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Updated: 7 hours 38 min ago

Philadelphia Crossing Guard Saves Children from Burning Van

Mon, 03/31/2014 - 08:24

Public employees in Philadelphia may not be getting enough respect from Mayor Michael Nutter, but they continue to do their jobs with dedication and commitment to the communities they serve. In fact, sometimes they go beyond the call of duty.

Crossing guard Mary Mulligan, a member of AFSCME Local 1956, District Council 33, has been protecting children and helping them cross busy intersections for 26 years. But this week she had an opportunity to do more than that and rose to the occasion.

Mulligan was on the job when she heard a loud bang like a large firecracker and saw a school van that appeared to be in trouble. The back tire of the van had caught fire.

As reported by this local news station, Mulligan “led the rescue effort by neighbors” who managed to remove all eight children, including an infant, from the burning van until everyone was safe. No injuries were reported.

“Everybody was safe, that’s what’s most important,” Mulligan said. “It was very scary, my heart’s still pounding. Very scary.”

Watch the video below.

Categories: News By Union

City Council in Rhode Island Honors AFSCME Local’s 50th Anniversary

Fri, 03/28/2014 - 09:03

Newport, R.I. – The Newport City Council recently joined AFSCME Local 911 in celebrating its 50th anniversary, passing a resolution to honor the workers and the union.

“It is refreshing to see elected representatives recognize the importance of a city’s public employees and their union to the operation of the city,” said J. Michael Downey, president of AFSCME Council 94. “All too often, we see workers being pushed down and disrespected by elected officials. It is nice to see a local honored in such a way.”

Council members not only allowed Local 911 to display a commemorative plaque at the entrance of City Hall, they went one step further and passed a resolution celebrating its 50th anniversary. The plaque was a gift from AFSCME International Pres. Lee Saunders and Sec.-Treas. Laura Reyes.

Local 911, Newport City Employees Union, was founded April 12, 1963. Our sisters and brothers in Newport provide vital wall-to-wall service to city residents, from public works to City Hall.

Categories: News By Union

AFSCME Iowa Member Will Run for Statehouse Seat

Fri, 03/28/2014 - 09:00

For Ben Westphal, caring for those who served this country and helping those who make up the middle class are what motivates him every day.

That’s why the Iowa Veterans Home public employee and AFSCME Iowa Council 61 member decided to serve by challenging the Republican incumbent for the Statehouse seat in Iowa District 72.

Westphal said he is focused on improving education.

“We can’t afford to leave any child behind, and that’s why I’ll work tirelessly for strong public schools and guaranteeing that kids who come from troubled homes can get the support they need to succeed,” said Westphal, who is running for public office for the first time. “I will also work to make sure that rural Iowa gets our share of state resources for local schools and job creation initiatives.”

Westphal also supports a raise in the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour and the reopening of the Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo that Governor Branstad arbitrarily closed. A case is pending in court against the closure.

The closure was “a big impact on the community,” said Westphal, who doesn’t believe his opponent did enough to fight for the home. In addition to removing a needed treatment option for Iowa’s most vulnerable youth, the closure shutters a facility that has an estimated $7.4-million economic impact on the community and its surrounding area. It was the area’s fourth-largest employer.

Westphal plans to fight hard to win the Statehouse race to help regular Iowans.

"We're going to put the feet to the streets and do phone banks," he said. "I'd like to see people have a fair shot and stand up for the people.”

Categories: News By Union

Addicted to Koch: How Un-American!

Fri, 03/28/2014 - 09:00

Pop quiz: Who is U.S. Sen. Harry Reid talking about in this quote from back in January? “Because of a United States Supreme Court decision called Citizens United, there’s been some really untoward stuff going on in the political world,” he said. “We have two brothers who are actually trying to buy the country.”

Need another hint? Here is Reid referring to the same men in February: “It’s time that the American people spoke out against this terrible dishonesty of these two brothers, who are about as un-American as anyone that I can imagine.”

The answer, of course, is the billionaire Koch brothers, Charles and David, who are literally and figuratively destroying the American way of life. Owners of Koch Industries, the second largest privately owned company in the U.S., they are number 14 on the list of the most toxic American air polluters and their lobbying efforts in Washington focus on preventing passage of environmental legislation to curb the cancer-causing chemicals their Koch Industries emit.

They are also the money behind ALEC, an extremist group that pushes right-to-work (for-less) bills and other anti-worker legislation in states all over the country. ALEC seeks to silence workers in every locality so corporations can more easily exploit them. Its mission is to weaken the American middle class by rigging the economic system for the benefit of the wealthy.

In Wisconsin, for example, where AFSCME members lost their collective bargaining rights in 2011, nearly half of state legislators voted with the ALEC agenda 100 percent of the time in 2011-2012. Another astounding fact? On the 2012 elections the Koch brothers spent $413 million, more than 2.5 times the combined spending of the top 10 labor unions.

AFSCME has been a major voice in calling out against the abuse and injustice funded by ALEC. We are glad that Senator Reid, as majority leader of the Senate, is doing the same publicly, leading a campaign to tell the naked truth about how right-wing politicians have become “addicted to Koch.”

Visit this “Koch addiction” website to support efforts against the Koch brothers and learn more about how these oligarchs threaten our American democracy.

Categories: News By Union

Outsourcing Lowers Wages, Harms Communities

Fri, 03/28/2014 - 09:00

The text below is from an email sent by In The Public Interest, a comprehensive resource center on privatization and responsible contracting.

When state and local governments outsource public services to for-profit corporations, the justification is almost always about saving money.  But according to a new study, too often outsourcing ends up hurting the community as a whole. 

The Decision to Contract Out: Understanding the Full Economic and Social Impacts,” a new report by Professor Daphne Greenwood at the University of Colorado, shows that outsourcing reduces worker wages and benefits, which leads to an array of negative effects for the entire community. Fewer nights out at local restaurants or sporting events means fewer dollars invested in the local economy.  

And the study shows the effects of reckless outsourcing go beyond economics. Outsourcing puts public health and safety at risk, widens the wage gap between women and men as well as whites and people of color, and forces more workers and retirees onto public assistance.

The study even includes a guide for calculating the social and economic consequences to help leaders fully assess the impacts of outsourcing before it's too late.

“This valuable report offers further evidence of the negative impact outsourcing – without rigorous oversight – can have on communities,” said Donald Cohen, executive director of In The Public Interest. “The evidence for public control just keeps on piling up. What we need now at every level of government are policies that reflect what the evidence makes clear and that help us prevent economic and social harm to our communities.”

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Right-Wing PACs Take Aim at Phoenix Workers’ Retirement Security

Fri, 03/28/2014 - 09:00

If a right-wing group has its way, voters in Phoenix, Ariz., will be asked this fall whether city employees should receive secure retirement benefits in exchange for their years of public service.  

It wouldn’t be the first time the Citizens for Pension Reform Committee targets public service workers, but their latest attack comes while city employees are still reeling from a separate overhaul last year that slashed employer contributions to the pension system. This time, the right-wing group pushes for a ballot measure aimed at converting the city’s pension plan into a shakier 401(k) scheme.

Despite its name, the organization that drives this attack on retirement is not a grassroots effort but the side project of Scot Mussi, the executive director of a big-business political spending group called the Arizona Free Enterprise Club. The group states on its website that one of its top policy goals is to “reduce the influence of public sector unions in the political process.”  And while they campaign to make the voices of public employees smaller, in 2011 they took a case to the Supreme Court arguing in favor of unlimited private campaign contributions.

The average public employee pension in Phoenix is worth a modest $23,000 per year.  If the city is looking for ways to save taxpayer money, this isn’t it.  A study the city conducted during the last round of pension cuts found that moving to a 401(k) system would actually cost the city more than $400 million.  With the city facing a budget shortfall, the plan is as bad for the public as it is for the retirees whose savings are at stake.

The Pension Reform Committee has less than a month to collect 25,000 signatures if it wants the measure to appear on the ballot, and they may not make it—just last fall their plans to do the same in Tucson were foiled when a judge found that their petition was filled with thousands of fraudulent signatures.  But this is another reminder that big-money interests have retirees’ savings squarely in the crosshairs. 


Categories: News By Union

Women’s History Month

Thu, 03/27/2014 - 09:00

Here are some disturbing facts:

  • Women earn 77 cents for every dollar a man earns.
  • Two-thirds of minimum wage workers are women.
  • Eighty-nine percent of the U.S. workforce does not have access to paid family leave.
  • Nearly 14 percent of women live in poverty.

In his State of the Union speech, President Obama called on Congress to work with him to address this nation’s growing income inequality. If lawmakers in Washington are serious about reversing the growing gap between the rich and everyone else, they should start by fully embracing the Women’s Economic Agenda.

The Women’s Economic Agenda is a series of proposals that will bring fairness to our economy and help women achieve more opportunities for economic security.

The first step is to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, which gives women more tools to fight back against wage discrimination. It also includes amending the Family and Medical Leave Act to include paid time off for things like child birth and caring for a sick relative. Finally, it invests in pre-school and Head Start and promotes affordable day care so that women with young children can continue to work.

These are all excellent ideas. But, considering the lack of, well, anything, coming from Congress, I do not have high hopes that they will soon find solutions to these monumental problems. We need action now.

One thing we can do right now is to make it easier for women to join a union. Unions raise wages for all workers. Period.  Women in unions are also more likely to have paid sick leave and retirement benefits. And because their unions negotiate salaries for all the workers they represent regardless of gender, they are less likely to experience wage discrimination.

I hope that President Obama and Congress are successful in making economic security a reality for all Americans. I truly do. But in the meantime, I’m putting my faith in my union.



Categories: News By Union

Members of Russia’s ‘Pussy Riot’ Stand with AFSCME in Wisconsin

Thu, 03/27/2014 - 07:37

AFSCME members and others in Wisconsin who support collective bargaining rights for public employees won two well-known supporters who are members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot.

The two singers are Nadya Tolokonikova and Masha Alyokhina, released from a Russian jail in December after serving nearly two years for criticizing then-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin during a 2012 performance (Putin is now Russia’s president).

The Russian singers have taken up the cause of hundreds of Wisconsin residents who were cited by Governor Walker’s administration after staging peaceful sing-alongs at the state Capitol in Madison. The sing-alongs were in protest of the governor’s 2011 act to strip more than 200,000 public service workers of their union rights.

A judge recently tossed out a ticket against one of the solidarity singers, ruling the state’s action in that case was unconstitutional.

The Pussy Riot members take up the solidarity singers’ cause in a new video that tells the story of Governor Walker’s actions, and of the arrests of the solidarity singers. Watch the video here.

In the video, Tolokonikova and Alyokhina urge state Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen to drop the state’s prosecution against the solidarity singers.

“Use music to change the world in the direction you want it to change,” says Tolokonikova. “Because music touches people and makes them act.”

To Nadya Tolokonikova and Masha Alyokhina: Spasiba bolshoe (Thanks so much!) and solidarity forever!

Categories: News By Union

Wisconsin AFSCME Member Helps Find the Lost

Thu, 03/27/2014 - 07:25

Wisconsin Conservation Warden Dave Oginski’s skills as a tracker helped save the lives of at least a dozen people over the years and were recently highlighted in a feature-length story in the Green Bay Press-Gazette.

At a time when public services are threatened and even demonized, in cities and states across the country, Oginski’s story is a reminder of the true value of the work that public service employees do every day in every place in America.

A member of AFSCME Local 1215, Council 24, Oginski is employed at the state Department of Natural Resources’ Wausaukee ranger station. When hunters, fishermen and others who venture into this territory become lost, it’s his job to find them.

Oginski “helped track and find at least six people lost in the woods last year, which is more than any other warden in Wisconsin,” the Press-Gazette reported. The story further notes the 29-year-old personally helped locate at least 12 people since he began working as a conservation warden in 2007. He conducted six search and rescue missions during the latest deer-hunting season.

“This guy has just been Johnny-on-the-spot for us numerous times,” Marinette County Sheriff Jerry Suave told the Press-Gazette. “He has a knack for determining which way somebody went while finding lost people.”

As for himself, Oginski is humble. “It’s just a matter of using what I use every day,” he tells AFSCME. For example, he uses tracking skills to search for signs of poaching, which is “sometimes as simple as going down the road and looking at tracks in the dirt” to see where they lead.

“A lot of the officers are trained the same way, whether they’re conservation wardens or police officers,” he added. “It’s just a matter of being in the right place at the right time.”

Oginski may be humble about his job, but he’s proud to declare he’s an AFSCME member.

“It gives me a lot of pride in the fact that I can say I am a member of the union, and still go out and do my work,” he said. “I’m not whatever we have been portrayed as” by right-wing extremists.

Categories: News By Union

Touchdown! Northwestern University Football Players Can Form Union

Thu, 03/27/2014 - 07:19

The college football players at Northwestern University in Illinois won the right to unionize.

The decision by the Chicago National Labor Relations Board will be appealed by the university, which contends the players are students and not employees.

Northwestern players seek reimbursement for medical expenses related to their work on the field, concussion experts to staff games, and an educational trust fund to help former players graduate, among other things.

AFSCME applauds the efforts of these players to form their own union to bargain collectively.

Categories: News By Union

What’s Wisconsin’s Governor Hiding?

Wed, 03/26/2014 - 14:46

The criminal investigation, which led to the criminal convictions of several staffers of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, may officially be over, but the governor has yet to come clean about what he knows.

Why, Governor Walker? What are you hiding?

Here’s what we do know, in a nutshell, based on newspaper and other published accounts: A review of some 28,000 pages of emails and other documents that were secret (until a criminal probe revealed them) showed that Walker allowed his staff – at the time he was the Milwaukee county executive – to help him during his campaign for governor in 2010.

It would have been legal but for the fact they did it on public time. Walker and his top campaign aides “corresponded consistently with county staff from a private email account in the middle of the work day and apparently on a secret Wi-Fi system set up by top aide Tim Russell,” wrote Mary Bottari, deputy director of the Center for Media and Democracy.

Russell, later sentenced to two years behind bars for stealing money from a veteran’s fund, conspired with other key executive staff to conceal the wireless network.

Altogether, six Walker aides were convicted, two related to campaigning on public time. Governor Walker was not charged with any crime, and the case is closed. But he refused to say whether he knew about the secret wireless system.

Serious doubts remain about Walker’s willingness to tell the truth regarding this sordid affair. What’s clear is the governor is more interested in his own political future than in the future of the hardworking people of his state.

Categories: News By Union

AFSCME Family Scholarship Recipients Announced for 2014

Wed, 03/26/2014 - 12:18

Ten dependents of AFSCME members will receive financial support for college through the AFSCME Family Scholarship Program.

Congratulations to:

  • Alexandra Arenz (Wisconsin Council 40)
  • Neal Baranosky (New Jersey Council 52)
  • Julia Biernat (Connecticut Council 4)
  • Dallin Carlson (Washington Council 2)
  • Daniel Cross (New York CSEA Local 1000)
  • Marcel Ferreiro (District of Columbia, Council 26)
  • Robin Lancaster (California Council 57)
  • Sean Lowe  (Ohio Council 8)
  • Heather Shen (Rhode Island Council 94)
  • Char’Nese Turner (Illinois Council 31)

The AFSCME Family Scholarship Program is open to graduating high school seniors who are also a child of (or financially dependent grandchild of) an active or retired, full dues-paying AFSCME member. The candidate must also be an applicant to an accredited college or university and subsequently accepted as a full-time student in a four-year degree program or a two-year degree program that will transfer credits to a four-year college or university.

Each $2,000 scholarship may be used for any field of study, and can be renewed annually for a maximum of four years, provided the student remains enrolled in a full-time course of study.

Click here for applications and further details about the AFSCME Family Scholarship, or call AFSCME Advantage at (800) 588-0374.

Categories: News By Union

Victory in California: Two Years of Negotiations End in Contract Agreement

Tue, 03/25/2014 - 14:58

In marathon bargaining sessions this past weekend in Oakland, AFSCME Local 3299 and the University of California (UC) reached a tentative contract agreement that averted a five-day strike.

The four-year agreement, which covers 13,000 patient care technical workers (respiratory therapists, nursing aides, MRI techs, pharmacy techs, OR techs and others), includes fair wage increases, secure benefits, and critical safety and staffing protections, for which Local 3299 negotiated in good faith for nearly two years.

In reaching the agreement – which once ratified, will replace terms illegally imposed on patient care workers last summer – the University also withdrew its regressive 11th-hour demands for sweeping new layoff powers, known as “emergency” call-offs. These issues prompted the Public Employment Relations Board to issue unfair labor practice complaints against UC and brought Local 3299-represented patient care workers to the brink of their third strike in less than a year.

“This weekend, the university returned to the bargaining table in a spirit of good faith, and we were able to not only avert a strike but to reach a tentative contract agreement that 13,000 university patient care technical workers sought for nearly two years,” said AFSCME 3299 Pres. Kathryn Lybarger, also an AFSCME International president. “This proposed agreement reflects compromise on both sides, improves safety in UC hospitals, and honors the important contributions that patient care technical workers make to the UC health system every day. Our members look forward to ratifying this agreement, returning to work, and doing what they do best – caring for patients.”

This victory was possible only because hardworking women and men refused to give up their rights at the workplace – through the patient care technical unit’s first-ever strikes, through implementation and so much more. They stood strong for 20 months, united by an unflinching commitment to their families, patients and each other.

The agreement for patient care workers comes on the heels of a historic agreement for 8,500 UC service workers, who are also represented by Local 3299. The agreement took important steps to pull the university’s lowest paid workers out of poverty and arrest skyrocketing injury rates amongst employees who do the most physically demanding labor.

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