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Updated: 5 hours 56 min ago

Boycott Staples! AFSCME Supports Postal Workers

Thu, 07/03/2014 - 12:51

AFSCME has endorsed the American Postal Workers Union’s boycott of Staples, which was given a no-bid contract by the U.S. Postal Service that would allow Staples to staff in-store Postal Service counters with its own low-paid employees.

In a July 2 letter to Staples Inc. CEO Ronald L. Sargeant, AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders and Sec.-Treas. Laura Reyes said “we are asking our members, friends, family members and colleagues to take their business elsewhere.”

While noting that AFSCME has done substantial business with Staples, nationally and locally, President Saunders and Secretary-Treasurer Reyes wrote that Americans “have a right to Post Offices staffed by highly-trained, uniformed postal employees – employees who have taken an oath to safeguard the privacy and security of their mail. We also object, in principle, to short-sighted business arrangements that replace good, living-wage jobs with high-turnover, low-wage jobs, as the USPS-Staples deal does.”

The Postal Service announced last October that it would open postal counters with limited services at 82 Staples locations nationwide.

The pilot program could potentially expand to all of the Massachusetts-based chain's 1,500 locations nationwide starting this September.

AFSCME’s letter to Staples’ CEO notes that, since the deal was announced, the USPS has reduced service hours in more than two dozen San Francisco-area Post Offices. All of them are located near a Staples store with a postal counter. “It is apparent that more cuts in postal services are planned, along with the eventual closing of U.S. Post Offices,” the letter states.

“Only the U.S. Postal Service can accomplish the mission it has carried out with distinction for more than two centuries: Providing universal mail service to all Americans, in every corner of the country,” wrote President Saunders and Secretary-Treasurer Reyes.

Read more here and sign a petition to “tell Staples: The U.S. mail is not for sale!

Categories: News By Union

California EMS Professionals Choose AFSCME

Thu, 07/03/2014 - 12:45

AFSCME victories among EMS professionals across the country keep on coming. Just one week after an organizing win among these emergency employees in Missouri, 500 EMS professionals employed at American Medical Response in Riverside County, California, have voted to join AFSCME.

 “We chose AFSCME because we want to unite and focus on gaining respect for our profession,” Aaron Duncan, a paramedic and member of the organizing committee, said after the ballots were counted Tuesday. “Now we’re ready to show AMR the way forward and get to work on a contract.”

“We voted for AFSCME so that our resources could go to fighting for our profession,” said Craig Alvizo, a Riverside County paramedic.

Volunteer Member Organizers from Northern California helped bring this victory home and were present at Tuesday’s vote count. They took time out to travel to Riverside County and share their vision for EMS and the victories they’ve had since coming together as AFSCME Local 4911. 

“It’s amazing what we can accomplish when we pull together,” said Andre Velasquez. “It was an enlightening experience seeing that people are willing to fight.”

"It was definitely worthwhile and I felt like I made a big difference being here," said EMT Brittney Silva.

More than 23,000 EMS professionals across the country working in both the public and private sectors have found their voice with AFSCME.

Categories: News By Union

GOP Govs Cutting Off Noses To Spite… Obama

Thu, 07/03/2014 - 09:00

Five years ago, our health care system was utterly failing millions of Americans. But as the components of the Affordable Care Act have gone into effect, things have steadily improved.  The cost of care is no longer spiraling out of control, and more people than ever have access to quality care. 

But about 5.7 million Americans are still waiting for care because they live in states whose legislatures or governors are obstructing the law out of pure political spite, even as their own citizens suffer and die for lack of care.  Twenty-four states have chosen not to expand access to Medicaid coverage for the poor and uninsured, even though the federal government is prepared to cover the full costs of the expansion for the first three years of the program and 90 percent of costs in perpetuity after that.

As a new study from the president’s Council of Economic Advisors shows, the impact of these decisions reaches far beyond those 5.7 million uninsured people.  States that refuse federal Medicaid dollars are unleashing economic and public health consequences that bring down the quality of life for all citizens. 

The 24 states opting out of Medicaid expansion also have opted out of some 184,000 jobs and $66 billion in projected economic activity, the study reveals. More people using the health care system would mean more jobs in hospitals and clinics, and those workers would in turn spend their money in the local economy. The citizens of Florida and Texas, where Governors Rick Perry and Rick Scott have refused expansion, are each missing out on more than $10 billion in projected GDP.

Besides not getting the economic boost from federal funds, these states also are losing resources to the destabilizing effects of untreated health problems and outrageous medical bills.  People who are enrolled in Medicaid are 5.5 percent less likely to face catastrophic out-of-pocket medical costs and 14.2 percent less likely to take out loans or face difficulty paying bills in a given year compared to the uninsured. 

When hospital bills go unpaid, the quality of the health care delivery system declines and costs go up for even those who are insured.  And more generally, people who have access to quality health care are more able to participate in the workforce and less likely to die early.

The states that have refused Medicaid funding are, unfortunately, the states which need it the most.   Unless additional states sign on to the expansion, two-thirds of the nation’s poor African Americans and two-thirds of single mothers will be living in states without expanded programs.  

Categories: News By Union

Court Backs Illinois Retirees on Health Care

Thu, 07/03/2014 - 09:00

In a major blow to a state plan that would have imposed new costs on retired state workers, the Illinois Supreme Court has ruled that the health benefits included in pension packages are protected under state law.

Workers with AFSCME Council 31 and allied unions will be allowed to go forward with a lawsuit challenging a 2012 law that threatened retiree health benefits. The law would have forced retirees to pay exorbitant new premiums on their health benefits.  Pension benefits are guaranteed under the Illinois state constitution.

"The Supreme Court ruled today that men and women who work to provide essential public services can count on the Illinois Constitution to mean what it says," said Council 31 Executive Director Henry Bayer. "Retirement security, including affordable health care and a modest pension, cannot be revoked by politicians.”

The workers will still have to fight their case in court, but the 6-1 ruling that allowed the case to move forward is an “extraordinarily encouraging sign,” according to an attorney involved in the case.

Categories: News By Union

Alaska State Troopers Set Bar High for Public Service

Thu, 07/03/2014 - 09:00

A little courtesy goes a long way, they say, and two Alaska State Troopers found out exactly how true that could be June 20. That’s the date a fugitive from justice, wanted on multiple felony warrants, approached troopers in the parking lot of the Anchorage headquarters and turned himself in.

Reports indicate Brian John Fahey made the decision to surrender after watching an episode of the reality show “Alaska State Troopers,” telling the troopers, "Alaska State Troopers were more professional and courteous to the people they arrested than other law enforcement personnel he had dealt with."

Stories like Fahey’s are rare, but Alaska Troopers are continually put to the test and out saving lives. Many of their acts of heroism are featured on the same show that encouraged Fahey to bring himself to justice.

Just this past week four Troopers, Gordon Young, Erik Hill, Chris Bitz and Jim Ellison — all members of Public Safely Employees Association, Local 803 (an AFSCME affiliate) — rescued a hiker stranded on a cliff edge near Denali. Cherelle LaGrou was hiking on a ridge top, where she lost her footing and slid down the side of the mountain.

Troopers Young and Hill climbed the ridge after receiving a call from LaGrou’s employer. Shortly afterwards, troopers Bitz and Ellison made their way to the ridge top and passed additional ropes down to LaGrou to aid in her rescue.

“We respond to several life-threatening situations each year, but we always approach each instance as if it is unique to ensure our safety and those we set out to rescue,” Young said.

Alaska State Troopers recently decided to suspend production of the TV series following the deaths of two states troopers. However, the entire rescue was captured on video and is expected to air in the fall on the National Geographic Channel.

Categories: News By Union

Fixing the Game Against College Athletes

Thu, 07/03/2014 - 09:00

The AFL-CIO’s “Low-Wage Villain of the Week” is the president of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), a non-profit association that regulates athletes of more than 1,200 schools, conferences and affiliate organizations. The NCAA received this dubious distinction because of its hypocrisy in a legal case involving fair compensation.

The case involves Ed O’Bannon, a former UCLA basketball player who is the lead plaintiff in an antitrust class action lawsuit against the NCAA. O’Bannon claims that college athletes, himself included, should be paid when their likenesses are used in a sports video game that generates profits for NCAA schools.

The AFL-CIO writes that the millionaire president of the NCAA, Mark Emmert, “claimed that if football and men’s basketball players were paid in any way, shape or form, fans would lose interest in college athletics.”

That, of course, is exactly what it sounds like – an excuse to fix the game against college athletes.

Read the full column here.


Categories: News By Union

The wage war for public workers’ unions

Wed, 07/02/2014 - 13:02

The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that home care and child care providers members were not required to pay fair share dues.

MSNBC Host Alex Wagner and Dorian Warren of the Roosevelt Institute engage in one of the smartest conversations we've seen yet about the Supreme Court's anti-worker decision in Harris v. Quinn.

They note that it is part of  a union-busting power grab by the Koch Brothers and Walton family that will hurt mostly low-income women all over the country.

Categories: News By Union

Paramedics Drive into Storm to Save Patient

Tue, 07/01/2014 - 09:07

When most people hear of baseball-sized hail and tornado warnings, they avoid leaving the house at all costs, let alone drive 200 miles into the worst of the storm.

If you're Adam Shaffer – an EMS professional in Independence, Missouri, who just became an AFSCME member – you might not think twice about it. With a transplant patient depending on you, there’s a job to be done. Helicopter transport was out of the question because of the storm. Shaffer and his partner, Amy Shepard, also a new AFSCME member, were asked if they could drive a recent transplant patient with internal bleeding back to her doctors.

The road from Independence to Omaha, Nebraska, usually takes three hours. But that doesn't account for baseball-sized hail, torrential rain, 70-plus mph winds and tornado warnings.

"The skies turned from blue to grey to black,” Shaffer said. “With the rain, wind and hail, you couldn't see more than one road stripe in front of the rig."

Even with the lights running, the normal speed limit was far above what he could travel at.

"There were stretches of five, 10 miles per hour," he recalled. "I thought about pulling over, but we had a patient who needed care. The hail was so bad I was leaning back in my seat just in case the windshield shattered."

Despite the rain, hail and tornado warnings, Shaffer and Shepard succeeded in safely getting the patient to the hospital.

An active member of the Organizing Committee for EMS Workers United /AFSCME, Shaffer is trying to improve not just working conditions for himself and his fellow workers, but the EMS profession.

"It was a dangerous drive,” Shaffer said. “But it’s our job.”

Categories: News By Union

Statement from AFSCME President Lee Saunders

Mon, 06/30/2014 - 11:14

Today’s Supreme Court decision does not dampen the resolve of home care workers and child care providers to come together to have a strong voice for good jobs and to give care to millions of seniors, people with disabilities and children.

The ruling places at risk a system of consumer-directed home care that has proved successful in raising wages, providing affordable care and increasing training. The number of elderly Americans will increase dramatically in the coming years.

Child care workers make it possible for working parents to support their families without the agony of trying to juggle their jobs and their kids. States need to build a stable, qualified workforce to meet the growing need for home care and child care – and having a strong union for care providers is the approach that has proven most effective.

Today’s ruling did not hand anti-worker extremists the victory they’d been hoping for because the Court did not revoke collective bargaining rights for public service workers or care providers. It did not eliminate existing contracts.

That would have been a fundamental gutting of the American Dream, but make no mistake – Justice Alito’s opinion made clear that the relentless assault on workers’ rights will not abate.

As always, AFSCME members nationwide will remain steadfast and fight for the simple rights and dignity that every working American deserves. A court ruling doesn’t change our obligation as proud union workers and it doesn’t negate our obligation to keep fighting to restore the American middle class.

Categories: News By Union

Prison Industry Funds Study; Profs Face Probe

Fri, 06/27/2014 - 08:49

PHILADELPHIA – Temple University is conducting a probe into ethics violations by two professors who published a paper favorable to private prisons without disclosing it was funded by that industry.

“The professors concluded that private prisons save money while performing as well as or better than government-operated prisons and generate much-needed competition,” the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote. “In the private model, Hakim and Blackstone found long-term savings in taxpayer costs of 12 percent to 58 percent.”

However, the professors, Simon Hakim and Erwin Blackstone, failed to disclose their research was funded by the private prison industry.

"Their research was funded by the very industry they were studying," said Alex Friedmann, managing editor of the monthly Prison Legal News and associate director of the Human Rights Defense Center, a criminal-justice advocacy group. "It's kind of like the tobacco industry funding the Tobacco Institute, which says smoking is just fine for you."

Echoing Friedman’s concern, AFSCME Council 13 Exec. Dir. and International Vice Pres. David Fillman, AFSCME Council 33 Pres. Pete Matthews, and Local 159 Pres. Lorenzo North sent a letter to Temple University Pres. Neil Theobald expressing dissatisfaction with the delay in the ethics probe.

The letter explained that AFSCME members, including public corrections officers, “are aware of significant problems related to for-profit prisons such as high staff turnover rates, understaffing and high levels of violence.”

It is common for professors to be contracted to carry out investigations in their fields of study and to be paid for the research. The focus of the ethics complaint is that Hakim and Blackstone did not make the necessary disclosure. They also published opinion articles in several papers nationally without disclosing their benefactors.

AFSCME Councils 13 and 33 will continue to apply pressure on the university leadership until the probe is complete.


Categories: News By Union

Missouri EMS Pros Vote to Join AFSCME

Fri, 06/27/2014 - 08:39

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. – With an overwhelming majority voting “yes” this week, EMS professionals at AMR-Independence/South Platte are now part of EMS Workers United-AFSCME, the nation's fastest growing union for emergency medical personnel.

"After all of our hard work these past few months, this is a big moment for us," said Laura Cain, a paramedic and an active member of the union’s organizing committee. Coming from a strong union family, with firefighter brothers and an autoworker dad, Cain says she knows that the election marks a beginning and is ready for the challenges ahead.

"We knew when we started this, things wouldn't be easy,” Cain says. “This has always been about elevating the EMS profession and that's what we're going to do."

The work of EMS professionals is often unheralded. But their work is extremely valuable, and the sacrifices they make ought to be recognized.

"EMS doesn't get the publicity that other first responders get," said Jason Rivera, an EMT in South Platte. "And that's okay. More than publicity, we're looking for respect. We want to sit down with our employers and local officials and discuss how we can improve EMS in our communities. Now that we have our union, we can do just that."

Categories: News By Union

Working to Raise Civic Pride in Connecticut

Fri, 06/27/2014 - 08:04

Responding to the call from Torrington, Connecticut, Mayor Elinor Carbone, members of AFSCME Local 1579, Council 4, raised money for additional flags to decorate the city. They and the mayor wanted to line Main Street with flags as a way to engender civic pride.

The fundraising effort allowed AFSCME Pres. Mark Zordan and Treas. Chrissy Upton to present a check for $800 to Mayor Carbone.

“Many people have commented that these American flags add a very nice accent to Main Street and we are proud to be able to make this contribution to the community,” Zordan told The Register Citizen News.

“This is a tremendous gift,” Carbone said. “The union does so much. I don’t think people understand, or really fully appreciate the amount of work and pride our employees take in our community.”

The mayor announced that the check would allow the city to place flags from Water Street to East Elm Street.

AFSCME Local 1579, Council 4, represents 300 Board of Education cafeteria workers, custodians, nurses, para-professionals and secretaries, as well as City Hall and Public Works employees, and Torrington Housing Authority maintenance and security employees.

Categories: News By Union