Ohio Flexes AFSCME Strong Training

By Tiffany Ricci, AFSCME International

DAYTON, Ohio – Focusing on communicating and organizing, more than 75 activists gathered here last week to practice the skills needed to lead the AFSCME Strong campaign to protect jobs, ensure financial security, and preserve and improve wages and benefits for workers nationwide.

One-on-one conversations are the key to the AFSCME Strong campaign. As part of the training, activists went door to door to hear firsthand from AFSCME Local 101 members on the issues important to them and their families.

Many Local 101 members went years without real wage increases and had to accept numerous furlough days that cut into take-home pay. Recently Local 101’s bargaining committee secured an exceptional contract that banished furlough days, and included wage increases and a uniform allowance.

Buoyed by the success at the bargaining table, AFSCME Strong activists visited more than 115 workers at their homes, and 84 members signed commitment cards. “People were really excited to see AFSCME in the streets and visiting their homes,” said Local 101 Pres. Ann Sulfridge. “The one-on-one conversations are the key to building our union.”

The critical nature of the training was not lost on participants. As longtime union activist Eddie Lawson said, “This is one of the most important trainings that I have been involved in.  It is crucial that we do the hard work and get this right in order to continue the great work of our union.”

Ohio Retirees at Forum Push to Expand Social Security

BY OMAR TEWFIK  |  APRIL 30, 2015 – AFSCME International

CLEVELAND – Standing up for retirement security for all Americans during a White House Conference on Aging (WHCoA) regional meeting here Monday, AFSCME Ohio retirees amplified the call to preserve, protect and expand Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare.

Retirees continue to make the case that these earned benefit programs are absolutely essential to millions of Americans, enabling them to pay the bills and afford medical care once they leave the workplace. More than half of American workers do not have pensions, and millions of seniors are unable to save up enough money for retirement, let alone have the money to pay for costly long-term health care.

“We have to keep fighting to make sure future generations of working Americans can retire with security and dignity, said Marian Garth Saffold, from AFSCME Retiree Chapter 1184. “Social Security works, it’s necessary, and it’s popular. These are reasons to expand it, not attack it for political purposes.”

Nearly two out of every three seniors depend on Social Security for most of their income, and Social Security lifts 22.2 million Americans out of poverty. Without it, the poverty rate of our seniors would quadruple to a staggering 44 percent.

Meanwhile, Medicare and Medicaid provide reliable access to health care for older Americans and people with disabilities, preventing millions of aging Americans from falling into poverty because of medical expenses.

“We ought to be expanding Social Security. We ought to be financing long-term care and supports,” said Norman Wernet, also from Chapter 1184, who facilitated a retirement security rally across the street from the WHCoA event.

“We’re saying to people who don’t necessarily have the money to save for retirement that they should not have to bear the entire burden of their poverty as they age,” Wernet said. “It’s unconscionable for members of Congress to allege that Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are unearned benefits, that they’re some kind of welfare program.”

Despite the obvious importance of these programs for real retirement security, right-wing politicians and their special interest allies continue to launch political attacks aimed at weakening and even destroying them altogether. But AFSCME retirees are fighting back, participating in WHCoA events in Tampa, Florida, Phoenix, Arizona, and Seattle. Another regional conference will be held in Boston in May.

Click Here for Original Story

Kent State Taking Cues from Wal-Mart on Pay

Kent State Picket

AFSCME Local 153 bargaining committee members, George Lemons, left, and Ray Davis on the picket line standing up for improved wages and working conditions.

Move over Wal­-Mart, McDonald’s and Yum-Brands (Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, KFC), some Kent State University employees’ paychecks are so small they qualify for public assistance.

AFSCME Local 153 held an information picket line to highlight difficult contract negotiations.  The demonstrators were joined by 80 students and labor activists in support of the 375 union members who maintain the 824 acre campus which serves more than 22,000 students.

“About a third of these members are food service and housekeeping workers. They make more than the minimum wage, but at the end of the day, many can’t keep up,” said Woodall, who is leading the union’s negotiating committee.

Low pay is the reason for that, Woodall said. The starting wage for some jobs pays below $24,000 per year, which is below the poverty line for a family of four.

Income inequality is fast becoming the “new normal” for all service workers ­ in both the private and public sector.

This has not escaped the attention of Ohio’s U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, who showed his support for fair pay and good jobs by stopping by the AFSCME picket line.

On her way to her formal inauguration before an audience of more than 700, Kent State University’s 12th President Beverly Warren avoided the union’s picket line.

Invited speakers at the event included Ohio House Representative Kathleen Clyde(D-­Kent), and syndicated columnist Connie Schultz (who is also the wife of U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-­Ohio).

As Kent State graduates and strong union supporters, they asked AFSCME officials for permission to cross the picket line before attending the inauguration. Both mentioned AFSCME in their remarks.

Contract negotiations with the university are now in fact-­finding, and the union is hopeful a fair resolution can be reached.

Rally To Save Choices for the Developmentally Disabled

Stop the Closings Rally in Dayton

Stop the Closings Rally in Dayton

Ohio Council 8 members joined advocates and family members to attend a rally organized by OCSEA/AFSCME Local 11 to raise public awareness of the state’s plan to close two state developmental centers, the first step in a move to phase­ out the centers as well as sheltered workshops and other county­based services provided by Council 8 members.

AFSCME Local 3794 President Sandy Coutcher, representing more than 425 professional, technical, and support staff at the Lucas County Board of Developmental Disabilities said “losing local residential and workshop programs like ours will leave families with fewer choices not more.”

“The choices open to families are not only quality of life issues, it can be a life and death decision,” said Keith Lander, AFSCME Local 101 Chapter Chairman representing employees of Dayton’s Stillwater Center. Stillwater Center is a home operated by Montgomery County serving children and adults having the most severe and profound intellectual disabilities, are physically challenged and/or have significant medical needs.

According to Lander, many families have tried community-­based environments, “and when their needs were not met, they chose our center and they’re pleased with the care their loved ones receive. It doesn’t make sense to take that choice away.”

OCSEA/AFSCME Local 11 led the fight by organizing a coalition of families, community allies and members which was successful in lobbying and exerting enough public pressure which led to the creation of a “closure commission” amendment to the budget bill. The commission will make the final determination regarding any DC closures.

“They did a heck of a job getting the budget subcommittee members’ attention,” said Ohio Council 8 Political and Legislative Director Robert Davis. “Closing the state center in Youngstown directly affects the Council 8 members as well because they provide transportation services to the center’s clients. While the news is hopeful, there is still a long way to go before declaring victory,” Davis said.

The attention now moves to the state Senate where action will focus on keeping the closure commission in the Senate version of the budget bill. After the Senate, the bill is debated by a conference committee of Representatives and Senators before making its way to the Governor’s desk.

Click here for details on the Closure Commission:

http://www.oacbdd.org/news/2015/04/15/in-the-news/state-commission-would-review-closures-of-developmental-disability-centers/

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Workers Memorial Day

Remarks by AFSCME Ohio Council 8 President John A. Lyall on Workers Memorial Day:

Ohio Council 8 President John A. Lyall addressing union activists from the South East Ohio Central labor Council who observed Workers Memorial Day in Athens Ohio.

Ohio Council 8 President John A. Lyall addressing union activists from the South East Ohio Central labor Council who observed Workers Memorial Day in Athens Ohio.

Workers memorial day is a day to honor our sisters and brothers who’s lives were taken in on-the-job accidents.

It’s also a call for labor to work tirelessly to see that every worker comes home alive from their day – or night’s – work.

April 28th was chosen because it is a day the labor movement declared a major victory in its decades-long job safety fight.

What the OSHA Act did in 1970, was to replace the patchwork of some states with – and many with without – job safety laws, with a federal law.

Looking back, it’s clear the sates with the strongest safety law were also states with the strongest unions.

However public employees were not covered under the Federal act. For Ohio, it would be another 22 years before public sector workers won that right.

Then, in 1992, House Bill 308 became law and Ohio’s 500,000 public employees joined the rest of America’s workforce with the right to a safe workplace.

This was huge for our members. Prior to passage of the law, public employers had no legal responsibility to provide a safe workplace. As a result –every year more than 25 public employees were killed on the job –- and hundreds more were injured in preventable accidents.

HB 308 was passed several times by the Ohio House only to be held hostage in the Senate. During those eight years we struggled to pass that bill, some 200 public employees lost their lives and thousands more were injured.

Today, the Koch brothers are getting sore arms writing checks to the right-to-work scammers who are determined to turn back the clock on workers rights – including job safety with laws.

They want to take us back to those “good old says” when a wife saw the foreman walking up to her door with a box of groceries, she knew her husband was not coming home from the mine, the mill, or the plant – but the company was real sorry.

It’s a fact that according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, that right-to-work states 54% higher workplace death rate than collective bargaining states like Ohio.

Sisters and brothers, we are truly in a life-and-death battle with the super wealthy who believe they own America.

The spider web of anti-union organizations they fund are busy at work in the courts and government at all levels. Using every tactic – fair or foul – because they are out to smother the labor movement and roll back a century of progress won by workers and their families.

Workers Memorial Day is an ideal time to have a one-on-one conversation with a coworker and let them know what’s at stake and how being a member of strong and active union is our strongest and best defense.

Click below for coverage of the event:

http://www.thenewscenter.tv/home/headlines/Workers-Memorial-Day-Mural-in-Athens-301606541.html

Financial Standards Training

AFSCME Local 1685 Seneca County Jobs and Family Services President Heather Oesch, left, and Vice President Michelle Platt get up to speed on the latest IRS changes.

AFSCME Local 1685 Seneca County Jobs and Family Services President Heather Oesch, left, and Vice President Michelle Platt get up to speed on the latest IRS changes.

Toledo union officers spent a sunny spring Saturday brushing up on their responsibilities as guardians of union funds under the AFSCME Financial Standards Code.

“These treasurers, trustees and officers do the most important, and often the least appreciated, work in the local union,” said AFSCME Ohio Council 8 First Vice President Harold Mitchell. “Our union has one of the strongest financial standards codes in the labor movement, and it’s critical those who are elected to guard the union’s funds receive the tools, training, and resources to do the job correctly,” he said.

The AFSCME “Bill of Rights for Union Members” states that “members shall have the right to a full and clear accounting of all union funds,” which is something every AFSCME Ohio Council 8 Local union takes very seriously.

“Tax rules are always changing and it’s critical for our members to keep up with the latest developments,” said Cathy German, a Certified Public Accountant from AFSCME International’s Auditing Department, who was one of the main instructors.

The day-­long workshop presents a comprehensive overview of the union’s financial standards code, including officer responsibilities and how to authorize and account for all union expenditures. Other issues dealt with record keeping, audits, and IRS filings.

The training also focused on tips and technology to make the job of record keeping easier and more accurate.

“We’re doing a pretty good job, and we received information we can take back home and share with the other officers,” said first time attendee Heather Oesch, president of 45-­member AFSCME Local 1685 Seneca County Jobs and Family services.

“Even though we’re a small local and don’t have much money, it’s important that we take good care of it ­ that’s what our members expect,” she said.

The next workshop will be held at 9:00am at the Cincinnati Regional Office on April 25th, with other sessions scheduled on May 2nd in Columbus, and May 16th in Cleveland. For locations and more information, go to the AFSCME Ohio Council 8 web page.

Union and City Reach New Contract

(left to right): Leo Geiger, Alfreda Jones, Stacey Benson­Taylor, , Ann Sulfridge, and Granville Walton.

(left to right): Leo Geiger, Alfreda Jones, Stacey Benson­Taylor, Ann Sulfridge, and Granville Walton.

By a three-to-one margin, Dayton City workers represented by AFSCME Local 101 voted to ratify a new agreement with the administration that raises wages by 7 percent over the life of the three-year contract.

The 800 workers covered by the agreement will receive a 3 percent across-the-board raise in 2015, followed by 2 percent increases in 2016 and 2017.

“There was give and take during the negotiations and while we won wage increases, we also agreed to give the city some relief on health insurance costs,” said AFSCME Local 101 President Ann Sulfridge.

Changes include a $20 premium increase for family plan coverage, a $10 office co-pay after they meet their deductible, which will increase to $20 in 2017.  In addition, in 2016 the spouses of city workers whose employers offer health insurance must select those plans as their primary coverage.

“After six years of cuts, zeroes and 1 percent increases, it’s good to see wages are rebounding in the public sector.  But that’s due to the economy getting better – not because of any help given to local government by the Legislature – including Ohio’s current proposed state budget,” said Ohio Council 8 Dayton Regional Staff Representative Stacey Benson-Taylor, who led the negotiating committee.

In addition to Sulfridge and Benson-Taylor, the committee included Vice President Granville Walton, Blue Collar Chapter Chair Leo Geiger, and Clerical Chair Alfreda Jones.

Ohio University’s $1.2 Million Bat Problem

Ohio’s brown bats are shaking off their winter hibernation and so are Ohio University’s big spenders who responded to a bat “infestation” at the university president’s residence with a proposal to buy a $1.2 million replacement home.

In February, after a single bat invaded the 116-year old campus residence of President Roderick J. McDavis and his wife, the university moved the family to a gated development of million-dollar homes three miles off campus. In addition, the administration spent $75,000 to furnish the home that it currently rents for $4,318 per month.

Bat RallyAt a time when students and their families are sinking in education debt and tuition and fees are steadily climbing, “They’re moving our president to an extremely luxurious location and asking us to foot the bill,” OU senior and protest organizer Ryan Taylor told the crowd of some 400 students, professors and employees who showed up for the “Bat Rally”.

According to Dave Logan, president of AFSCME Local 1699 which represents 630 service, technical, and maintenance workers at the university, finding a bat in a home or garage is common around Southeast Ohio in the spring and summer.  “We’ve removed maybe a dozen bats from the residence over the last 10 years, so it’s hardly an out of control infestation. And while the administration is spending $1.2 million on an off-campus mansion for the President, we have 73 members who are ‘off-campus’ because they’re laid off,” Logan said.  “The university also has something like $400 million in ‘deferred maintenance’ on residence halls, classrooms, and university systems. That is how the administration has dealt with OU’s finances,” he said.

Union members are in the final year of a three-year contract and will be going to the bargaining table with the administration later this year.
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Council 8 leaders weigh in on proposed state budget

Ohio Council 8 leaders met face-to-face with law makers to express their concerns and explain the consequences of enacting parts of Ohio’s proposed biennial budget.

Topping the list is the proposed budget’s threat to developmental disability treatment options for individuals and families by fundamentally chaining the way services are delivered.

The proposed state spending plan will eliminate highly specialized state, county, and local residential programs and workshops in favor of home community-based treatment.

“That will limit choice of treatment options for individuals and their families. No family should be forced to choose between a ‘bad’ or a ‘worse’ situation for their loved one,” said AFSCME Local 3794 President Sandy Coutcher, in testimony before the Ohio House Finance Subcommittee on Health and Human Services.

Coutcher, representing more than 425 professional, technical, and support staff at the Lucas County Board of Developmental Disabilities, said one size doesn’t fit all and without home community-based settings – “and local residential and workshop programs, there can be no real choice.” CLICK HERE FOR FULL TESTIMONY

That message was forceful repeated by a stream of individuals and parents. Some parents brought their children and adult sons and daughters to the packed hearing room to relate their personal experiences to the committee members.

The overwhelming message was clear – that an exclusively community-based setting, or exclusively residential setting, does not guarantee an individual will have a better quality of life. “It all depends on having a real choice so individuals and their families can find the system that best serves their needs,” said Robert Davis, AFSCME Ohio Council 8’s Political and Legislative Director.

In addition to Coutcher and Davis, Sally Tyler, a senior health care policy analyst for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, testified on behalf of AFSCME Ohio Council 8, OCSEA/AFSCME Local 11 and OAPSE/AFSCME Local 4.

“Each of these AFSCME councils and local unions represents members, at either the state or county level, who provide services to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and they would be severely harmed by the proposed budget,” Tyler said. CLICK HERE FOR FULL TESTIMONY

Committee members also heard from OCSEA/AFSCME Local 11 members from the Montgomery and Youngstown Developmental Centers that are slated for closure. They called on legislators to keep the doors open of the two state facilities where severely developmentally disabled individuals reside. They were joined by individuals and families who praised the institutions and said they offered the best environment for their loved one.

It’s not too late to change the direction of the state spending plan for developmental disability services. CLICK HERE TO TAKE ACTION

In addition, AFSCME Local 1360 Akron City Employees President George Johnson offered testimony on House Bill 53, the proposed transportation budget.

At Issue is a proposal to hire and train a specific percentage of Akron city residents who will work on a decade-long, billion dollar sewer improvement project.

“House Bill 53 prohibits municipalities establishing an employment residency requirement for large scale projects like this one,” Johnson said.

The project, which is not funded by federal or state dollars, is being paid for by the citizens of Akron. Guaranteeing that a significant percentage of these jobs will go to the city residents will reduce the project’s financial burden and turn it into an investment in the community, Johnson told the committee.

“Since the city residents are paying for the project, it only seems fair to keep as much of that money in the city as possible,” he said. CLICK HERE FOR FULL TESTIMONY

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Boy, 2, falls to pieces meeting his garbage man heroes

2-year-old Ohio boy Quincy Kroner “became undone” upon meeting his heroes, Eddie Washington and Mark Davis, two Cincinnati sanitation workers and AFSCME Ohio Council 8 members. Read the full story here http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3004849/Quincy-Kroner-cries-garbage-men-Cincinnati-Ohio-pay-special-visit.html

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