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June 9 was one of the worst days of my life. My co-workers and I at Sacramento Regional Transit—all administrative employees, all working people—were told we would lose our jobs. It’s supposed to be part of an effort to “change the culture” of the Agency.  

But we all know that RT needs to change the culture where it is really needed: at the top with management.  

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I have worked for the Sacramento Regional Transit District for over 29 years. I love the Agency. I love the people.

It’s where I started my career and, up until recently, it’s where I thought I would be able to end my career with dignity in my retirement years.

All of those hopes changed last week when I received a notice that, after decades of dedicated service to Sacramento Regional Transit, I would be laid off. 

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Public-private partnerships. Charter schools. Private prison quotas. When it comes to privatization, it’s easy to get lost in the details.

But what does “privatization” really mean, and what’s exactly at stake? How’d we get to where large corporations control many of our public assets and operate virtually every type of public service?


 

The outcome of Tuesday’s primary election confirmed that voters agreed with many of the candidates and issues we endorsed. But the results also proved how important it is to stay engaged in the political process and fight for the issues that matter to working people.

In hotly contested races in San Francisco, San Jose, Sacramento, the East Bay and Central Valley, Jane Kim, Jim Beall, Ash Kalra, Mae Torlakson, Cheryl Cook-Kallio, and Cathleen Galgiani—all endorsed by AFSCME Council 57 members—received enough votes to advance to the general election. Darrell Steinberg was elected outright and becomes the next mayor of Sacramento.

The three local ballot measures that our members endorsed—Measure AA, Measure C in Hayward and Measure B in San Jose—also passed. 

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 Today’s primary election is a big deal for California.

Not only do we get to decide on whom should be the nominees for the Presidential election, but we also get to take a stand on the state and local candidates and issues that are just as important to working families.

Despite the media’s announcement that Hillary Clinton has already clinched the Democratic nomination, this election is not over and it’s important that we vote on all the races on the ballot.

Check out our endorsements for the primary election, which are always made by AFSCME members after finding out how the candidates stand on issues that are important to us and our families.

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It takes a special kind of person to be an emergency dispatcher.

Their job isn’t just to dispatch police cars and ambulances during a crisis. They have to be able to keep callers calm, find solutions quickly and coach people through all types of emergencies—usually on their worst day—all the while coordinating the critical services they might need.

Those skills were recently put to the test for Patty Hubbard, a longtime 911 dispatcher for the San Jose Fire Department, who delivered twins over the phone. But just like the rest of our members who are emergency dispatchers and usually the “first” first responders, Hubbard handled the delivery in heroic fashion and even made history for the city.
 

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The controversy over who gets to decide the retirement security of San Jose public employees has finally been put to rest. The San Jose City Council agreed today to adopt the judge’s ruling to repeal Measure B—the divisive 2012 pension reform initiative put forward by former Mayor Chuck Reed.

The decision will finally allow the city to create a more sustainable pension system and put an end to the lingering pension battles that have hampered San Jose’s ability to recruit and retain employees that provide critical services to the city.

“This is an important step that will help our city move forward together so that we can rebuild our relationships with the workforce, the community and the City Council,” said Yolanda Cruz, president of AFSCME Municipal Employees Federation (Local 101). 

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We set out to accomplish an ambitious AFSCME Strong program in 2016, and the numbers are promising so far. This year, we are looking to build on our success in 2015 by doing outreach to 15,000 members, signing up 2,000 fee-payers for full union membership and identifying 1,000 additional members who want to be PEOPLE MVPs.

Here are the numbers since March. 

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As a shop steward at San Mateo Medical Center, Solane Louie makes sure the hospital’s labor contract is enforced on a daily basis.

She has dealt with a range of issues that have affected AFSCME Local 829 members at the hospital. But out of all the years that Louie has been representing workers, one particular incident sticks out in her mind the most. 

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Nurses at Northern Inyo Hospital are fighting for their first union contract, calling on hospital administration to address staffing shortages at a time when health care is in high demand.

The Registered Nurses at the hospital voted to join with AFSCME Local 315 (Eastern Sierra) in 2015. But after 13 months of negotiations, the nurses have decided to step up the pressure on the hospital’s administration to settle a contract by holding a rally on May 2 to let the community know how dire the situation is.

“The contract negotiations could be over in two days if the Northern Inyo Hospital District would make this their single focus,” said Vickie LaBraque, a 29-year hospital worker who has been involved in the RN negotiations for months with our union. “Our goal is to negotiate a contract that respects and retains existing staff while being attractive to new nurses. A resolution of these negotiations will allow us to move into the future, truly working together as one team.” 

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AFSCME Council 57 and Local 829 teamed up last week to roll out an organizing blitz in San Mateo County aimed at growing our membership and building power to stave off future attacks on public service workers.

AFSCME members visited worksites throughout the county, handed out leaflets and held meet-and-greets with more than 500 workers as part of an ongoing effort to continue our AFSCME Strong campaign throughout California.

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In an era where the Internet determines how people get access to information and fewer people need to leave their homes to seek answers to their questions, libraries have become more than just places where people go to check out books.

For librarians like Mary Corpora, a public library is a vital resource that helps people navigate their way through life.

“What I enjoy most about what I do is interacting with the people of my community in helpful way,” Corpora said. “I grew up in Pleasanton where I work, and still live here now, so it's always fun and immensely rewarding to assist old friends and also to meet people new to the community.”
 

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For as long as Dorothy Cordell has been an emergency dispatcher, one thing has always remained true: no matter the situation, she knows how to look on the bright side.

The next call is always unpredictable and could be a major emergency. But when providing emergency services is a labor of love like it is for Cordell, who has worked for San Mateo County for over 15 years, each call is an opportunity to serve her community.

Emergency dispatchers have some of the toughest public safety jobs because they are truly on the front lines of police and fire services and they make critical life-saving decisions for people in need of help—all over the phone.

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BART and its three unions—AFSCME 3993, ATU 1555 and SEIU 1021—announced today that they have all signed a tentative agreement that will extend their current labor contracts for four years through 2021—a huge development at a time when the BART system is aging, ridership continues to hit record numbers and workers need to focus on making the system run as smoothly as it can.

This agreement, which is subject to a vote of approval by union members and the BART Board of Directors, will ensure that BART riders can have consistent service and that BART workers get a fair contract.

“This is a pivotal moment in our history,” AFSCME Local 3993 President Sal Cruz said at today's press conference announcing the tentative agreement. 

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 Labor and its allies gained traction this week with landmark legislation that will raise the minimum wage statewide incrementally to $15 per hour over the next six years.

With this law, California is making a statement that will echo across the country: No one who works hard should live in poverty.  

Various cities in the state have undertaken their own minimum wage laws. With this new statewide legislation under consideration in Sacramento, many AFSCME members working in kitchen, laundry and custodial jobs stand to benefit.

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 The U.S. Supreme Court today issued a 4-4 ruling in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, dealing a significant blow to wealthy special interests and thwarting the biggest attack on public sector unions in a decade.

The case rejected an attempt by wealthy special interests to restrict opportunities for America’s teachers, firefighters, police officers, nurses and others who provide our vital services for our communities to have a voice at work and join together to build a better future for their families. The result in Friedrichs is meaningful for millions of families across the country, as it is a rebuke against this well-funded attack on workers’ voices and their ability to join together.

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 A number of our brothers and sisters who work in public transportation are first-hand witnesses to the fact that we need to fix mass transit throughout California.

We also understand that, in the communities in which we serve, there need to be more options for public transportation. That means investing in buses as well as rails, and that means supporting investments that are equally made in transit operations as well as in capital improvements.

Then you have people like California State Senator Steve Glazer who seemingly want to derail these much-needed improvements that the public wants.

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It’s not often when we get a chance to speak directly to the public officials who make decisions that affect our communities, but that’s the opportunity that our members received last weekend when they attended the AFSCME California PEOPLE Convention.

A number of our brothers and sisters—representing locals throughout the state—took part in Lobby Day, and they shared their stories of serving the public everyday and asked public officials in the state Capitol to hear and act on their concerns.

As a Council, we worked in collaboration with our brothers and sisters from Council 36 (Southern California) to gain support from key state legislators in our fight to restore funding for an array of state-funded services that will lift up our communities. 

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Council 57 took home an award for the tireless work our members did last year to recruit the most PEOPLE MVPs in the state—just one of the many highlights from the recent AFSCME California PEOPLE Convention.

Members signed up 772 new PEOPLE MVPs in 2015 as part of our AFSCME Strong campaign. That total includes 535 people who are contributing to PEOPLE through a portion of their paychecks and 237 people who are contributing in other ways. Local 101 from the greater San Jose area received special recognition for having enrolled the most members into PEOPLE at the MVP level.

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As long as she has been working, Bernadine Howell has been in a union—and she has been outspoken.

Whenever it was time to vote on union matters or stand up for an issue in the community, Howell has always been one of the first to speak up—even if it meant being perceived as at odds with what the rest of the group wanted to do.

But ever since she completed AFSCME’s Women’s Leadership Academy in December, Howell, a custodian at REACH Academy in Oakland and a member of AFSCME Local 257, has gained a new perspective on what it means to be an effective union leader.

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 In his 20 years as an emergency dispatcher, Robert Vega has delivered babies on the spot and dealt with calls from women about to give birth, but the call he got through the California Highway Patrol dispatch center last October was one for the books.

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Council 57 is announcing today our endorsements in 35 state senate and assembly districts for the upcoming primary elections.  

The endorsements are made through a democratic process involving all of our members. First, locals are asked to contribute questions to the current candidate questionnaire. Then, members representing local unions throughout the state are invited to interview political candidates and review the questionnaires they fill out as a requirement for an AFSCME endorsement. The interviews are open to all members and every local has a right to have a members there. This interview committee makes recommendations for endorsements to the Council’s Political Action Committee, which then evaluates each recommended candidate’s voting record and viability. The PAC makes then its recommendations to the Executive Board and Delegates, who approve the final endorsements.  

“We rely upon our members input while making the decision to endorse candidates,” Council 57 PAC Chair Becky Nassarre said on the importance of participating in our endorsement process. “When we endorse, we are looking for candidates who have a commitment to maintaining a strong public sector and fighting for working people of all ages to have a chance to reach or stay in the middle class.”    

Every local is allowed one representative and an alternate on the Political Action Committee.

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AFSCME Council 57 honors and recognizes Local 2703 members Mike Schlessinger and David Soto for their amazing rescue of an elderly resident who had fallen in her yard and laid in a puddle for over 24 hours. The Merced City Council presented them with a certificate in appreciation for this outstanding action.They are among the everyday heroes that provide essential services to citizens, and more.


 

 Labor Economist Jared Bernstein does a deep dive into the causes of income inequality and policy solutions, including strengthening unions. Key point: “To lower today’s levels of inequality, policy would need to accomplish two broad goals: raise the bargaining power of the American worker and lower the political clout of the wealthy elite."

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 A Future for Workers: A Contribution from Black Labor offers a perspective that is timely and unique, blunt but hopeful, progressive yet tempered by the grotesque grip on wealth and power by global elites. It speaks in the voice of nearly 2.1 million African Americans in labor unions. This document seeks to advance a discussion that is so badly needed. What is it that workers need and want? How can this then become not the “special interests” of an isolated labor movement, but a robust agenda that can rally the bottom 99% to collective action? These questions anchor the analyses, conclusions and recommendations presented in this paper from a black labor perspective.


 

Over 100 leaders and activists brought life to the Council 57 AFSCME STRONG movement at the Leadership Conference in September themed Organizing for a Power Future. AFSCME Council 31 Director Roberta Lynch rallied the crowd about Income Inequality and the need to fight the billionaire agenda to dismantle unions. Members posed for a group picture which joined with AFSCME Council 31 members depicts AFSCME Strong solidarity. Longtime labor icon and social justice activist Dolores Huerta inspired our members with the history of United Farm Workers (UFW) organizing and the importance of home visits to engage members. She also emphasized how AFSCME’s support in the early years of the UFW grape boycott was crucial to the success of the campaign. Conference participants put this and their AFSCME Strong training to use making home visits to AFSCME Local 829 members, signing up new members, enrolling members into PEOPLE and engaging members in dynamic conversations about the future of our union. 

AFSCME Council 57 also honored activists and locals at our first ever Outstanding Organizer Awards with a field of many distinguished nominees from around the state. In an Academy Award format presenters Belinda Malone, Bernadine Howell, and Ruben Rodriguez recognized outstanding activists and locals who are doing an outstanding job to build our union!

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Are Unions Useful Anymore?

Tell me if you've heard this one before: "Unions were good at one time, but haven't they outlived their usefulness?" This statement is old hat for those who want to crush workers' rights on the job. How old? The revelation at the 48-second mark says it all.


 

Wealth Inequality in America

Our perception of inequality and the actual numbers. The reality is worse than we think.

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