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Labor Day Message from AFSCME Ohio Council 8 President John A. Lyall

Labor Day carries a special meaning for all working people.

Union and non-union workers, blue collar and white collar, public and private sector, for all our differences, we share a basic set of ideals for which generations of brave men and women have fought, marched, and sacrificed to win.

And that is, or should be, the spirit of all Labor Days. A national holiday born out of a tradition that believes that in America, all work matters.  That working men and women deserve respect and the kind of opportunity labor’s founders hoped for, and that dream is still alive.

Just looking at it in terms of dollars and cents, the “union advantage” is still strong. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, union workers earn $200 a week more than nonunion workers. Over a lifetime of work that makes a big difference to you and your family.

Additionally, a union workplace is safer and more productive. Union members also receive better benefits and have a voice on the job.

I wish you all a safe and happy Labor Day.

In Solidarity,

John A. Lyall

President

AFSCME Ohio Council 8, AFL-CIO

Council 8 stalwart Angela Caldwell is stepping up for the Ohio AFL-CIO Day of Action

AFSCME Ohio Council 8 stalwart Angela Caldwell joined members in the Cleveland Region and across the state for the third Ohio AFL-CIO Day of Action. Volunteers turned out to knock on doors and make calls to fired up union households and get them ready to go to the polls to elect Richard Cordray as Ohio Governor.

“I retired and then looked up to see things going so bad in this country and what we won with our blood, sweat and tears being taken away – it made me mad. I just couldn’t sit back and watch, my union roots wouldn’t let me,” she said.

A 20-year member of AFSCME Local 100, representing Cleveland city employees, she held many union offices including Union President. In 1993, she started a second career as an Ohio Council 8 staff representative in the Cleveland Region, retiring in 2011. She is currently an active member of AFSCME Retiree Chapter 1184.

Tuesday October 9th is the deadline for voter registration, “so we need to make sure people are ready and able to vote.  Labor has to lead the way like it always does,” Caldwell said.

She is now working with the Ohio AFL-CIO’s Cleveland office during the election.

Angela is now working with the Ohio AFL-CIO’s Cleveland
office during the election.

John McCain, a Scarred but Happy Warrior

Article published in the New York Times on August 25, 2018.

With John McCain, you never quite knew. That was a big part of his appeal, one of the things that made him interesting, and also one of the things that drove people who value ideological consistency a bit batty.

As a professed maverick, Mr. McCain, who died Saturday at the age of 81, was bound to make somebody unhappy. Though for much of his career his votes on the Senate floor were mostly along party lines, his periodic challenges to Republican orthodoxy made him more popular among independents, Democrats and the tattered remnants of his party’s moderate wing than with the absolutists in the party’s base. Five years of torture in a North Vietnamese prison camp appeared to have left him with a pretty good idea of who he was, an ability to think for himself and the capacity to tune out partisan noises.

He had principles, and he had flaws, from time to time betraying those principles — most grievously in the 2008 presidential campaign. But in a Senate mostly devoid of the kind of commanding figures who once roamed its halls, he was a rare bird. And he could surprise you.

Read the full article in the New York Times here.

Desposito and Thomas Returned to OPERS Board

The Ohio Public Employees Retirement System Board of Trustees has certified the election of Ken Thomas and Randy Desposito to four-year terms on the OPERS Board of Trustees.

A Critical Care Nurse and President of AFSCME Local 2415, the union for University of Toledo Medical Center Employees, Desposito was appointed to fill a vacancy on the OPERS Board in 2017.  Elected to a full term, he will represent non-teaching State College and University employees.

Ken Thomas, representing municipal employees, has served on the OPERS Board since 1993 and is a 33-year City of Dayton employee, currently senior employment manager at the City of Dayton Civil Service Board.  Ken was a long-time member of AFSCME, Local 101 and served for nine years on the AFSCME Ohio Council 8 Executive Board as a Dayton Regional Vice President.

Both were unopposed. 

According to AFSCME Ohio Council 8 President John A. Lyall, in years past labor had a majority on the board “and now these seats are back with AFSCME. This is an example of the clout only a unified statewide organization has,” he said.

Thomas and Desposito will join AFSCME Local 3360 Cleveland MetroHealth President Julie Albers, representing County employees, and AFSCME Local 11/OCSEA President Chris Mabe, representing state workers on the 11-member board.

“Ken and Randy are part of the AFSCME team committed to a strong defense of our defined benefit (guaranteed) pensions. This is more important than ever because of the anti-worker environment we are presently in,” Lyall said.

The Board of Trustees is responsible for the administration and management of OPERS. Board members also authorize the investments made with the system’s funds. They receive no compensation for their service to OPERS.


Randy Desposito, left, Ken Thomas, right.

2018 Scholarships Awarded to Alyssa Ann Grega and Zachary Rondeau

The Ohio Council 8 Executive Board is pleased to announce that Alyssa Ann Grega has been awarded the Patricia Kunk Scholarship and Zachary Rondeau has been awarded the Theodore Patton Scholarship as part of  the AFSCME Ohio Council 8 Family Scholarship program.

Alyssa is the daughter of Leslie Grega who is a member of AFSCME Local 7, which represents City of Toledo employees.

A graduate of Sylvania Northview High School, Alyssa was as a motivated student who achieved an outstanding academic record. In addition she participated in many school and community activities.

In her winning essay, Alyssa shared her firsthand union education.  Growing up in the aftermath of “The Great Recession” she saw the toll economic uncertainly takes on a family and a community, and also the value of union representation. 

“I want to find a career where I feel secure and where my rights as an employee are respected. That means a union contract,” she said.

She will be attending The Lourdes University this fall pursuing a degree as an Athletic Trainer and plans to work with the Wounded Warrior Project.        

The 2018 men’s scholarship winner, Zachary Rondeau, is the son of AFSCME Local 3360 member Paul Rondeau. An active member of the union representing employees at Cleveland’s MetroHealth Medical Center, where he serves a steward, Paul has been a member since 2003.

Zachary graduated from North Olmsted High School, where he was active in sports, had a strong academic record, and was respected by his classmates and teachers.

In his winning essay, Zachary recounted how being a union member helped his kindergarten teacher cut through red tape to get him help with a learning disability. And thanks to his father’s workplace being represented by AFSCME, “my family had the topnotch medical coverage and the resources to help me overcome my disability.” 

Excelling at math and science, Zachary will be attending Ohio Northern University in the fall where he plans on becoming a mechanical engineer.

The 2018 AFSCME Ohio Council 8 Scholarships are named in honor of Toledo unionist Theodore R. Patton Sr. and Dayton Region Office Secretary Patricia Kunk.

Patricia Kunk began her AFSCME career in 1976, when she became office secretary for AFSCME Local 101 Dayton Public Service Union. Two years later she became office secretary for the Dayton Region that was created with the formation of AFSCME Ohio Council 8, which unified the state’s eight AFSCME public employee councils.

Prior to AFSCME, she was employed for 13 years by the National Cash Register Company. In addition, she was active in politics and could be depended upon for block walks, door knocking, and phone banks. She retired in 2010 and still helps out in the Dayton office when needed.

Theodore R. Patton Sr. worked for the Toledo Public Schools for 36 years. As a Boiler Operator, he was a long-time member of AFSCME Local 272 which represents the district’s heating, maintenance, and security employees.

In addition to holding local union offices, he served as an Ohio Council 8 Toledo Regional Vice President. In 1985, Patton was elected Ohio Council 8 Secretary- Treasurer, a post he held until retiring in 2002.

He was active in the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, and served with the Toledo community project, Second Chance, which helps felons re-enter society and get their records expunged. He passed away early last year at age 89.                         

Ohio Council 8 First Vice President Harold Mitchell, chairperson of the executive board committee that reviews the scholarship applications, wished Alyssa and Zachary the best of luck pursuing their higher education goals. 

In addition to Mitchell, the Scholarship Committee includes Cleveland Regional Vice President Julie Albers, Athens Regional Vice President Dave Logan, and Trustee Kim Gaines.

 

Zachary Rondeau and Alyssa Ann Grega

Susan Reed joins Ohio Council 8 members for the second Ohio AFL-CIO Day of Action

AFSCME Local 3501 member Susan Reed joined Ohio Council 8 members in the Athens Region and across the state for the second Ohio AFL-CIO Day of Action aimed at getting people to the polls.

“Our members are motivated and educated and ready to move ahead. They understand that the only thing that will change the direction we’re heading in is to get out and vote – and time is going by fast,” she said.

A 26-year employee of Scioto County Department of Jobs and Family Services, Reed works as a Child Support Investigator.  She also serves on the executive board of the local union which represents more than 60 JFS employees.

Tuesday October 9th is the deadline for voter registration, “so we need to make sure people are ready and able to vote,” Reed said.

The next Ohio AFL-CIO Day of Action will be Saturday, August 25th. Click here for times and locations across Ohio.

Click here for Times and Locations

AFSCME Local 3501 member Susan Reed, right, and Athens Regional Director John Johnson joined Ohio Council 8 members across the state for Ohio AFL-CIO Day of Action.

Thousands gather at Statehouse for rally to save pensions

You’ve worked hard and played by the rules and at the last minute, the goal post is moved.  All people want is what they have worked for and what was promised – a pension they can count on to retire in dignity and security. 

So said a crowd of thousands who gathered at the Ohio Statehouse to call on their elected representatives — both in Columbus and Washington — to save their dwindling pension funds.

The massive crowd gathered for a rally ahead of a rare Congressional field hearing at the Statehouse the next day. The hearing included Ohio’s U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, a key part of a joint congressional committee tasked with solving the mounting pension crisis affecting the pensions of about 1.3 million private sector retirees and active workers.

They belong to multi-employer pension plans, including the massive Central States Pension Fund for Teamsters, the United Mine Workers Pension Plan, the Iron Workers Local 17 Pension Plan and hundreds of other plans which are on the brink of failure.

“Public employees are wrong if they think this doesn’t affect their public employee pensions like OPERS and SERS,” said AFSCME Ohio Council 8 Political and Legislative Director Robert Davis.

“Those pension dollars go right back into the economy. If the retirees can’t pay their bills it will slow down the economy and make it harder for public employers to keep up their constitutions to our public pensions,” Davis said.

The hearing at the Statehouse was the fifth on the pension crisis, but the first one outside of Washington, D.C. Ohio was chosen because it is among the states with the most pensions at risk. 

Sen. Brown proposed the Butch Lewis Act that many in attendance supported, but it failed to get bipartisan support. That bill would have created a low-interest, 30-year federal loan to troubled pension plans, with no cuts to retirees’ benefits.  Ohio Sen. Rob Portman is also on the bipartisan committee.

By the end of July, the committee will finish its hearings and work toward crafting a solution.  Any solution must be approved by five out of eight members of each party on the committee, then pass both the House and the Senate by an up-or-down vote, with no amendments allowed to be added.

Board Installs New Members

At its recent meeting the Ohio Council 8 Executive board installed new officers to fill vacancies left by retirements and attrition.

Eric Clemons, President of Local 1027 Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority was elected as a Cincinnati Regional Vice president, and Ann Sulfridge, a Dayton Regional Vice President since 2011 and President of AFSCME Local 101, was installed as Ohio Council 8 Recording Secretary. 

In addition, Tracey Poellnitz was sworn as the child care representative, and Juanita Griffin, who served as a Cleveland Regional Vice President until retiring in 2003, joined the board as a retiree representative.  She replaces long-time union leader Cenia Willis, who died late last year.  Like the trustees, the retiree representatives have a voice, but do not vote.

“I firmly believe Ohio Council 8 has the best leadership of any labor organization in the state,” said Council 8 President John A. Lyall.  “These capable and experienced leaders will be great additions to the board and join a group of committed individuals who work to keep our union strong.” he said.

Pictured above: Left to right, Eric Clemons, Tracey Poellnitz, Ann Sulfridge, and Juanita Griffin.

Trump’s fight with federal employee unions gets real on Monday

July 8 at 8:03 PM 
Read the full article on the Washington Post here.

Federal agencies on Monday begin implementing executive orders from President Trump on how to confront employee unions, following strict guidelines likely to escalate tensions that have been building since the president took office.

The administration describes Trump’s new rules, issued in May, as an effort to streamline a bloated bureaucracy and improve accountability within the federal workforce of 2.1 million. The unions counter that the orders are only the latest in Trump’s aggressive actions intended to weaken their bargaining power and make it easier to fire government workers.

Jeff Pon, chief of the Office of Personnel Management, gave agencies details late last week for implementing the presidential orders.

The administration wants agencies to reopen collective bargaining agreements to reduce the on-duty time union representatives spend representing employees. Managers are directed to “monitor and carefully report” on the time and make the information publicly available. And agencies are directed to move swiftly to fire poor performers, renegotiating any contracts that allow for progressive discipline.

The conflict appears headed for a showdown, either in federal court, where the unions have filed numerous lawsuits challenging the orders, or in Congress. The administration and the unions have courted Capitol Hill allies, with Republicans supporting Trump’s tactics and Democrats backing the unions, a key constituency.

Trump’s executive orders represent a broadening of the get-tough initiativesthat have played out in individual agencies since he took office, including recent efforts to force unions to move out of government-paid office space and to rein in the use of official work time by union representatives who deal with employee grievances and disciplinary matters.

Furious union leaders have sued the president, charging that he exceeded his authority and broke the law guaranteeing federal workers union representation. A judge is expected to consider all of the lawsuits later this month.

“Candidly, I find it reprehensible,” said Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, which represents 150,000 employees. “Why are the president and the administration continually on the attack against working-class Americans who are simply doing a job they’re proud to do?”

For decades, unions have had vast power over the federal workforce, demanding a voice in almost every workplace issue except pay, which is set by Congress. Federal employee union membership is growing, even as private sector union enrollment declines. And efforts by previous Republican administrations to diminish union power have been piecemeal.

But since his 2016 election, Trump has made clear that he considers unions to be major contributors in driving up costs and paralyzing agencies in their attempts to discipline poor performers.

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“President Trump has been very clear since the campaign trail that he wants to go after waste and fraud in government. Reforming the federal workforce is a giant step in ensuring more accountability for the government’s use of American taxpayer dollars,” White House spokesman Raj Shah said in a statement.

A key player for Trump

Many of the efforts have been overseen by James Sherk, a former Heritage Foundation labor economist who joined Trump’s transition team to tackle labor challenges. He now sits on the low-profile Domestic Policy Council. The White House declined to make him available for an interview.

Over a decade at Heritage, a leading conservative think tank, Sherk, 37, wrote policy papers on the need to roll back public employee labor rights. He helped Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) engineer a plan to bust the state’s employee unions in 2011. He argued for freezing federal salaries to bring them in line with the private sector and said in a 2007 video that the landmark 1993 law granting unpaid family and medical leave encourages employee timecard abuses.

Since Trump took office, Sherk’s hard-line stance has helped guide the ongoing power struggles with the unions, according to Trump advisers.

In quick succession, federal employees have been subjected to budget cuts, a hiring freeze, a proposed pay freeze and $143 billion in proposed cuts to retirement benefits.

The administration worked through Congress last year to push a precedent-setting bipartisan law clearing the way for the Department of Veterans Affairs to fire problematic employees.

In June, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney proposed a government reorganization that the unions branded as a thinly disguised effort to slash jobs.

And Trump officials have cracked down on day-to-day work practices that had been in place for years, severely restricting telecommuting at some agencies, for example, and forcing union representatives to give up free office space and even parking spaces.

The new rules also restrict working conditions that can be bargained over. They give poor performers 30 days to show improvement rather than the current 120 days. They make performance a key factor, rather than seniority, when layoffs are on the table.

The administration signaled its hard-line posture in March when the Education Department imposed its own contract after months of bargaining with the American Federation of Government Employees broke down.

Education officials, meanwhile, are enforcing the contract. The union has been kicked out of its small offices at the agency’s Washington headquarters and its regional offices and told it must pay rent.

Last month, management sharply curtailed telework to one day a week, a benefit pushed by the Obama administration as a way to save expensive office lease costs and keep cars off the road. Agriculture and some Commerce Department offices also have slashed telework, a practice Trump officials have said they suspect leads employees to slack off.

Education officials also are insisting that union representatives take time off to represent employees, instead of carving out a portion of their workweek for what is known as “official time” to represent employees who have filed workplace grievances. The AFGE is temporarily sending lawyers from its national office to step in for local representatives.

As the largest government workers’ union, with 700,000members, the AFGE says management’s contract is illegal — and guts previously negotiated provisions for telework, performance evaluations, work schedules and other protections. The union is awaiting a ruling from the Federal Labor Relations Authority onits complaint of unfair labor practices.

Resolution of the dispute is uncertain, though. Trump has not named a general counsel for the authority, who would have to approve any disposition for labor or management.

Targeting unions

Under Trump, the FLRA has issued a number of anti-union decisions. One reversed years of case law that had allowed unions to bargain over changes to employees’ conditions of employment, such as changes to job duties.

The administration also disbanded advisory labor-management forums at federal agencies created in the Obama era to foster dialogue.

A White House official said the forums were a “waste of resources and sucking up a ton of our time.” But the unions called them valuable tools that improved productivity and resolved disputes before they required costly arbitration.

“Official time” has been a particular target for the White House. Trump’s orders restrict to 25 percent the on-duty time employees may be paid for union work.

“It means greatly diminished representation,” said David Borer, the AFGE’s general counsel, adding, “We’ve never been attacked quite like this before.”

The White House official said that limiting it will serve a purpose. “If they have to pay the costs, then they won’t be bringing Mickey Mouse grievances,” said the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about labor-management issues.

At the Department of Housing and Urban Development, for example, union officials say they have received emails from management recently that strongly suggest they accept limits on official time rather than bargain over the issue.

And management has told the union to stop using agency parking spaces, phones, computers and other resources to which they have long had access. Unions said they expect other agencies to follow suit.

“The agency feels empowered,” said Holly Salamido, president of AFGE Council 222 of HUD locals. The president “can’t just use an executive order to override a contract.”

Trump’s orders can be undone by the next president. But the White House decided that presidential orders were a better path to immediate change than seeking legislation, even in a Republican-controlled Congress, because of the vast political clout of federal workers.

“The administration has played its cards,’’ said Donald F. Kettl, a public affairs professor at the University of Texas at Austin, “and the perception of union-busting has cut off any possibility for bipartisan action on needed reforms to government and the civil service.”

The executive orders have drawn opposition from a majority of Senate Democrats and a bipartisan group in the House, who have written letters to the president. Last week, four current and former House members submitted a friend-of-the court brief on behalf of the unions in their federal court challenge. The brief says the executive orders would open the door to patronage and upend the “merit-based, non-partisan” civil service.

Sherk and the policy council, meanwhile, are awaiting the court’s decision while planning more unspecified workforce changes, administration officials say. The top priority now, the White House official said, is to ensure that the new limits on unions are enforced throughout the government.

Read the full article on the Washington Post here.

Community Service: AFSCME – The Union that Never Quits

Proving that AFSCME Never Quits, AFSCME Local 7 members and volunteers from five Toledo local unions, along with several Toledo Whitmer High School football players, came together over a blistering hot weekend to replace the roof at Mom’s House, a non-profit organization that helps low-income single mothers as they work to achieve the educational goals needed to become effective parents.

Work replacing the 21-year old roof started at 6 in the morning “and ended at 1:30 in the afternoon when roof top temperatures reached 115 degrees,” said Don Czerniak, president of the union for Toledo’s blue-collar city employees.   

“One of the great things about Mom’s House is it affects the lives of two generations by providing education opportunities for both parent and child.  And we think that makes our community stronger,” Czerniak said.

“Everyone here is here on their own time. It’s the hottest day of the year and they’ve made a decision that they’re going to come help us, and for us that means the world. We can’t function without our community,” said Christina Rodriguez, Executive Director of Mom’s House.

In a melting pot of 115 degree heat and 100 percent solidarity, AFSCME Local 7 City of Toledo members joined with members of five other Toledo unions to spend a blistering weekend replacing the aging roof at Mom’s House, a non-profit organization that helps low-income single mothers. Photo: AFSCME Local 7

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