Category Archives: AFSCME

Giving Voice to New Jersey's Caregivers: The Union Experiences of Home-Based Child Care Providers

Source: Linda Houser, Elizabeth Nisbet, Karen White, Center for Women and Work Rutgers, May 2012

From the press release:
Home-based child care providers spend their days caring for some of New Jersey’s most vulnerable citizens: its children. But these caregivers – who are disproportionately women, work long hours, may have hourly pay below minimum wage, and lack health insurance and other benefits – are also a vulnerable group of New Jerseyans.

A new study released by the Center for Women and Work (CWW) at the School of Management and Labor Relations at Rutgers University describes how home-based workers have fared three years after unionization and only four years after they gained the right to organize….

The study’s key findings include:
– High levels of economic vulnerability intersect with high levels of work effort. More than half of all respondents reported household incomes of less than $25,000 annually, yet, on average, they provide nearly 39 hours a week of care.
– A third of home-based child care providers have no health insurance, and most of the insured depend on public insurance. Past research suggests that, in addition to limited access to health care, they have limited options to miss work for illness.
– In contrast to their levels of formal education, respondents are a highly experienced and well-trained group, with an average of 12.5 years providing child care, and with 91% reporting at least one training in the past 12 months and 42% reporting at least one certificate, permit, or credential.
– The majority of workers believed access to information about regulations, benefits and services, and the ability to address problems, had improved since unionization. Prior to unionization many providers were unaware of the amount of reimbursement for care to which they were legally entitled.
– The survey also uncovered a high level of interest in training, particularly training on children’s special needs or toward an associate degree in child development, and the view that the union was helping improve access to training.

Feminist Collective Bargaining Meets the Civil Service

Source: Fred Glass, CPER Journal, No. 205, March 2012
(subscription required)

AFSCME may have fallen behind at the outset of public worker organizing in California, but by the mid-1960s it was toiling hard to make up for lost time, organizing in schools, city and county employment, and in the University of California system.

In San Jose, the city’s civil service workers association, the Municipal Employees Federation, affiliated with AFSCME in 1972, forming AFSCME Local 101. It was here, in the city that Mayor Janet Gray Hayes never tired of describing as “the feminist capital of the world,” that the old civil service personnel administration methods of adjusting salaries and job descriptions ran into a three-way pileup with collective bargaining and the impact of feminism on workplace organizing.

Steering the women workers through the collision and out to the other side was a determined and visionary organizer, Maxine Jenkins. Her vehicle, or weapon: comparable worth, which was based on the revolutionary idea that male and female workers should be paid equally for work requiring comparable skill, effort, and responsibility under similar working conditions.

New Rules for Wisconsin Unions: No Rules

Source: Theresa Moran, Labor Notes, February 10, 2012

Wisconsin public workers face harsher work rules and shrinking paychecks as contracts expire and additional provisions of Governor Scott Walker’s anti-union bill set in. State unions are being forced to shift from a decades-old servicing model to an organizing model in a fight for their survival.
In Wisconsin, assessing a new labor law’s impact
Source: Daniel C. Vock,, February 13, 2012

Wisconsin and Beyond

Source: Kim Moody, In Critical Solidarity, Vol. 10 no. 3, May 2011

Like the beginnings of upsurge in earlier times, the rebellion that began with Wisconsin’s public workers — against one of the most far-reaching attacks on worker rights in some time — came as a result of anger building after years of pressure on public employees all across the nation.

Among the many lessons of the Wisconsin events is that politicians develop backbone to the degree their base is in the streets and “out of control.” Should the Democrats take back various statehouses, perhaps even Congress, and the mass movement subsides, they will fall back into their pattern of compromise and retreat. Post- Wisconsin politics need to be a politics of mobilization and direct action if the debate on worker rights is to replace that of austerity and increasing impoverishment.

For the past two years, the right and their Tea Party shock troops dominated political discourse in the style of a semi-mass movement, sometimes attracting the angry and frustrated with their sharp rhetoric. This year in Wisconsin and across the Midwest, the Tea Party efforts to support these Republican governors were pathetic and that movement was reduced to its true proportion as a middle class minority. This year, the working class majority spoke in the loudest voice and clearest terms it has for decades, and attracted broad support in the process.

Remembering Martin Luther King, Jr.

Source: Johanna Russ, Wayne State University, Walter P. Reuther Library blog, March 30th, 2011

“It is a crime to live in this rich nation and receive starvation wages.”-Martin Luther King, Jr.

At the beginning of 1968, working conditions for sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee, especially African Americans, were atrocious. Employees were given no benefits, no vacation pay, no pensions; forty percent qualified for welfare, and many worked second jobs. During bad weather, black workers were sent home without pay, while white workers collected a full day’s wages. The Memphis Sanitation Department refused to modernize the equipment used by black workers.

Other Models for Labor-Management Dispute Resolution: The Wisconsin Experiment

Source: Christine D. Ver Ploeg, William Mitchell Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2010-12, May 13, 2010

From the abstract:
Twenty-two years ago leaders from the Wisconsin Department of Labor Relations and leaders from the Wisconsin State Employees Union, AFSCME Council 24, agreed that they needed a more efficient way to deal with their backlog of grievances, many of which involved routine issues and did not require a precedential decision. To that end they mutually crafted two special arbitration procedures: the umpire arbitration process and the expedited arbitration process. In the intervening years the parties have resolved a large portion of their grievances using these special procedures, and today relatively few grievances are taken to conventional arbitration.

Given this extended and extensive track record, the parties were interested in now more closely examining their experience to determine how the advocates who have been in the trenches and use these special processes evaluate them and how they might be improved. To that end arbitrators prepared a ninety-question anonymous survey to which an advocate could respond with a quantifiable score and could also offer additional related thoughts.

All of the advocates – who among themselves had one to thirty-six years of labor relations experience – responded to this survey. Results revealed that both union and management advocates are highly satisfied with the umpire arbitration and expedited arbitration processes. Advocates suggested very few changes and none would support eliminating these special procedures as options.

In short, it is fair to say that the parties have realized their goal of resolving select grievances more efficiently while at the same time preserving fairness and effectiveness. These special arbitration procedures have worked well, and in today’s even more challenging economy other parties with substantial grievance backlogs could learn much from the Wisconsin experience.

“A Wagner Act for Public Employees”: Labor’s Deferred Dream and the Rise of Conservatism, 1970-1976

Source: Joseph A. McCartin, Journal of American History, Vol. 95 no. 1, June 2008
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
The explosive rise of public sector unions in the United States in the 1960s and the early 1970s resembled in many ways the breakthrough of industrial unionism in the 1930s. The unionization of teachers, police officers, fire fighters, secretaries, sanitation workers, and other government employees was every bit as sudden and unexpected as the depression-era industrial union upsurge had been. Membership in public sector unions grew tenfold between 1955 and 1975, topping four million by the early 1970s. Moreover, newly organized government workers behaved just as militantly as did auto and steel workers a generation earlier. In 1958 there were a mere 15 public sector strikes recorded in the United States; in 1975 the number hit 478. It is little wonder then that so many observers compared public sector unionism to the rise decades before of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). Describing a scene reminiscent of a famous history of the 1930s by Irving Bernstein, the journalist Irwin Ross suggested in 1968 that the upsurge in government workers’ activism had created a “turbulent state” by the late 1960s. Ralph J. Flynn, a lobbyist for the fastest growing public sector union, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), also used a depression-era benchmark. Surveying AFSCME’s prospects in 1974 he concluded that “today is 1934 in the public sector.” And, when a Pennsylvania state official tried to understand the unionization of state workers, he also drew on history: “We went through this in the ’30s in the private sector,” he explained. “Now we are going through it in the public.”

Forty Years Since King: The Memphis Sanitation Strike

Source: James Lawson, Labor: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas, Vol. 5 no. 1, 2008
(subscription required)

April 4, 2008, marks forty years since the tumultuous battle for union rights in Memphis, in which an assassin took the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Coretta Scott King summed up her husband’s work in 1968 by saying, “He gave his life for the poor of the world, the garbage workers of Memphis and the peasants of Vietnam.” To honor and remember the importance of King and the Memphis strike, we reprint excerpts from Rev. James Lawson’s speech to the joint LAWCHA-Southwest Labor Studies Association conference held at the University of California-Santa Barbara.

Illinois Workers Locked Out for Two Years after Voting in Union

Source: Gail Warner, Labor Notes, no. 365, August 2009

Two years into a strike and lockout at a small mental-health provider in central Illinois, the 40 counselors who walked out are still standing. Years of fruitless bargaining, mediation, and picketing have left the workers clamoring for binding arbitration to bring the struggle to a close. They’re campaigning for the Employee Free Choice Act, which includes an arbitration provision to resolve first-contract disputes.

Workers Protest Puerto Rico’s Governor as Lay Off Of Tens Of Thousands

Source: Produced by Ken Nash and Mimi Rosenberg, Building Bridges: Your Community and Labor Report, June 19, 2009
(at 15 minutes)

Benjamin Borges, Executive Director, Public Service Workers United of Puerto Rico (Servidores Publicos Unidos de Puerto Rico) Council 95, AFSCME

One hundred thousand marched in San Juan to protest the recent firing of 10,000 workers by prostatehood Governor Luis Fortuno. The march was organized by All of Puerto Rico for Puerto Rico, a new coalition that includes unions affiliated to Change to Win, the AFL-CIO, independent unions, community groups, and church organizations, who also protested Law 7, which would privatize public workers jobs and allow the government to discard contracts already signed with labor unions. Gov. Luis Fortuno plans to cut 30,000 more public sector jobs as well.