Labor Day 2017

The first Labor Day with a new President delivers good news, no news, and bad news for unions and America’s workers.

The good news, according to a new Pew Research Center survey, six-in-ten (61%) adults today have a favorable view of labor unions. That’s a big jump from March 2015, when less than half of adults (48%) expressed a positive view of unions.

More good news, young people are far more likely than older adults to view labor unions favorably, with three quarters of those ages 18 to 29 say they have a favorable opinion of labor unions. Immigrants, minorities, and people of color are also drawn to unions.

However, it’s no news that Republicans and Democrats have opposite views on labor unions. That’s the case today with Democrats largely pro-union, while just the opposite is true for Republicans and those leaning Republican who are agitating for state right-to-work laws.

The bad news comes from an upcoming U.S. Supreme Court case called Janus V. AFSCME, which could result in a nationwide right-to-work law. Janus is a carbon-copy of the Friedrichs case which was designed to cripple unions. It failed only due to the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

With a Presidential appointment unfairly denied to President Obama now on the high court, the case seems destined to strike down 40 years of settled law. We will know next summer.

In anticipation of this right-to-work “victory” anti-union front organizations are committed to “defund and dismantle unions”. Leading this national effort is the Milwaukee-based Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation.

The Bradley Foundation and the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation are pouring money into a coordinated attack on public employee unions in particular – because they are the “foot soldiers of the Democratic party”.

But here is the hopeful news. Ohio Council 8 and our national union are AFSCME Strong and we have proven “we never quit”. We have dramatically increased our Ohio Council 8 and national membership by organizing new unions and educating our fair-share fee payers about the value the union brings to their work and home life.

Finally, let me say that AFSCME has always been an early responder in times of crisis in our communities, donating and distributing emergency supplies and raising money for those in need.

This Labor Day is a time to reflect on who we are as a union. Our job isn’t just to organize members, bargain contracts and protect our members. It’s also our job to bring respect and dignity to all working people. That means being there when we are needed.

I ask that you do what you can for your union brothers and sisters in Texas affected by the natural disaster still unfolding across the Gulf coast.

A good way to start is to visit the AFSCME web page, where you can make donations that will help those in need after the devastation of hurricane Harvey.

On behalf of the AFSCME Ohio Council 8 Executive Board and First Vice President Harold Mitchell, I wish you all a safe and enjoyable Labor Day with your families and friends.

In Solidarity,

President John A. Lyall


AFSCME Retirees Active in Their Communities

On Saturday, August 19, AFSCME Retiree Subchapter 102, representing Gallia and Jackson counties in the Athens Region, set up an informational booth in the Gallipolis City park at the annual community yard sale event. Members distributed information on senior issues, including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the federal health care legislation. Mike French of the AFL-CIO collected signatures to stop Right to Work is Wrong legislation in Ohio.

Pictured: Retiree Subchapter 102 Treasurer Keith McCarty, and President of Subchapter 102, Secretary of Chapter 1184 Executive Board, and a retiree representative on the Ohio Council 8 Executive Board Floyd Wright

America’s Biggest Public Union Leader Is in The Fight of His Life

Written by Hamilton Nolan from Splinter

With more than 1.6 million members, AFSCME is the nation’s biggest union of public employees, and one of the most politically powerful—and now, one of the most threatened. We spoke to Lee Saunders, the president of the union, about trying to survive the “battle” of the vicious new Trump era.

The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees represents public workers ranging from sanitation workers to corrections officers to nurses—all the sorts of people that Scott Walker hates. The union is a major Democratic political donor. Lee Saunders has been AFSCME’s president for the past five years, and became one of Barack Obama’s closest confidantes in the labor world. Last week, Saunders came to our office to talk about legal threats to his union, organizing, politics, pensions, and navigating Trump world.

Splinter: You had a good relationship with the Obama administration. How has your relationship with the new administration been different?

Lee Saunders: There is no relationship. We are in the mode of organizing our members internally to educate them and to organize them in their communities across the country on the issues that working families care about, whether it’s retirement security, or health care—we’re having a big battle on health care in Washington, and, knock on wood, for the time being it looks like we’ve been successful. But it’s all about organizing. It’s about getting back to basics, and grassroots organizing at the local level. So regardless of what happens in Washington DC, or in the state governments, where we are also under attack, I think it’s all about organizing and going back to those basics. Communicating with our folks, talking with them, talking about the issues, and listening to what they have to say…

We’ve got to fight for what I believe to be our basic freedoms. We’ve got to fight for health insurance. We’ve got to fight for retirement security. We’ve got to fight for a voice on the job. Those are all freedoms that working families should have, and people are trying to take away those kinds of freedoms. We’re in a battle.

When you say there hasn’t been a relationship with the new administration, does that mean there has been no outreach from them at all?

Saunders: One of the plans, quite honestly, is that this current administration believes they can divide and conquer. They’ve had discussions with the building trades, they’ve had some discussions with the industrial unions. They have not had any discussions with the public service unions at all. So we have had no contact with the Department of Labor. What we do know is that they’re trying to take away some of the rights that we were able to obtain during the Obama administration. The regulations that were passed, the overtime rule, all those kinds of things—it’s up in the air, nobody knows what’s going to happen. Again, we have to understand we’re in a fight.

Clearly the Trump administration is trying to cultivate the building trades, but not other unions. Have there been conversations behind the scenes about that between all the big unions?

Saunders: Sure. I think we’re putting things on the table and we’re being honest with one another. I have a very strong relationship with the president of the building trades, Sean McGarvey. We sit down and we talk. I think that they know sooner or later President Trump will not be supportive of working families, will not be supportive of their members. But they’re willing to sit down and talk and listen to what he’s got to say. He made a lot of promises when he was running for president. He talked about how he was gonna be supporting working families. He talked about how he was gonna create jobs, bring back jobs to this country. He believed in goods being made in America. Well, you can talk the talk, but you’ve also got to walk the walk. And quite honestly he’s not walking the walk on any of those kinds of issues. And we’re going to have to continue to sit down and talk within the labor community about what he’s trying to do—divide and conquer.

Would you like to see the entire labor community stand up say, essentially, “We’re part of the resistance?” Or is that unrealistic?

Saunders: It’s a broad cross section of folks that we represent, and I think that will be difficult for some unions to say. I think what we’ve got to do is communicate and organize and mobilize our communities and our members—not talking about individuals, not talking about the elections in 2018 in November, because honestly a lot of our members are turned off by politics. On both sides. We’ve got to talk about the issues that impact them and their families, and how we can fight back and make our voices heard like never before. I think if you go about doing it that way, we’re going to be able to build an army of folks, along with our progressive partners outside of the labor movement, where we’re fighting back on the issues that working families care about.

A lawsuit that’s making its way to the Supreme Court, Janus v AFSCME, could make public unions like yours “right to work”—which would be a serious blow to your ability to collect dues and maintain membership numbers. What are your thoughts on the suit?

Saunders: I’m not optimistic. If you look at the makeup of the Supreme Court, I believe that this time next year, this country will be right to work in the public sector. We can’t hide from that, we can’t bury our heads in the sand. The question is, what do we do about it? AFSCME has been very aggressive in making a lot of changes in our union, dealing with what we believe [will] be the Supreme Court ruling against us and overturning 41 years of law with the [Abood v. Detroit Board of Education decision, which allowed public unions to collect agency fees from all workers in union shops, to cover the costs of representing the workers]. We’ve developed a program called AFSCME Strong, which is essentially back to basics. It’s talking with our members one on one, and listening to our members… At one time, we treated all of our members as if they were activists. And all of our members aren’t activists. That doesn’t make them bad people. They love their union. They understand the value of being a union member. But it also means that their plates are full, and they can’t devote 100% of their time to being a union member. And there’s nothing wrong with that…

Our folks are public service workers. They didn’t get into that profession to become millionaires and billionaires. They got into that profession because they care.

Public unions have been a popular political target, especially on the state level, in Wisconsin and elsewhere. Is there a way to make the public care about what’s happening to them?

Saunders: Quite honestly I think we have not done a good job of educating our communities and the public at large about what public service is all about—how people rely and depend upon those public services every single day, whether it’s picking up the trash, keeping your water clean so you don’t get sick when you drink it, repaving and rebuilding roads, providing health care services, providing child care services, providing home care services, having workers in libraries that work with kids. That’s the kind of work that our members perform. And we’ve got to promote that kind of work, because communities rely up on that. And sometimes that connection is not being made, where we’re providing those essential public services, yet we’re under attack.

Are you projecting a certain amount of membership loss, if the Janus case goes against you and you’re facing a “right to work” situation?

Saunders: I think there will be a loss of membership. But by the same token, with what we’re trying to do in recasting and rebuilding our program and developing the kind of strategy that I just talked about, I think that in many ways we can be a stronger union. And maybe a little bit smaller. But a stronger union, where we’ve made the connection where non-members are saying, “Wait a minute, I need this. And this is important to me. So I should be a member, and not someone who’s relying upon the benefits but not paying a dime. That’s not fair.”

Is there a way to turn around the steady decline of union membership on a national level?

Saunders: There better be. If we don’t do it, then I hate to think about tomorrow. I mentioned the fact that AFSCME is an organizing union. We grew by 12,000 members last year. We’re organizing not only in public service.. but we’re organizing on a national basis EMTs, we’re organizing in hospitals. Because we actually believe that even if it’s a private hospital, it’s still a public service. You’re helping your community, you’re providing an essential service. We’re gonna continue to identify the kinds of targets that should be organized, and you’ve got other unions that are doing the same thing.

Here’s the problem: in the public sector, it’s about 35% organized. In the private sector, it’s about 6.1%. You cannot have a healthy labor movement with that variance in percentages. And we’ve got to also be committed, while we have the strength and the power and the resources, to help our sisters and brothers in the private sector to organize, so we can increase the density and move that marker from 6.1% to a higher level. And we’re prepared to help and provide resources to do just that… one of the things that we’ve got to do is to push and cajole some of our sisters and brothers in the private sector to treat organizing as a priority, as we treat it.

What accounts for the fact that public sector union density is so much higher than in the private sector? If it’s only the fact that you haven’t had to contend with “Right to Work” laws, it’s a grim prognosis for you in the near future.

Saunders: It’s hard, man. It’s hard to organize, especially in the private sector. Because we don’t have a level playing field, as far as the labor laws in this country. At one point, it was easier to organize in the public sector. Now it’s becoming just as difficult, with the kinds of governors and state legislatures and elected officials that we’ve got to deal with. It’s hard. And it doesn’t happen magically—it happens because you’ve got to be committed to it, it happens because you’ve got to put resources into it, and that’s what we’re doing.

Do you think there’s a tension between the resources you put into politics, and the resources you put into organizing? Is that a zero sum game?

Saunders: Organizing is our number one priority. We spend about 30% of our budget on organizing. But we also believe that we have the ability to play heavily in the political arena. And especially where it matters most to our members—and it matters most to our members when you talk about governors races, state legislature races, city council races, and things of that nature. If you get them enthused and active in the local fight around politics, then you can start connecting the dots as far as the importance of federal politics associated with that. But a lot of our members say, “Why spend all this money on politics? Because it doesn’t matter.” I think what happened in 2016 was you had a lot of frustrated people who said, “It just doesn’t matter. We don’t care who’s in charge, because it just doesn’t matter.” And that’s why we’ve got to organize around the issues that impact them, and their communities, and their families. We’ve got to play. We’ve got to participate in the political arena. That’s how we’ve been able to move things in a positive way, not just at the bargaining table, but through legislation.

You talk about retirement security. But when you look at the huge holes in public pension plans across America, do you get a sinking feeling?

Saunders: As far as we’re concerned, retirement security and the pensions that our folks have worked for should be off the table. Why do I say that? Our people pay into their pension programs. This is not a gift that comes from the employer. They put their hard earned money into that pension, and they should be receiving a fair return on the dollars they put in. Now, you also have a smaller employer match with those pension plans. Yet you have had politicians that decided that they don’t have to put any money into that pension program. Even if it’s constitutionally mandated! They’ve ignored that. And then they come running and say, “Now we’ve got problems with the pension program.” Well obviously you [will], if you aren’t meeting your requirement of putting money in, and then attacking the very people that have put their own money in and expecting they’re gonna have a decent retirement…

We’re very active in the city of Detroit, when the city went bankrupt. The average pension in that city was $18,000 a year. That was the average pension benefit. Do you think that’s a lot of money? The folks who wanted to concentrate on taking money away from workers and retirees, they wanted to cut that by 40%. Just because they said, “We’re out of money. We don’t have the luxury of paying pensions.” Rather than looking at the corporations and the people who actually put that city under. We were able to fight back, and we organized and mobilized. We took a hit but it wasn’t near 40% at all. So you’ve got to stand for something, or you’ll fall for anything.

Do you think that the decision of most unions to get behind Hillary Clinton was a mistake, in retrospect?

Saunders: We were a strong Hillary supporter. I don’t think it was a mistake. I think that we underestimated the frustration and the anger that was out there, even with our own members, because they weren’t seeing any major improvements. And Trump was able to hit the chord about bringing jobs back, about getting rid of NAFTA, about making it in America, bringing the coal mines back. He hit a nerve. I think folks were saying, “It’s bad enough for us now, so why don’t we give this a chance?” And that was because of the level of frustration and the level of anger that’s out there. He talked a good talk, but he’s not walking the walk. You look at who he’s appointed to the cabinet positions—billionaires. Wall Street types. You look at what he’s trying to do. Saying he’s creating jobs? He’s not creating jobs. He’s not saving plants He went to Indiana, he said he was going to save that entire plant. That didn’t happen. There are companies that are continuing to move out of this country. It’s a shell game. What he’s presenting and promoting is completely false, and it doesn’t benefit working families…

When you’re talking about 22 million people losing health insurance, when you’re talking about cutting Medicaid by over $700 billion, that has a direct impact on families. And we’ve got to connect those dots, so people say, “This is worth fighting for, and I can make a difference.” They would say in the past, I think, “This is worth fighting for,” but by the same token they would say, “but we can’t make a difference.” We’ve got to make sure that they understand that in fact through coalition-building, through their unions and working with other organizations within our communities, they can make a difference.

Do you think the election of Trump has energized the left so much that we’re entering a new period of activism, like the 1960s? Or in fact are we entering a darker time, like the 1970s, and this is just the beginning?

Saunders: I’m hopeful and optimistic that if we do it the right way… that this could be a time when people are more engaged, and are willing to fight for the issues they believe in. Rather than saying it doesn’t matter, and they bury their heads in the sand. This is not gonna be a pretty picture, if this country is continuing to move in the direction that it’s moving. And I think that people have got to understand that, and we can help them in understanding it. The question will be, will it be a call to arms? And will we be able to activate a lot of people that are disenfranchised right now, that are frustrated right now, that are very, very angry? I think that we can do it.

Have you spoken to Obama since he left office?

Saunders: I have.

And did he have anything interesting to say?

Saunders: [Laughs] I’ll keep that between the president and myself.

AFSCME President Lee Saunders Statement on Failure to Pass “Skinny” Repeal of ACA

WASHINGTON — AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders issued the following statement on the Senate failing to pass the so-called “skinny repeal” of the Affordable Care Act:

“When you write legislation that takes health coverage away from millions of people – and when you do it in secretive fashion, without transparency or public debate – it’s no wonder that you can’t get a majority of senators to vote for it.

“The failure of so-called ‘skinny repeal’ is a victory for all working people, for everyone who needs the freedom and security of affordable health insurance, for everyone who has a pre-existing condition, for everyone who worries about what a catastrophic illness or injury will mean for their family.

“This effort failed because thousands and thousands of Americans – including AFSCME members who are on the front lines of our health care system – made themselves heard loud and clear. With phone calls, emails, rallies and more over the last several months, they demanded that their elected officials in Washington represent their views. And they will continue to raise their voices until Congress abandons any effort to destroy the nation’s health care system.”

Ohio Takes A 1-2 Punch on Infrastructure

Ohioans are taking a one-two punch from Gov. Kasich and President Trump on the state’s infrastructure funding. Kasich’s new two-year budget continues to cut state support for the Local Government Fund, forcing cities to skimp on services. And Trump’s plan would hit the major role the federal government plays financing large scale projects.

“The only result of starving local government is to drive an increase in local taxes and fees, or scrimping on services – like street repairs,” said Robert Davis, Ohio Council 8 Political and Legislative Director.

For a street-level view just ask City of Cleveland AFSCME Local 100 member Henry Hughes. Hughes was dispatched to check out a problem on the city’s East Side. After parking his truck on the street near the suspected leak, he returned shortly and was surprised to find a sinkhole had opened up and swallowed the vehicle.

“Our members work hard to maintain the city’s water system and it’s a job that is never finished,” said Derrick Pollard, president of the 1,200-member union that represents Cleveland City workers.

“It takes a lot of skill and dedication to supply Cleveland with a high-quality, reliable water supply and we take great pride in the work we do – that’s why we never quit,” he said.

According to Davis, under Gov. Ted Strickland’s 2010-11 state budget, the Local Government Fund received $694.4 million in state funding. The budget Gov. Kasich just signed appropriates just $381.8 million to fund local government operations.

“Repairing and improving America’s infrastructure is on everyone’s ‘talking points’ list — but it’s not on many ‘doing points’ list,” Davis said.

Over half of AFSCME Local 100’s members in Cleveland work maintaining the city’s nearly 5,200 miles of underground pipes and water mains.

2017 Scholarships Awarded to Irvine and Aukerman

The Ohio Council 8 Executive Board is pleased to announce that Sydney Irvine has been awarded the Jaladah Aslam Scholarship and Nick Aukerman has been awarded the Robert Turner Scholarship as part of the 2017 Ohio Council 8 Family Scholarship program.

Sydney is the daughter of Jerry Irvine who is Chapter Chairman of AFSCME Local 101-19, which represents Greene County Highway Engineer’s Office employees.

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

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

The 2017 men’s scholarship winner, Nick, is the son of AFSCME Local 101-26 member Kim Auckerman. An active member of the union representing Montgomery County Job and Family Services employees.

Nick graduated from Kettering Fairmont High School, where he was an active student with a strong academic record who was respected by his classmates and teachers.

Excelling at math and science, Nick will be attending The University of Cincinnati in the fall where he plans to become an engineer.

The 2017 AFSCME Ohio Council 8 Scholarships are named in honor of Jaladah Aslam and Robert Turner.

A lifelong resident of the Youngstown metropolitan area, Jaladah Aslam, has been active in the labor movement and politics for the past thirty years.

In 1986, she became Chief Steward for AFSCME Local 2001, representing 286 of her fellow employees of the Mahoning County Department of Human Services where she was a Caseworker.  In 1992, she became the first African American female to serve as a Staff Representative for AFSCME in the Youngstown region.

She retired from AFSCME in 2015, and is now a political and labor consultant.

Robert Turner started his career as a public employee in 1969 when he was hired by the City of Kettering. He immediately joined the chapter of AFSCME Local 101 Dayton Public Service Union which represented Kettering city workers.

In 1978 Turner was hired as AFSCME Ohio Council 8 Dayton Region Staff Representative.  In 1985 Turner was appointed Director of the Athens Region.

In 2000, he was appointed Cincinnati Regional Director where he served until retiring in 2006.  Turner passed away in 2011.

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

In addition to Mitchell, the scholarship committee included AFSCME Cleveland Regional Vice President Julie Albers, At-Large Vice President Asyia Haile, and Trustee Kim Gaines.

Sydney Irvine (Right) and Nick Auckerman (Left)

UPDATED: Sick Days Saved

Instead of a balanced approach to fill the state’s $800 million budget deficit, Ohio’s Republican controlled legislature decided to cut their way out of the problem, ”which included taking a third of our paid sick days away,” said AFSCME Ohio Council 8 Political and Legislative Director Robert Davis.

“Thanks to your calls and AFSCME’s lobbying at the statehouse, the proposal which started out aimed only at state university employees but soon grew to include all public employees, was pulled from the budget’s final version,” Davis said.

According to the bill’s backers paid sick days are nothing more than “perk” enjoyed by public employees.

“Just tell that to all the working moms and dads who depend on sick days to keep their families – and everyone else healthy,” said Jamie Shumaker, president of AFSCME Local 2191 at the Columbus City Health Department.

“Even with a vaccination, my son became ill after being exposed to whooping cough. Pertussis is an extremely contagious and Ohio law requires a week-long in-home quarantine.

“It can come as a real shock to many that not only is the child quarantined – but the parents are too. Without the strong sick leave benefits in our AFSCME contract, I would have lost a week’s pay,” she said.

In addition to whooping cough, there are dozens of other contagious diseases that must be reported to the Ohio Department of Health Shumaker said.

“Because of our union contract we can focus on taking care of our loved ones and not worry about losing pay or our jobs,” she said.

(Pictured above is Dave Logan, President of Local 1699 Ohio University, testifying against sick day cuts)

Everyday Heroes – and More

When an Air Force jet fighter slid off a wet runway and flipped over while practicing for an air show at the Dayton International Airport, AFSCME Local 101 members jumped into action.

The F-15 fighter was part of the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds which were set to perform at the nation’s premier air show, an annual event held at the city’s airport.

“Our airport Field Operations, Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighters, and airport police were immediately on the scene. After two hours toiling in the rain they freed the two crewmen who, thankfully, were not seriously injured,” said Ann Sulfridge, President of AFSCME Local 101 which represents over 2,100 members in the Dayton region including 180 airport employees.

AFSCME Local 101 City of Dayton Blue Collar Chapter heavy equipment operators DJ France, Chris Hess, Ed McCormick, and Josh Saylor worked skillfully to turn the $18 million aircraft back over and help free the crew.

“Like all AFSCME members, these public employees never quit – they are everyday heroes – and more,” Sulfridge said.

The Dayton International Airport serves more than 1.1 million passengers each year. The city is also home to nearby Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Attendance at the two-day air show tops 80,000 spectators.

Health Care Update

As you all know, the health care debate is heating up again in the Senate and we wanted to be sure to send you an update as well as a flyer that you can use with members with a toll free number that can be used to call Senators.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is bearing down to finalize a health care bill and move it to the Senate floor.  The Senate bill will largely track the House bill, but McConnell is negotiating with Senate moderates and conservatives over some details on Medicaid, in order to nail down his votes.  Below is a summary of where we are with process and timing, policy, and the politics, and also next steps.

Process and Timing

McConnell is trying to get the policy nailed down so that it can be sent to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) early this week for an official estimate of the impact on the federal budget and the number of people who will lose their coverage – in fact we are hearing reports that CBO received policy today.  CBO will need ten days to two weeks to score the bill.  Once there is a CBO score, the bill can be put on the floor.  McConnell wants to hold the floor debate during the week of June 26.


Policy Highlights

One area of negotiation is over how quickly the bill ends the Medicaid expansion.  Conservatives want the expansion terminated in 2020, moderates want it phased out over a few years, beginning in 2020.

The bill will include the Medicaid per capita cap funding structure, but there is a question over the annual adjustment.  The annual adjustment will be lower than the increase in health care costs, but it is not clear how much lower.

The bill may have more generous tax credits for older people buying Affordable Care Act coverage in an exchange.  But, the tax credits for young people may be reduced.

The Senate bill may keep community rating rules that prohibit plans from charging people with pre-existing conditions higher premiums.  But the Senate bill would allow states to waive essential health benefit requirements, allowing insurance companies to screen out sick people by excluding certain benefits.

The bill may create a pot of money for opioid treatment, but it won’t make up for the millions who will lose their health coverage.



Three Senate moderates stated this week that they are willing to go along with an end to the Medicaid expansion, if it is phased out gradually between 2020 and 2024.  Those Senators are Dean Heller (NV), Rob Portman (OH) and Shelley Moore Capito (WV).  This has created a boost of momentum for McConnell.  He doesn’t have the votes yet, but a deal is more likely.  There are 52 Republicans in the Senate.  McConnell needs 50 of their votes, plus the tie-breaking vote of the Vice President.

You can use the attached flyer and toll free # to encourage members to call their Senators. Below is the target list we are working with but even Democratic Senators need calls to thank them for their support in protecting ACA and Medicaid. The communications department will be pushing calls via text to targeted Senators this week and we are increasing our activity on social media.


Call Sen. Rob Portman today and tell him to vote NO.

Washington, D.C.: 202-224-3353

Columbus: 614-469-6774

Cleveland: 216-522-7095

Cincinnati: 513-684-3265

Column: Nurse on front lines sees value of health-care act

From the Columbus Dispatch. Tuesday, June 13, 2017. 

Pat Waller is on the front lines of our health-care system. As a labor and delivery nurse at O’Bleness Hospital in Athens, she has devoted her career to taking care of pregnant women and infants.

She is passionate about her work. “It is really the best feeling,” she says, “that you were there at that moment in time when this precious child came into the world.”

Pat — who is a member of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the union where I serve as president — has seen firsthand the powerful difference that the Affordable Care Act has made in the lives of people in her community. She estimates that 60-70 percent of patients at O’Bleness have coverage thanks to the Medicaid expansion under the ACA. Throughout Ohio, the uninsured rate fell from 12 percent to 6 percent between 2013 and 2015, the period when people began enrolling in the ACA exchanges.

But back in Washington, DC, politicians are working overtime to take away that coverage and undermine Pat’s work. In early May, the House of Representatives voted narrowly to approve a bill that would repeal the ACA and replace it with a plan that would make the health care system significantly worse for working families.

According to an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office, 23 million people would lose their health insurance, nearly 540,000 of them in Ohio. Protections for people with pre-existing health conditions, a cornerstone of the Affordable Care Act, would be eliminated. So if you have high blood pressure, or if your child has asthma, insurance companies can price you out of the market.

The congressional health-care bill also cuts a staggering $834 billion from the Medicaid program, which serves low-income pregnant women and children, people with disabilities, senior citizens requiring long-term care and more. And in Ohio and elsewhere, as Pat points out, Medicaid dollars are also essential to addressing the growing opioid addiction crisis.

The new budget proposal from the Trump administration piles on another $611 billion in Medicaid cuts. All told, the program — which 1 in 5 Americans depends upon for health care — would be slashed nearly in half over the next decade. Meanwhile, millionaires and large corporations would be in line for a huge tax giveaway.

Shrinking Medicaid would also have a domino effect. If the federal government is contributing less to the program, the states would have to pick up the slack, which could mean less investment in schools, law enforcement, transportation and other public services we all depend on every day.

In Athens, these cuts could be devastating. Not only would far fewer residents have health coverage, but Medicaid also represents a key revenue source that sustains the hospital where Pat Waller works. O’Bleness is the only facility within a 45-minute drive that delivers babies; plus, it is a community anchor and one of the county’s largest employers. Pat worries that Medicaid cuts will lead to layoffs, shattering the local economy and leaving her patients without access to care.

But there is still time to derail these plans. As of yet, none of these cuts have become law. The ball is now in the court of the U.S. Senate, where Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican, is playing a key role in drafting a bill. Portman has not said where he stands on the House plan to cap the Medicaid dollars that the federal government gives to Ohio and thus end the program as we know it. The time is now for Ohioans to let him know they want to protect the Medicaid program that helps so many of their neighbors live with health and dignity.

Pat Waller is fighting for a health-care system that provides access to everyone. “I think health care is a basic human right,” she says. “No one ever should have to worry between taking your child to the doctor or putting food on the table.” Not in “one of the strongest, richest countries in the world.”

Let’s see if Portman and the rest of the Senate are listening.


Lee Saunders is president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO, a union of 1.6 million public service workers and retirees.

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