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Tuesday’s election was a pivotal moment for progressive American values, as voters across the country elected candidates who stand with working families, unions, and the middle class, and approved ballot measures raising the minimum wage.
“Two years ago, many thought that organized labor, working families and the middle class were becoming extinct,” said Pres. Lee Saunders. “Last night, we pulled together and through hard work, coalition building and grassroots organizing, we showed that if you take on the middle class, we will fight back, we will make our voices heard, and we will win.”
Some of the many highlights from the night’s election returns:
“Make no mistake,” Saunders said, “the energy, enthusiasm and resolve of working families will continue and we will work even harder in 2014, and 2016, to level the playing field and give all Americans the chance to achieve the American Dream.”
MONTEPELIER, Vt. – Home care providers from across the country gathered this past weekend in Burlington, Vt., for the first-ever AFSCME National Home Care Provider Conference.
The event came less than a month after 7,500 home care providers in the state joined AFSCME in what was the largest organizing victory in the nation in 2013 and the largest in Vermont state history.
Sec.-Treas. Laura Reyes, a former home care provider from California, inspired and touched attendees with her personal story as a provider and issued a call for making organizing a priority.v
“We have to embrace the opportunities that will improve our union and that will improve the lives of working people in this country,” she said. “That might be talking to fellow providers and encouraging them to join AFSCME, to grow your local through organizing. It might be a visit to your statehouse to talk to a legislator about a new bill that could help or hurt the work you’re doing in your communities.”
Attendees also heard from Vermont’s Sen. Bernie Sanders, who praised AFSCME’s organizing efforts as well as those of home care workers nationwide.
“It was exciting to meet home care workers from other states in various stages of forming their unions and negotiating,” said Heather Boyd, a home care provider from Shelburne, Vt. “It was an opportunity to exchange experiences and ideas, and it gave me a broader perspective on my work.”
The conference focused on skills building and networking, a unique opportunity for providers who often work in isolation. At the AFSCME conference, they engaged with peers facing similar experiences and challenges. Workshops covered everything from First Aid training to trends in state laws that affect providers and consumers.
While at the conference, attendees also flexed their organizing and advocacy muscles.
Dozens of providers partnered with their local counterparts to launch a membership drive for AFSCME Vermont Homecare United. Within a few hours, 21 teams of home care workers knocked on 179 doors and signed up 67 percent of those they contacted. Attendees also joined students and community members at a rally in support of AFSCME custodians fighting to reach their first contract with a local college.
This column by AFSCME President Lee Saunders is cross-posted from the Huffington Post.
Consider this: In its first 24 hours, HealthCare.gov logged 4.7 million unique visits. That’s a lot of Americans eager to access what was previously out of reach for them. It also underscores how unrepresentative of American interests the right-wing members of the U.S. House are. At every turn, they’re trying to destroy a law that that will improve the lives of working families. Our union will do everything in our power to make sure that the law succeeds.
After a Halloween season haunted by a government shutdown, debt ceiling crisis, it’s time on Tuesday to head to the polls and elect leaders who will stand with working families.
It’s Election Day in cities and states across the country, and much is at stake for working families. To promote positive change for the middle class and repeal vicious attacks from Wall Street, we must help elect leaders who stand with working families at all levels of the political hierarchy – from the school board to Congress.
AFSCME encourages all its members to become registered voters and make their voices heard in local, state and national elections. We also encourage our members to become PEOPLE MVPs by contributing just $2 a week to our PEOPLE program, which helps us support candidates who stand with us.
Here are a few of the candidates on today's ballots that AFSCME has endorsed:
We’re also trying to defeat Issue 4, a tea party ballot measure that threatens retirement security for 7500 workers, retirees and survivors in Cincinnati.
When the members of a South Florida AFSCME local fought an outsourcing scheme, they were prepared and unified. Then they won.
Members of Local 1184 (Council 79), representing employees of the Miami-Dade School District, persuaded members of the school board to vote against the proposal, which included a study that could have led to outsourcing the district’s fleet of 1,300 buses and approximately 1,700 drivers and aides.
The 8-1 vote against the politically motivated plan was not only a victory for the members, who tapped into public support for their cause, but also a demonstration that preparation pays off in the long run.
The outsourcing study would have reviewed privatization in other school districts, and also determine the ability and interest of for-profit companies to provide transportation services. Local 1184 members, realizing that such a study would be a foot in the door for profiteers, were determined to speak out about the importance of public services.
Local 1184 Pres. Sherman Henry said they mounted an offense partly based on work they did to prevent outsourcing in 2008. They implemented a driver safety plan that subjects drivers to higher standards than those in the private sector. They also created an accident review board that for-profit companies lacked. “The point,” said Henry, “was to show that we’re better for the taxpayer.”
Outsourcing raised its ugly head again in January when board member Carlos Curbelo pushed a plan involving school maintenance. Curbelo, the Republican now running for Congress against U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia (D), dropped the plan before it went before the school board. Local 1184 “made our case to most of the board members,” said Henry. “He was convinced he didn’t want to have the fight.”
Then, in October, Curbelo raised the transportation outsourcing scheme. Shortly before the board prepared to vote, members held well-attended rallies throughout the county. They made their case to the public through the news media and also called their board members to protest. In addition, Henry said they reminded the board of the earlier studies demonstrating that public service workers could do the work better than privateers – and save taxpayers money as well.
One example was $2 million saved by persuading administrators to switch from a poor grade of floor wax that had to be frequently re-applied to one that cost more upfront, but required fewer applications. That, and other examples of efficient and cost-effectiveness, “is what helped us get the 8-1 vote,” said Henry.
Representative Garcia also sided with the union members. He said that not only would outsourcing increase the district’s costs, but that “privatization in Dade County could hurt the 1,700 hardworking bus drivers and aides currently employed by the district.”
Although they won their battle, Henry says they expect more attempts to outsource services. But they’re ready to fight back, he said. They’ve already proven they can win.
In a move raising questions about the welfare of Ohio’s most vulnerable residents, the state’s Department of Developmental Disabilities just handed pink slips to 80 employees of the Gallipolis Developmental Center (GDC).
GDC is one of the largest employers in Gallia County, and the recent layoffs come on the heels of two other downsizings at the center in 2009 and 2012. More than 300 members of the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association (OCSEA) work at the facility, and the union fears job losses will lead to diminished services for the center’s residents.
In Ohio, 10 state-operated developmental centers are home to more than 1,000 individuals with severe and profound developmental disabilities. Since 2011, nearly 500 were moved from the centers. GDC is the largest facility and was downsized by half since 2009. In 2012, the state cut all police officer positions at the 10 centers as well, threatening the safety and security of clients and staff.
Many parents and family members, employees, the OCSEA, and other developmental disability advocates say the downsizing has gone too far. They raised questions about whether individuals transferred to community settings are safe or capable of thriving in those environments.
“As a guardian, I want my brother to stay at GDC,” said Rick Jones, legal co-guardian to his brother who lives at GDC. “This center is his home and has been for decades. The caregivers are his extended family.”
“Parents are scared,” said Mitch Salyers, the local OCSEA chapter president at GDC. “They want their family member safe and happy, but they feel they are harassed to move them into inappropriate settings regardless of their ability to thrive.”
Monty Blanton, an OCSEA staff representative and former employee at GDC, says that Ohioans need to be educated about what's happening in the rush to downsize state facilities.
"If Ohioans knew that we are moving individuals – who can’t walk, can’t talk, can’t feed themselves – into homes where the staff don’t know how to take care of them, they’d be appalled,” said Blanton. “It is a moral outrage.”