are asking for another chance.”
He said the coalition of labor, African Americans, women and Hispanics is key for progressives to win elections. “Our opponents want to divide and conquer, but if we stay united, we will win.”
A federal judge has ruled that a Kentucky local government meddled illegally in efforts to undermine workers’ rights, passing a so-called right-to-work ordinance. These types of ordinances are pushed by anti-worker organizations like the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)
Twelve local jurisdictions in Kentucky have passed such ordinances since 2014, despite a ruling by former Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway they were illegal. The local ordinances were a top priority by ALEC, but AFSCME Indiana-Kentucky Council 962 fought back.
In his ruling, invalidating an ordinance passed in Hardin County, U.S. District Court Judge David Hale said that only state governments can opt out of the federal law that allows “agency shop” agreements that require employees to either pay union dues or “agency fees” to an organization elected to represent them by the majority of workers in a bargaining unit.
“ALEC thought it could push this through local councils – and it’s trying the same thing in Illinois and other states,” said Debra Garcia, executive director of Council 962. “But we had good reason to believe the law was on our side, and this ruling confirms it. Now we have to redouble our efforts in the state legislature to make sure this right-to-work scam isn’t revived.”
While Kentucky’s new governor, Matt Bevin, has taken aim at state employees, pro-worker legislators hold a slim lead in the state House of Representatives. Council 962 will be working hard to ensure that workers’ rights are not diminished further. The current session is expected to continue until mid-April.
After years of advocating to improve the standard of care for California home care clients, In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) providers began to receive overtime pay and pay for travel time and medical accompaniment time from the State of California – for the first time ever.
Until this week, caregivers did not receive basic labor protections under the Fair Labor Standards Act to ensure quality care for the state’s 400,000 IHSS clients. Now, thanks to the advocacy of AFSCME and its allies, home care providers will be fully paid for their work. The new rules went into effect Feb. 1.
“This is a historic win. After years of hard work, home care providers will finally gain the respect and equal treatment they deserve,” said Doug Moore, executive director of UDW/AFSCME Local 3930, the Homecare Providers Union and an AFSCME International vice president. “This victory shows us what we can accomplish when we work together!”
But it didn’t come without a fight. An anti-worker group attempted to stop the new rules in court, and state lawmakers proposed a 40-hour cap that would disrupt continuity of care for many IHSS clients and dramatically reduce work hours for a fifth of the IHSS workforce. UDW/AFSCME members spent countless hours rallying, lobbying, knocking on doors, writing letters and making phone calls to stop anti-worker proposals and finally win the same labor protections other workers enjoy.
Their work gained IHSS providers $850 million in state and federal dollars to fund overtime, travel time and medical accompaniment time, which not only helps workers pay for housing, groceries, utilities and other improvements, but also ensures quality care for nearly half a million seniors and people with disabilities across California.
“I work overtime every week, providing care for my uncle,” explained Roy Pridemore, a home care worker in Orange County. “We live paycheck-to-paycheck, and sometimes I have to take payday loans just to keep up with the bills. Winning overtime pay is a huge stress reliever, and I’m so proud that caregivers and our union had a hand in making this happen.”
At the same time, UDW and allies continue to advocate to ensure home care clients will not see hours of care reduced due to the new regulations, and have already secured several exemptions to hourly workweek limits to meet the needs of clients and family caregivers.
DES MOINES, Iowa – State legislators here, joined by supporters from around the state, introduced a new bill aimed at closing the gender pay gap. Iowa was one of 21 states to introduce equal pay legislation during the week of the seventh anniversary of President Obama signing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, Jan. 29.
Bills also are being offered in Wisconsin, West Virginia, Washington, Vermont, Virginia, Utah, Tennessee, Rhode Island, Ohio, New York, New Jersey, Nebraska, Missouri, Maryland, Louisiana, Kansas, Hawaii, Colorado, Arizona and Alaska.
In Iowa, bill sponsors Rep. Marti Anderson and Senate Pres. Pam Jochum joined with Iowa women impacted by pay discrimination at an event organized by SIX, the State Innovation Exchange.
“We’ve had an equal pay law in Iowa and it has no teeth and no effective penalties,” said Rep. Anderson. Speaking of her legislation, she added, “It’s time to put those in place.”
Progress on closing the gender pay gap has long been stalled. Today, women in Iowa earn only 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. For women of color, the gap is much greater, with African-American women making 61 cents and Latinas only 57 cents per dollar made by white men.
“You can imagine how disheartened I was when I learned the male cooks I oversaw earned two dollars more an hour than I did,” said Anne Taylor, an Iowa worker in the restaurant business. “And to know that men and women of color were making less. This is not just a women’s issue. It’s a family issue. It is an equality issue. And it is unacceptable for our local government to keep ignoring it.”
Wage fairness isn’t the only benefit that laws with real teeth can provide.
“Equal pay is more than dollars and cents; it’s about respect, dignity and equality in the workplace,” said AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders. “President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to address the pay gap between men and women. The ink has more than dried on this bill, and it is time for women across the country to stop being short-changed.