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Updated: 3 min 58 sec ago

Thousands Protest Koch Brothers ‘Summit’

Mon, 08/31/2015 - 12:31

COLUMBUS, Ohio – More than 3,000 AFSCME and fellow union members, retirees and supporters turned out here Aug. 21 to send a loud and clear message to the Koch brothers: The American Dream is not for sale.

The fattest of America’s fat cats, the Kochs sent their front group, Americans for Prosperity, into Ohio to showcase their right-wing, anti-union propaganda. The two-day “Defending the American Dream Summit” included five “Koch-approved” Presidential candidates.

“There are as many American Dreams as there are Americans,” said John A. Lyall, Ohio Council 8 president and AFSCME International vice president. “No one owns that dream, but the super-wealthy think they are entitled to buy it.”

“We’re here to stop right-to-work and to stand up for working people,” said Maurice Brown, president of AFSCME Local 250 representing Cincinnati city employees. “This is not just a union cause, we’re out here fighting for the common man in Ohio. This affects everyone.”

The great turnout of AFSCME members from across the state illustrates how members in Ohio are engaged and mobilized since they beat back an attempt by Governor Kasich to strip collective bargaining rights from public employees in 2011. 

Categories: News By Union

CLUW Has Questions, and Solutions, on Women’s Health

Mon, 08/31/2015 - 11:41

The Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW) is calling on women to complete a brief survey on what health information they need and the social media networks they participate in. CLUW will use the information to devise more ways of providing health information. Women do not have to be CLUW members to participate.

The survey, “Getting to Know You and Your Health Needs,” is available via CLUW’s website. CLUW Pres. Connie Leak says the questionnaire is an outgrowth of CLUW’s “commitment to empower union women.”

CLUW created the survey with HealthyWomen, a nonprofit resource of health information. Completing the survey and providing your email will automatically enter you in a drawing for a $100 gift card.

The survey is part of CLUW’s Spread the Word campaign, which gets the message out about heart disease and its impact on women. Heart disease is the number-one killer of women in the United States, even though women experience less obvious symptoms than do men. 

The survey will be available through September. 

Categories: News By Union

Love in the Union: Rick and Rachel

Fri, 08/28/2015 - 11:16

The first time Rick Bartolotta and Rachel Casey met, he came off as “standoffish,” she recalls. It happened at a meeting of the steering committee of Western New York Next Up, a coalition of new and young union activists in the Buffalo area.

“I tried to talk to him but he sort of blew me off,” she says.

That’s not what Rick remembers. In fact, he says, “I was very impressed. I was actually intimidated by her more than anything.”

Rick, 37, works for the treasury department of the City of Buffalo and is an active member of AFSCME Local 650 (Council 35). Rachel, 32, an employment counselor at the Erie County Department of Social Services, is an active member of the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA), Local 815.

Their first meeting in the spring of 2012 didn’t immediately lead to anything. But a couple of months later they ran into each other again. Appropriately enough for two young union activists, this time it happened at a picket line outside the Lancaster, New York, town hall where the town supervisor, Dino Fudoli, had insulted public workers by describing them as the “non-producing part of society.”

It was there at that picket line – brought together by their belief in public service and the right of workers to dignity and respect – that Rachel and Rick had their first serious conversation.

“We talked a lot about the town supervisor, Fudoli, how he was just a real jerk for the way he was talking about public-sector workers,” Rick remembers. “And we talked a little bit about our backgrounds, and Western New York Next Up. I had just gotten back from a training in DC, so she was asking me about what I’d learned in DC. I told her about how I’d toured the AFSCME headquarters and how cool it was to see the union in action.”

From then on, every one of their dates seemed to involve some union-related activity. They worked on the Labor Day parade together, putting up signs and helping to organize the parade. During the summer of 2012, they did some political organizing together, including lit drops for a candidate in Western New York.

“They weren’t actually dates but we were getting to know each other,” Rachel says.

Their first real date was to a haunted house around Halloween. But as one season led to another, most of the time they were spending together was through union-related events. They did a CSEA Next Wave happy hour, political work through labor walks, and held long phone calls discussing different things going on in the world, things that mattered to them and they hoped to influence or change. They talked about their lives and their personal likes and dislikes. They even did some Scott Walker-bashing.

“It was really, really cool to have someone with that same passion,” Rick recalls. “It grew our relationship. The union stuff is what opened the door. That’s what we had in common.”

By the time of the Next Wave conference in June 2013, they were ready to commit to each other for life.

Today, three years after their first serious conversation, Rick and Rachel are married and have a two-and-a-half month old son, Aiden.

“He’s already worn his AFSCME onesie,” Rachel says. She adds, half-jokingly: “We’re still not sure whom he will be marching with first, maybe daddy…. Not really, we’re still in negotiations.”

On a more serious note, Rick and Rachel worry about the world in which Aiden will grow up.

“We’re being attacked right now not only as middle class but as public workers and union members, too,” Rachel says. “There’s so much bad stuff going on, and you need to be part of the solution, not the problem. Right-to-work could happen here too, so we need to fight like hell for what we already have, especially now that we have a kid. We deserve to have these things. We work hard.”

“We don’t want a world run by the Koch brothers,” Rick adds. “We don’t want that for our son. The only way is to keep fighting. Even before we became parents our perspective was on the right track, but it’s reached a whole new level since he was born.”

Did you find love in your (labor) union? If so, we’d like to hear your story. Contact Pablo Ros at



Categories: News By Union

AFSCME Wisconsin Wins Raise for Milwaukee County Workers

Fri, 08/28/2015 - 10:41

A majority of Milwaukee County employees now have a 1.5 percent cost-of-living wage, thanks to the persistence of Wisconsin AFSCME Council 32

It took months of one-on-one with county supervisors, but the efforts succeeded when the County Board voted overwhelmingly for the increase in July. They actually had to vote twice, the second time overriding a veto from County Exec. Chris Abele. 

Then it took a flood of phone calls from AFSCME members and a legal opinion to spur the executive into finally factoring in the new wage rate.  But now the raise is on its way to county workers, retroactive to June 21.

AFSCME Council 32 members demonstrated they deserved a raise, after seeing their standard of living erode through years of wage freezes and increases in benefit co-pays. Fourteen supervisors accepted their arguments that the county’s economic vitality depends on investing in quality public services and the workers who provide those services. 

“We appreciate all the county supervisors who stood with us,” said Paul Spink, AFSCME Council 32 president. “Their leadership stands in stark contrast to a county executive who only wants to starve vital services that citizens depend on every day.”


Categories: News By Union

City Concessions Allow Employees to Avert Strike

Fri, 08/28/2015 - 09:31

TROUTDALE, Ore. – Members of AFSCME Local 3132 (Council 75), who voted overwhelmingly to strike for better health care benefits, were still on the job after city negotiators conceded workers’ demand for quality health care, a 9 percent pay raise over three years, increased paid leave and much more.

“We stood together for nine months and fought off numerous attacks to our contract,” said Timothy Shoop, Local 3132 president. “It’s sad that it’s become our responsibility as city workers to protect good jobs in Troutdale, but that’s what we did. The city leadership has shirked that duty and abandoned common sense in these negotiations. We stand proud to hold the line for our community, our fellow workers and our families.”

Members of Local 3132 began to prepare for the possibility of a strike earlier this year through vigorous AFSCME Strong training. As negotiations turned for the worse, with management proposing large cuts to health insurance for the third bargaining cycle in a row, AFSCME leaders educated workers about what’s at stake, also signing up new members.

With support from the community and allies in the surrounding areas, local leadership organized rallies, worksite visits and other actions to show the strength of the workers. During a City Council meeting, members were joined by community allies, waving signs and sharing public comments in support of a fair contract.

There was no surprise when a strike vote was called and more than 95 percent of workers voted in favor of a strike, which would have been their first ever.

“Workers agreed to concessions in 2009 and 2012 to help the city when the economy took a turn for the worse,” added Shoop. “Now, at a time when the city budget has reserves of $1.2 million and Troutdale’s economy is strong, workers are holding the line for quality health care for their families and good jobs for their community.”

A ratification vote is scheduled for the first week in September.

Categories: News By Union

Ten Years after Katrina, Solidarity Overshadows Tragedy

Thu, 08/27/2015 - 07:50

It was one o’clock in the morning, and the staff of Central Louisiana State Hospital had a major emergency on their hands. A week after Hurricane Katrina made landfall in Louisiana on Monday, Aug. 29, 2005, patients and staff from Charity Hospital in New Orleans were arriving at the Pineville hospital by the busloads, seeking refuge and assistance.

“They were psychiatric patients,” remembers Candice Cheney, a psychiatric supervisor at Central Louisiana State Hospital who retired last year. “They as well as their staff were traumatized because they had been locked in the basement of Charity Hospital for a week. They’d hardly eaten anything in all that time. The patients were hostile and afraid. It was total chaos. Our staff received them and assisted them. We worked all night long.”

Cheney was then president of AFSCME Local 3074 (Council 17), which represented the Central Louisiana State Hospital employees. She knew that the staff from Charity Hospital who had remained with their patients and saw them to safety in Pineville, 200 miles away, were also traumatized and separated from their families. Once their basic needs were met, she went around asking them if they were union members. Turned out they were from the same family, AFSCME.

“I told them I was the local president and started assisting them personally,” Cheney remembers. “I contacted my council president and told him we had to take care of our members. That’s when the relief effort started.”

Public workers were essential in preventive measures before Hurricane Katrina, as well as the relief and recovery efforts that followed. Michael Mitchell, a ferry boat captain, transported nearly 1,000 people seeking refuge across the Mississippi River. He worked for seven hours and made 30 trips before his ferry was shut down.

Alfretta Bush, a custodial worker and member of AFSCME Local 1991, remained at Charity Hospital during the storm. “I was scared but I also knew I had to do a job – to help save lives,” she said then. And AFSCME members from across the nation came to the rescue, including a crew of 35 Portland (Oregon) Water Bureau workers who helped rebuild New Orleans’ water system.

Ten years after the storm, we can still say about our AFSCME sisters and brothers: They rose to the challenge.

And we stood by each other. AFSCME developed a comprehensive relief effort to help 3,000-plus members in Louisiana, more than 800 of whom worked in New Orleans. These efforts included:

  • Placing $100,000 for Katrina relief into an established fund
  • Soliciting donations from members across the nation to help feed and clothe hurricane victims
  • Deploying a team of union staff to provide support on the ground
  • Starting an “adopt a family” program by which our members could house or fund housing for an AFSCME family
  • Helping AFSCME members find jobs and providing them other basic necessities.

Cheney, the retired psychiatric supervisor, was part of these efforts, which went on for months. She remembers feeling proud of her union, especially when she handed out relief checks to her sisters and brothers.

“It was around December 23rd that AFSCME International brought down those checks,” she recalls. “And when I handed out those checks to our members they started crying, they were so grateful. And I was crying with them.

“I let them know that AFSCME was there for them, we were here, and I said I would not stop until I went around to every relief center in my area and until I found every member I possibly could to let them know that our union was there for them. It made me feel fantastic.”

Categories: News By Union

Florida Organizing Committee Focusing on Growth, Activism

Tue, 08/25/2015 - 14:07

In a move designed to better represent a diverse membership, and to position the union for future growth, AFSCME Florida 979 Organizing Committee was launched, assuming Council 79’s jurisdiction.

Council 79’s executive board, which is comprised of union members and leaders from across the state, voted to make the change so that AFSCME can better focus on the challenges of tomorrow.   

“The fact is that because we are state, county and municipal employees, as well as school employees and private-sector workers, you can find AFSCME members serving our communities in every county and almost every town every day,” said Marcellous Stringer, a Miami-Dade County sanitation services member with AFSCME Local 3292.

It is a change that already can be seen and felt across the state. AFSCME Florida recently launched 10 new organizing drives, pushed back against outsourcing and other attacks on members, and rolled out its website at The website is accompanied by an expanded internal and external communications efforts along with new Facebook and Twitter accounts.

“With additional staff, resources and a clear mandate from our members, AFSCME Florida is built for growth,” said AFSCME Florida Exec. Dir. Andy Madtes. “This new organizing committee and its members will fight back effectively when challenges arise while keeping our focus on the bold and determined action necessary to improve the lives of our members and all working people.”

The change also will be felt in legislative chambers big and small across the state, and even nationally as members unify and mobilize.

“We are doubling down on our efforts this year and throughout 2016 to ensure working families have a clear, loud and respected voice at the bargaining table, at the ballot box and in the legislative chamber,” said Glenn Holcomb, a juvenile probation officer with the state of Florida and a member of Local 3041, covering Palm Beach and Broward Counties.

“Growth means more members standing together on behalf of our families, neighbors and coworkers and that won’t stop when the workday ends,” he said.

Categories: News By Union