BAXTER, Minn. – As public service workers and union members, we take our civic duties seriously. We vote, we call our elected representatives, and we talk to our neighbors about the issues that affect us. Steve Barrows took that commitment to public service even further this year when he decided to run for office in his hometown of Baxter, Minn. And he won!
Barrows retired three years ago after decades in state social services. But he wasn’t done working to make Baxter a better place. The town of about 7,600 people is growing and evolving.
“There’s an opportunity for forward-thinking and planning to make sure we are a healthy, viable, attractive community,” he says.
The new city council member says his experiences with Local 1574 gave him the skills needed to run for office.
“My background as a union member gave me confidence over the years as I attended conventions and took on leadership roles in the local,” Barrows says. “I got to see how things get organized and look at the bigger picture when considering issues. The relationships you build with your brothers and sisters are the same kinds of relationships you want to build with constituents.”
Barrows is looking forward to bringing his union values to the city council. He believes that positive labor relations will pay off for everyone in the community.
“We know that our city employees work hard and they’re quality people,” he says. “I want to continue that relationship so that the city gets the most bang for its buck.”
He believes the labor movement succeeds when union members are willing to serve in government.
“The first thing is to vote, but it’s also important for people who are so inclined to get out there and run for office,” he says.
Martha Sellers probably won’t be able to afford a turkey on Thanksgiving because, as on most days, she is forced to choose between paying the bills and putting food on the table.
On Black Friday, the traditional first shopping day of the holiday season the day after Thanksgiving, John Paul Ashton likely won’t be able to buy discounted clothes for his two young children. That’s because he can barely make rent.
Martha Sellers and John Paul Ashton aren’t unemployed – they both work at Walmart. Their stories aren’t unique.
Hundreds of thousands of Walmart workers struggle to afford basic necessities, even though they have a job. And, like John Paul, far too many Walmart employees are forced to go on government assistance programs like welfare, Medicaid and public housing – not because they are lazy, but because they are denied full-time hours and the opportunity to make enough to support their families.
That’s why, on Black Friday, AFSCME members and thousands of others across the country will join Walmart workers like Martha and John Paul to protest Walmart’s treatment of its employees.
The Waltons – America’s richest family and Walmart heirs – can easily afford to give their 2.2 million employees a substantial raise, but they refuse to pay their employees even a living wage. The Walton family’s greed is driving down retail wages across the nation and costing you billions. American taxpayers are quite literally subsidizing Walmart’s profits.
We have demanded change from Walmart before and have won improvements for employees. This Black Friday, we are stepping up our game. Here’s how you can make a difference:
We know that money can be a big obstacle when it comes to higher education. That’s why AFSCME provides scholarships to help members and their families reach their educational goals. If you or someone in your family is thinking about college, check out our scholarships page to see if you qualify.
AFSCME is committed to affordable education options for all families. If you have student debt, please take our brief survey. Your responses can help us to better understand how the cost of college is affecting union households, and how we may be able to help.
Noting that that action was necessary “because extremists in Congress have failed to do their jobs,” AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders issued a statement in support of President Obama’s executive order on immigration.
“They have done nothing to fix our country’s broken immigration system, a system that keeps millions of men and women trapped in a shadow economy that hurts all working families,” Saunders said.
“President Obama’s executive action curtails abusive employers who exploit undocumented immigrants and in doing so, drives down wages and benefits of all of our country’s workers…. It’s time to put an end to the shameful, pointless suffering caused by [Congress’] inability to devise a comprehensive, legislative solution.”
For more than 75 years, AFSCME has been at the forefront of the fight for social justice. AFSCME members fought for and won dignity and respect in the workplace for public workers and marched with Dr. King in support of Civil Rights, and AFSCME was the first union in the country to strike over equal pay for women.
AFSCME continues that tradition as part of a broad coalition of partner unions, immigrant rights organizations and progressive allies who are coming together to assist immigrant families affected by President Obama’s order.
The coalition has developed a website, www.iAmerica.org, a centralized platform with accessible and credible services and information for immigrant families.
Buffalo, N.Y. – In the freak snap of nature, AFSCME members here found themselves at the epicenter of a weird but real emergency. The city is shut down as some sections are buried under at least five feet of snow, while in other places only two inches cover the ground. Residents were encouraged to stay home, but snowplow drivers and dispatchers who are members of AFSCME Council 35 raced into action.
AFSCME Council 35 Exec. Dir. Bill Travis, who works as a dispatcher, was in the middle of the action, helping residents dig out. His own home is covered in five feet of snow. But the message from him and his fellow public service workers on the job around the clock was clear: Stay home, Buffalo – we got this!
Governor Cuomo declared a state of emergency on Wednesday. “This storm may persist until Friday morning with the potential for another two feet of snow,” Cuomo said in the statement. “New Yorkers in these areas should exercise extreme caution, and stay off the roads until conditions are clearer and safer.”
Meteorologist Steve MacLaughlin of WTAE in Pittsburgh explained, “Lake-effect snow is most common in November and December because the lakes are not frozen and when cold air moves over the lakes, it dumps snow. The combination of unseasonably cold air and the wind moving exactly, perfectly, precisely the entire length of Lake Erie meant the perfect storm.”
Caregivers work selflessly every day for their loved ones. To show our appreciation during National Family Caregiver and Homecare Provider Appreciation Month, AFSCME members from the United Domestic Workers of America decided to treat them to a surprise!
See what happens!