Toledo City Workers Make Gains

By a 499 to 64 vote, AFSCME Local 7 members approved a new contract with the city of Toledo.  The contract was also unanimously approved by city council.

In addition, to an across-the-board five percent pay raise, over the life of three-year contract, negotiators were able to hold the line on health care with no increase. Other gains include an increase in hazardous duty pay and improvements in vacation language.

According to AFSCME Local 7 President Don Czerniak, “this was a win-win for union members and the city.  With the strong backing of Toledo Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson, the administration was committed to offer competitive wages and we were able to keep skilled workers on the job serving the citizens of our city,” he said. 

AFSCME Local 7 represents over 800 city employees, including utility workers, heavy equipment operators and skilled laborers.  Toledo Regional Director Steve Kowalik led the negotiations for the union.


Will You Stand Up for Ohio’s Children?

Traci Poellnitz, President of AFSCME Ohio Council 8 Local 4023 wrote the following message for We Are Ohio.  We’re thankful for leaders like Traci who are standing up to these attacks on Ohio’s working people.  You can read Traci’s message below.

Traci PoellniMy name is Traci Poellnitz. I am an independent child care provider with a degree in Pre-K education. I’ve been caring for young children in my home for over twenty years. It’s tiring, difficult work, but I love what I do.

Most of the children I work with are growing up in low-income, at-risk families. From the time they’re born until they start kindergarten, my staff and I provide a warm and supportive environment while preparing these children for future success.

By taking away collective bargaining rights for independent care providers, Gov. Kasich isn’t just hurting workers like me – he’s hurting the children we care for and their families.

For working parents, quality childcare can be the difference between living on public assistance and moving up into the middle class. And for many of my fellow independent childcare providers, collective bargaining has made it possible to do this job well.

Collective bargaining has improved the standards of care that independent providers offer families in need. And it’s secured the wages, hours and benefits that hard-working care providers deserve.

Hard-working Ohioans should have the right to collective bargaining, but Gov. Kasich is trying to take this right away. Please help us fight back – click here to take action.

I’ll be standing up against these attacks. I hope you’ll join me.

In solidarity,

Traci Poellnitz

Toledo Blade Editorial: Union Busting

Published Sunday, May 30 in the Toledo Blade

Gov. John Kasich this month quietly stripped 10,000 Ohio in-home health-care workers of their right to belong to unions. That move marks the latest offensive in the governor’s troubling campaign against labor rights.

In 2007, former Gov. Ted Strickland granted independent home health-care workers the right to bargain collectively with state government. He extended the right to home child-care providers the following year. The policy applied to workers who are reimbursed for care through state programs such as Medicaid.

Such employees contract with Ohio agencies to provide care. But because they are not considered direct employees of the state, they aren’t eligible for the same benefits and bargaining rights as public employees.

Mr. Kasich vowed to rescind Mr. Strickland’s policy during his 2010 gubernatorial campaign. He claimed that independent care providers have no right to collective bargaining with the state because they aren’t state employees.

Home care workers provide vital services to disabled, elderly, and the youngest Ohioans. They should be entitled to the same opportunities to address work-related concerns and bargain collectively as public employees and other care providers. The governor shouldn’t strip these workers of their rights based on a technicality.

In-home child-care providers have made gains in their contracts since they got the right to unionize. Joe Weidner, a spokesman for the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, which represents child-care providers, told The Blade’s editorial page: “Before they unionized, their contract with the state was take it or leave it.”

Democratic state senators plan to introduce legislation that would effectively undo the governor’s repeal. It’s unlikely to gain approval by Republican lawmakers who control the General Assembly.

Mr. Kasich says home health-care workers no longer need access to health insurance through their unions because of recently expanded opportunities to obtain insurance through the Affordable Care Act and state Medicaid expansion. Yet plans on the health insurance marketplace often are more costly to workers than employer-subsidized plans and don’t offer the same benefits.

Workers’ continued access to Obamacare is hardly guaranteed. Governor Kasich has called for repeal of the Affordable Care Act, even as he relies on the law to pay for Ohio’s Medicaid expansion. A case before the U.S. Supreme Court threatens to dismantle federal subsidies for Obamacare recipients in many states, including Ohio.

The governor evidently has not fully learned the lesson of the controversial Senate Bill 5, which would have severely restricted public unions’ bargaining power. Mr. Kasich signed the bill into law in 2011, but Ohioans overwhelmingly voted to repeal it that year.

To his credit, Mr. Kasich has said he doesn’t intend to bring extreme “right to work” legislation to Ohio, which has decimated unions in other states. Yet the governor’s position on labor rights often remains troublesome.

Mr. Kasich has again chosen political expediency over the welfare of thousands of Ohio workers. If he makes his long-anticipated entrance into the presidential race, that will be a valid topic for discussion.

Read at

On Memorial Day 2015

JAL_IntouchLike Americans have for the past 150 years, every spring we celebrate this holiday called “Memorial Day” which traditionally marks the beginning of summer.

It is a day when families can get together for a picnic or a barbecue, and it a time when communities large and small hold parades and observances.  It’s a day we pause to honor and remember those who were called, and gave their lives in the service of America.

Although the celestial beginning of summer isn’t for another three weeks, today is recognized as the day when summer events officially commence.

It makes me proud to know that on Memorial Day, and the summer days that follow, millions of Ohioans will be able take to the streets and highways to enjoy our public recreation, historical sites, zoos, and festivals because of the vital work you do.

And while many Ohioans will enjoy this and other holidays with their families, AFSCME Council 8 members will be on the job keeping our communities safe and our public spaces attractive and accessible.

Our AFSCME sisters and brothers staffing hospitals will be on the job ready to take care of summer accidents, illness and injuries from minor to major.

AFSCME Ohio Council 8 health department workers will be at work keeping outdoor events ­food-safe and swimming pools clean and sanitary. And our parks and recreation members will be on the job putting our public recreation centers, parks and public golf courses in top share for all to enjoy.

This weekend I hope every AFSCME family has the opportunity to break bread together and take a moment to remember that our freedom did not come without costs.

Every family has someone who served this nation in time of war. We must share that legacy with our children so they better understand our nation rich history and the part each family plays.

I wish you and yours a safe and happy Memorial Day.

In Solidarity,

President John A. Lyall

Ohio Council 8 is AFSCME Strong in Dayton

IMG_7685AFSCME Local 101 City of Dayton employee June Zeis has worked for the city for 20 years. She opens the city’s emergency vehicle garage most mornings, and she makes the coffee, she answers the phone, she handles the billing for the work the garage does for suburban fire departments, and she is 85.

A permanent­ part-time employee, she is the union’s oldest member, “and a union supporter,” said Local 101 President Ann Sulfridge. “We met up with June during house­ call exercises that were part of a two-­day AFSCME Strong train­-the-­trainer session recently held in Dayton.”

After retiring from an architectural firm, Zeis looked forward to spending time with her husband, children and five grandchildren. Unfortunately, a year after she retired, her husband, who worked for the city emergency vehicle garage, was killed in an accident.

“About a month went by when I got a call from his supervisor at the garage asking how I was and was there anything I needed,” Zeis said. He also asked if she could come in for a few hours on a volunteer basis to help them with the record keeping void left by her husband’s untimely death.

Under AFSCME Local 101’s contract, “you can’t ‘volunteer’ to do a bargaining unit job,” Sulfridge said. So the union helped arrange for Zeis to be hired as a part-­time employee.

That was 20 years ago and she is still on the job.

“The firefighters and mechanics are like my family and I really love them all and love working here,” she said. Still lively and engaged in many activities, including editing her high school alumni newspaper, she lives with her youngest son.

“He just turned 65 and would like to retire, but he says he can’t as long as his mother is still working,” she joked.

AFSCME Strong is our union’s defense against those out to destroy us through “right to ­work” and other anti-union actions. It means organizing is job one. Over the next 12 months, our goal is to engage 80 percent of our members in the struggle, one conversation at a time. To make it happen, we will recruit and train 5 percent of AFSCME members to have one-­on-­one conversations with their coworkers.

To become an AFSCME Strong activist, contact your regional office.

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.

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.

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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