Source: James Lawson, Labor: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas, Vol. 5 no. 1, 2008
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.
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.
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.
Source: Paul Abowd, Labor Notes, No. 358, January 2009
Last summer’s meeting of the National Conference of Mayors foresaw grim days for American cities — and that was before finance markets folded up in the fall. Now urban governments confront budget deficits that stem from falling tax revenues and the ongoing credit crunch.
More than a quarter of American cities hemorrhaged jobs in 2008. Mayors now propose to add to the jobless by firing yet more city workers. Wall Street’s collapse has opened a $4 billion hole in New York’s $60 billion balance sheet over the next two years–and support from state and federal coffers is less than forthcoming.
Source: Michael Honey, Poverty & Race, Vol. 16 no. 2, March-April 2007
On February 12—Lincoln’s Birthday—Gillis and others on the sewer and drainage crew had had enough. They and nearly 1,300 black men in the Memphis Department of Public Works, giving no notice to anyone, went on strike. Little did they imagine that their decision would challenge generations of white supremacy in Memphis and have staggering consequences for the nation.
Source: Christine Moroski, Solidarity, January-February 2007
But even the strongest of passions, Hunter has discovered, can’t overcome dismal economics. It’s impossible to provide the quality of care that children deserve, she said, when the state of Michigan pays her just $1.80 per hour per child – a payment that has not been raised in 10 years. That’s why she recently became a member of Child Care Providers Together Michigan (CCPTM), a joint effort of the UAW and AFSCME.
Hunter and her co-workers, who are spread out in communities across the state, scored a major victory in November when the Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC) certified a majority of them had voted for union representation. The new bargaining unit will include some 40,000 home-based child care providers.
Source: Gerald W. McEntee, Public Personnel Management, Winter 2006, Volume 35, no. 4
These are unprecedented times for public service workers and the unions that represent their interests. The largest of these unions is the 1.4 million member American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), AFL-CIO. In recent years, AFSCME has been thrust into the role of defending sweeping attacks on public employees and public budgets at every level of government.
Throughout its 70-year history, AFSCME has waged effective battles that have enabled public employees to join the ranks of the middle class—winning collective bargaining rights, facilitating the adoption of merit-based job performance systems, growing public employee pension plans, securing wage increases, and helping create a vibrant public sector that provides effective services to citizens and helps local economies realize their potential.
Today, much of the historic progress achieved by public workers is at risk. Ultimately, how successfully AFSCME and its fellow public unions meet five core challenges in the areas of privatization—fiscal limits, civil service reform and pension reform—will determine the future of America’s public sector.