AFSCME District Council 1707 in New York City is mourning the passing of Betty Powell, one of the original organizers and members of the first Head Start local in the nation.
Powell was respected throughout the union movement and by child care advocates as a pioneer for child care workers’ rights. Her passion for the labor movement and workers’ rights went far beyond her local and New York City, as she traveled the nation to participate in AFSCME International conventions, New York State AFL-CIO COPE conventions, and meetings of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, the Coalition of Labor Union Women and other national organizations.
DC 1707 Exec. Dir. Victoria Mitchell said that Betty Powell was an inspiration to her and so many others.
“Betty never stopped championing for the rights of child care workers and all workers to have basic dignity and respect,” Mitchell said. “She will be missed and she can never be replaced. She was regal in her stature and she was always a lady, but she was always a fighter for just causes.”
As the president of AFSCME Local 95, Powell’s efforts helped secure fair wages for Head Start workers. She was also treasurer of District Council 1707. After Local 95 became chartered by AFSCME in 1976, it became a leader in striving for higher wages and expanded benefits. Today, Local 95 still has the highest wages of Head Start workers in the nation.
Powell started her Head Start career in 1966 when she became a Head Start family worker. Her last position was as an adult education coordinator. She attended elementary and high school in New York City and later attended the School of Continuing Education at New York University. She obtained an associate’s degree in Social Work at City College and furthered her education at Empire State College.
She is survived by two daughters, six grandchildren, a brother and a sister.
Powell will be missed, but the benefits of her successful leadership and activism will live on.
Los Angeles labor and community organizations joined forces in an innovative program of coordinated bargaining that seeks to “Fix LA” services and economy at the same time.
The goal of the coalition is to negotiate labor issues such as wages, benefits and workplace safety along with community issues like improving public safety, increasing city efficiency and creating more affordable housing. The hand of public service workers will be strengthened with the involvement of individuals who benefit from city services the most.
The coalition is comprised of six city labor unions: SEIU Local 721, AFSCME District Council 36, The LA/OC Building and Construction Trades Council, LIUNA Local 777, Operating Engineers Local 501, and Teamsters Local 911. They are joined by several community partners, including the Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC), National Action Network, Strategic Concepts in Organizing and Policy Education (SCOPE) and the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE).
The group believes that changes in the economy require that they modify the traditional approach to bargaining. This new platform allows community and labor groups to bargain and work side-by-side.
“Every decision the city makes about our city services and operations affects our lives, our neighborhoods and our families,” said the Rev. William Smart, a Fix LA clergy member with the SCLC – Southern California. “We’re excited to be a part of this historic approach to the bargaining process and to have a seat, literally at the table. Our joint demands are designed to lift up the voices and needs of all Angelenos.”
Fix LA’s campaign to address pressing community concerns officially launched in March with its groundbreaking “No Small Fees” research report. It disclosed the tens of millions of taxpayer dollars spent by the city each year on toxic “swap” deals with Wall Street banks and unnecessary banking fees.