The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees has fought for its members and played a leadership role in the labor movement for 75 years. In doing so, AFSCME has grown to become one of the largest labor unions in the United States. This exhibit and video tells the story of the men and women of AFSCME.
Source: South Coast Today
CONCORD, NH - The New Hampshire organized labor community chalked up a major victory yesterday when state Democratic and Republican lawmakers joined forces to kill Right-to-Work legislation in the Granite State.
With just a little over a month remaining in the legislative session, the bi-partisan group of 139 legislators voted to sustain a veto of the bill by Democratic Governor John Lynch. Their votes were enough to prevent House Speaker William O’Brien and 239 other Republican legislators from securing the two-thirds majority needed to override the veto and make New Hampshire the first state in ten years to adopt the union-busting legislation.
A direct result of a well-coordinated and aggressive education campaign by the NH AFL-CIO, AFSCME and dozens of other unions and organizations, the victory ended a six month ordeal that began last spring. The first scheduled override vote was planned for May 25, but Speaker O’Brien abruptly backed off when he realized a comprehensive union education campaign had significantly diminished support for the measure within his own party.
O’Brien continued to duck the vote in a number of subsequent sessions stating only that he would call the vote when the “time was right.” His vague comment left unions and other Right-to-Work opponents concerned that the “right time” would be when the "right wing" had a majority in the chamber. As a result, AFSCME and other labor unions kept a constant vigil at legislative sessions and continued to educate members and the public on the real mission of Right-to-Work proponents, which is to break organized labor.
AFSCME Local 3657 Vice-President Bobby Jones was one of the many AFSCME members who kept watch at the State House, spending countless hours in Concord. An elated Jones celebrated the end of battle as did the more than 400 public safety workers in his local. “Thankfully, our members will be able to return to their lives and not worry about the sneaky tactics of Speaker O’Brien,” Jones said. “This is a great victory for New Hampshire’s middle-class. The repeated attempts by Republican leaders and outside conservative groups have once again been beaten back by the proud Granite State residents who saw the truth for what it is.”
O’Brien’s tactics included a last-ditch effort to swing some Republican votes his way by inviting Republican Texas Governor and Presidential candidate Rick Perry into the chamber yesterday for a shameless plug for the legislation. Perry’s plea was met with a chorus of boos from union members seated in the balcony, leading O’Brien to threaten to “clear the gallery.” Of course, O’Brien had no problem when his supporters in the gallery made noise, many of whom were reportedly bussed in from other states.
Council 93 Executive Director Anthony Caso lauded extraordinary work of the coordinated labor campaign, which faced an uphill battle from day one. “Given the deceptive and well-financed message of Right-to-Work supporters, AFSCME members and the entire labor community did a phenomenal job,” Caso said. “But of course we had the truth on our side and ultimately that was the difference maker in this fight.”
“I think we proved that solidarity is more than just a word,” said AFSCME New Hampshire Coordinator Harriett Spencer. “All the unions worked together with Democratic and Republican legislators. As a result, we ended up with a result that reflected what the people of New Hampshire really wanted.”
Right-to-Work supporters gain a foothold in states by falsely claiming the legislation will help create new jobs and entice businesses to move to states that adopt the law. However, a recent study by the Economic Policy Institute found that manufacturing jobs in Oklahoma (the last state to adopt the law) steadily declined in the decade following passage of the law and (compared to six surrounding states) had no impact on job growth or the unemployment rate. The EPI study, entitled Right-to-Work Wrong for New Hampshire, also found that the number of out-of-state businesses operating plants in Oklahoma decreased after passage of the law while 100 facilities closed and an additional 160 businesses announced mass layoffs. Moreover, according to the AFL-CIO, the average worker in a Right-to-Work state makes $5,333 less per year than workers in other states.
When their false job creation rhetoric fails, supporters of Right-to-Work turn to the deceptive claim that the legislation is needed to prevent workers from being forced to join a union against their will. They try to mislead lawmakers by stating that workers are being forced to pay union dues which in turn are being used to support union activities that run counter to their religious and political beliefs. But the truth is workers are already protected from such outrageous mandates. Under current law, workers are not and cannot be forced to join a union. But, current law does allow these workers to be charged a modest “fair share” fee by a union because they fully benefit from the wage increases and improved benefits and working conditions secured through union negotiations. However, if the worker believes this fee is being used to support activity that runs counter to their religious or political beliefs, they can have that fee donated to a legitimate charity of their choosing.
In exchange for paying this fee – even if they decide to have it donated to a charity – these workers receive the same pay raises, benefits and improved working conditions enjoyed by their full dues paying union member colleagues. Moreover, should they find that they have been wrongfully disciplined, fired or denied a promotion to a better job; they have access to the same union legal representation as full dues paying members. In fact, these workers can even sue the union if they believe they were inadequately represented in such instances. If that seems a bit unfair to workers who pay full union dues, it’s because it probably is. However, it is a system unions are willing to accept knowing that these fees, while drastically lower than full union dues, help provide us with the resources we need to do the important work we do for every worker.
The real agenda of Right-to-Work supporters is to strip labor organizations of these "fair share" fees while simultaneously forcing unions to expend substantial resources fighting the initiatives, thereby weakening labor's ability to organize and adequately represent members.
Council 93 encourages all AFSCME members to arm themselves with the facts about Right-to-Work and join the efforts to stop it by educating family members, friends and elected officials.
Source: South Coast Today
NEW BEDFORD, MA - More than 350 New Bedford city employees are in position to recoup more than $3 million in back wages due to a violation of state collective bargaining law by outgoing New Bedford Mayor Scott Lang.
On November 18, the Massachusetts Division of Labor Relations (DLR) determined that Lang violated state law when he unilaterally cut the hours and wages of workers represented by Council 93 of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME Council 93). The DLR is a state agency with primary jurisdiction over disputes between labor unions and municipalities.
“This is a tremendous victory for our members in New Bedford,” said AFSCME negotiator and attorney Jaime DiPaola-Kenny. “It’s encouraging to know there are safeguards in place to hold elected officials like Mayor Lang accountable for deliberate violations of the law and it's even more heartening to know that these safeguards work.”
AFSCME Local 851 President and New Bedford municipal employee Mark Messier noted that the victory extends beyond the borders of the city that he has worked for more than 17 years. “In many respects the DLR decision is a victory for any public employee who has been pushed around by politicians like Scott Lang. Our mayor thought he could operate outside the law. He was wrong.”
The issue began on Aug. 17, 2009 when Lang proposed a half day per week furlough and commensurate cut in wages. When the union declined the offer, the mayor informed the union that he would move forward and unilaterally cut the workers hours and wages despite the union’s clear objection.
The next day, AFSCME filed a petition for mediation with the DLR. The law mandates that once a petition for mediation is filed, the employer is prohibited from making changes in any mandatory subjects of collective bargaining while the mediation petition is pending. Mandatory subjects of bargaining include wages and hours.
The DLR decision noted Lang’s flagrant violation of the law stating, “despite the pendency of the Union’s petition, the city issued Executive Order No. 2009-5 on August 20, 2009, which reduced unit members’ hours of work effective Aug. 30, 2009. … the City’s conduct violated Section 10 (a) (6) of the law.” (see Decision page 45 line 34; page 46 line 14)
The DLR decision also makes it clear that wages and hours are a mandatory subject of bargaining, and that Lang violated the law when he failed to give the union an opportunity to bargain to resolution or impasse before he implemented the half day furlough. (see Decision page 45 lines 3-5)
The DLR decision orders Lang to bargain in good faith with the union, to engage in mediation in good faith with the union, to restore the members to the hours they had been working before the unilateral change in hours, and to “Make unit members whole for any economic losses that they have suffered as a result of the city’s unilateral reduction in their hours of work, plus interest on any sums owed at the rate specified in M.LG. L. c. 231, Section 61, compounded quarterly. (see “Notice to Employees” last page appended to decision)
The city has the right to appeal the DLR decision to the Commonwealth Employment Relations Board and is taking steps to do so. However, AFSCME Council 93 General Counsel Joseph DeLorey, who presented the case before the DLR vowed to fight any appeal and expressed confidence the DLR ruling will be upheld. “This decision is a well-founded application of the law to the facts,” said DeLorey. “I am confident it will withstand any appeal and the union will actively oppose any effort by the city to set this decision aside.”
In a companion case issued concurrently, the DLR found Mayor Lang did not violate a June 2008 agreement with the Union when he laid off certain union members in February 2009.The Union intends to appeal this decision to the Commonwealth Employment Relations Board.
Council 93 and AFSCME International are pleased to announce the next Local Union Leadership Academy (LULA), an exciting new training program aimed at helping local unions develop the skills needed to fight and win in today’s challenging political and economic environment.
Scheduled for the weekend of April 27-29 in Mansfield, MA, the Local Union Leadership Academy (LULA) will help local presidents and their executive board members:
- Develop local union goals and objectives
- Help members gain a better understanding of the political and governmental processes that impact their jobs, wages and benefits
- Recruit volunteers and generate more involvement within rank and file membership
- Bridge the age gap between long-serving and new members
- Make meetings more productive and effective
- Improve the ability to recruit stewards
- Gain a better knowledge of the roles, responsibilities and day-to-day duties of local officers and chapter leaders
Unlike other AFSCME training initiatives that accept individual members and local leaders, this state-of-the-art program requires the commitment of a local president and a minimum of four additional members of the local’s executive board. The training will begin at 12:30 pm on Friday, April 27 and conclude on Sunday at 4:00 P.M.
Hotel accommodations and meals will be paid for by the Council and attendees will be reimbursed for any lost wages incurred as a result of the 1:00 pm start on Friday.
Seating is limited for the April program so interested local presidents are encouraged act quickly by emailing Alva Arellano for more information including the registration process. Alva is also available to speak with local presidents by telephone at 617-367-3686.
New legislative action content regarding President Obama’s American Jobs Act has been recently added to this website. The content can only be viewed by registered users. If you are a current AFSCME member, retiree, or a member of the Council 93 or International Union staff please take a minute to complete the simple registration form so you can view this and all other protected content on the website.
A limited number of seats are still available for Council 93’s next Steward Training Class. The free, one-day training will be held at the Bellingham Public Library in Bellingham, MA. The class runs from 9:30 am – 4:00 pm. Lunch will be provided. Pre-registration is required so AFSCME members interested in attending the training are encouraged to call Eileen Reilly at 413-732-5122 or 1-800-332-0362. Attendees should bring a copy of their local contract to the class.
For more information on the Council’s Steward Training Program and other training programs offered by the Council email Alva Arellano.
The Bellingham Public Library is located at 100 Blackstone Street.
Nearly one thousand AFSCME members joined forces in Milwaukee this past weekend to celebrate the role of women in the union, develop political activism strategies for the upcoming 2012 election season, and fuel the ongoing fight to protect collective bargaining rights.
Gathering in the birthplace of AFSCME and the epicenter of what has become a nation-wide attack on collective bargaining, the National Women’s Conference provided attendees (including a delegation from Council 93)
Council 93 members and staff prepare for a rally at the 2011 Women's Conference in Milwaukee
with opportunities to meet other members, share experiences and exchange views, develop leadership skills and discuss issues of importance to union members.
Conference highlights include keynote addresses from President Gerald W. McEntee and Secretary Treasurer Lee Saunders as well as remarks from U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis and Wisconsin State Senators Jessica King and Lena Taylor. The conference also featured panel discussions on “Women’s Voices from the Frontlines” and “Courage, Cash & Coalitions: Three Keys to Political Power.” Attendees also participated in regional roundtables and workshops on various critical issues and topics, such as “Strategic Tools for Women Activists” and “The Attack on Retirement Security.”
The conference closed with a commitment to out-organize, out-fundraise and outlast opponents of America’s workers and the middle class.
For more on the conference visit the AFSCME International Website.
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