Press Release Feed Press Releases Tue, 3 May 2011 05:00:00 +0000 AMPS en hourly 1 Consumers, Health Leaders and Allies Must Join Forces to Ensure Consumer Interests are Reflected in National Health Care Debate, Says New National Alliance Tue, 14 May 2019 16:31:08 -0500 A newly formed alliance that launched today wants to ensure that the economic incentives of the health care system encourage affordable, high-quality health care for all of America’s families.

Consumers First: The Alliance to Make the Health Care System Work for Everyone, brings together powerful interests from consumers, employers, children, labor, and primary care providers. The Steering Committee of the Coalition consists of the following seven national organizations:

  • Families USA
  • American Academy of Family Physicians
  • American Benefits Council
  • American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees
  • American Federation of Teachers
  • First Focus
  • Pacific Business Group on Health

Consumers First aims to uproot the fundamental economic distortions in the health care system that drive high costs and low-quality care for America’s families. The alliance will work to educate Congress, the federal government and state policymakers about critical changes that are needed immediately to ensure the health care system provides higher-value care to the people it serves.

In addition, Consumers First has released a Call to Action paper.

The paper asks allies to join forces to address the significant economic distortions in the health care payment and delivery system that drive high costs and low-quality care. The call to action outlines six policy focus areas in the health care system that need to be addressed immediately:

  • High and rising health care prices
  • Distortions created by provider payment systems, including Medicare
  • Increased health care industry consolidation
  • Federal tax policy for nonprofit health care Institutions and insurance plans
  • Flawed health care workforce policy
  • Inadequate access to data and lack of transparency

One of Consumers First’s next steps will be to finalize a congressional and administrative policy agenda on the key changes that are needed in health care.

“While our country has made significant gains in health care coverage in the last several decades, our health care system remains rife with inefficiencies and economic distortions that are hurting every day families. Until we change the incentives that drive low-quality, high-cost care, consumers will continue to be left behind. We have convened the Consumers First alliance and issued this paper to ensure that the economic incentives of the health care system are fundamentally changed so that families can always receive affordable, high-quality health care. This effort is not about tinkering around the edges. Over time, we aim to uproot the economic distortions that are hurting families, and drive to a more efficient, rational payment and delivery systems that puts the needs of consumers first,” said Frederick Isasi, Executive Director, Families USA.

“Affordable, high-quality healthcare is entirely possible for all Americans but will require significant changes in the U.S. health system. We have lost over 10 years of wage growth to health care cost inflation and have not seen needed gains in quality or patient outcomes. We are paying the highest prices in the world for highly variable care. We all deserve better and PBGH’s Members are prepared to be engaged and proactive to achieve better care at lower costs. PBGH is excited to partner with Families USA on a shared agenda for healthcare quality and affordability that places the health and financial well-being of employees and families first. Let’s get moving!” said Elizabeth Mitchell, President & CEO, Pacific Business Group on Health.

“This Alliance was created because for too many American families, access to care is uneven, inconsistent and dependent on multiple variables.  While most First-World countries have managed to offer people basic healthcare, here in the U.S. – the wealthiest country in the world – patients are often caught in a maze of arbitrary regulations, payment systems and prices that vary widely.

Our members, who are nurses and healthcare professionals, see these inequities up-close understand all too well the need for greater transparency, oversight and accountability in our healthcare delivery system. But, basic health care is a right human right that should be available to all; not a privilege reserved for the wealthy few. What we need is a sea change in the drivers of our health care system so that working families – indeed all families – can access the care they need and deserve,” said Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers.

“Every single day, AFSCME health care workers see how the current system fails to provide Americans with the care they deserve. The high cost of health care and prescription drugs, coupled with decades of stagnant wages, places millions of Americans in a position where they must choose between paying for basic necessities and life-saving medications. By joining Consumers First, AFSCME will ensure that frontline health care workers are at the table as we seek to expand access to quality health care for all,” said Lee Saunders, President, AFSCME.

“Large employers, like the members of the American Benefits Council, provide the high-value, high-quality health coverage that people like. But these employer plan sponsors are consumers, too, and the high costs that plague our health care system – brought about by flawed policies and backwards incentives – are simply untenable. There is much that can be accomplished through cooperation and consensus, which is why we are proud to join with the other members of Consumers First to find practical solutions,” said James A. Klein, President, American Benefits Council.

“Children are among the most vulnerable consumers of healthcare and their needs are often neglected. Children need special care, like pediatric surgeons, emergency medications like EpiPens and other items that often don’t receive the attention they deserve. It’s time to put consumers first, and children must be at the front of the line,” said Bruce Lesley, President, First Focus on Children.

AFSCME Blasts Trump Administration’s ‘Vicious Attack’ on Home Care Workers’ Freedoms Thu, 02 May 2019 16:11:44 -0500 The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced a rule change that prohibits home care workers from making any automatic deductions – including union dues and health care premiums – from their Medicaid-funded paychecks. In response, AFSCME President Lee Saunders issued the following statement:

“Home care workers work incredibly hard, caring for loved ones and the most vulnerable people in our society. They deserve respect for the vital jobs they do. Instead, this anti-worker administration is attacking their right to organize and enjoy basic benefits afforded to other workers, such as health and dental insurance, which will hurt them and the people they care for. This is a vicious, outrageous attack against their freedoms, and AFSCME members across the country will stand together with home care workers in this fight.”

AFSCME Launches Interactive Seven-Figure Campaign to Engage Young People of Color Ahead of 2020 Election Wed, 17 Apr 2019 12:00:00 -0500 The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) today launched “I AM – Be the Change,” a bold effort to engage young African Americans and Latinos to answer the call of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the 1,300 Memphis sanitation workers to be the change in their communities and fight for social and economic justice.

I AM video

Watch AFSCME President Lee Saunders Announce “I AM - Be the Change”

“I AM – Be the Change” builds on the groundswell of activism fueled by the I AM 2018 program, which led thousands of Americans in honoring the 50th anniversary of the historic 1968 Memphis Sanitation Worker Strike and the assassination of Dr. King. Through a national moment of silence, youth town halls, activist trainings and a march on Memphis uniting thousands of civil, faith and labor leaders and advocates, communities across the country committed to voting in the midterm elections and continuing Dr. King’s and the sanitation workers’ struggle for equal treatment, fair wages, and a voice on the job.

“I AM – Be the Change” seeks to expand on the successes of 2018, when voters elected a pro-worker majority in the House of Representatives, seven pro-worker governors and more pro-worker state legislators than at any time in almost a decade. The initiative will keep young people engaged by highlighting issues such as excessive student loan debt, lack of affordable housing and lack of good-paying jobs.

“‘I AM – Be the Change’ is meant to inspire young people of color to take action online and offline to drive change in their communities,” said AFSCME President Lee Saunders. “We intend to create a year-round organizing presence in disenfranchised communities that are too often ignored after Election Day and to inspire black and Latino youth to reclaim Dr. King’s and the sanitation workers’ fight for civil rights and workers’ rights as their own.”

Motivated to reverse the declining voter participation rates among black and Latino voters, AFSCME’s I AM program is spearheading the effort in 2020 and beyond to continually engage and mobilize young people of color.

To open a conversation on the issues affecting the next generation, I AM will use Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to empower young people with the resources they need to stay politically engaged past Election Day. Additionally, AFSCME will build an online hub for civic and economic empowerment where community members can learn about the challenges facing working people, how to mobilize their neighbors and how to hold elected officials accountable – ensuring that organizing at the local level is led by those who know their communities the best.

AFSCME Endorses Key Legislation that Would Provide Student Debt Relief to Millions of Public Service Workers Thu, 11 Apr 2019 11:18:58 -0500 AFSCME President Lee Saunders issued the following statement in support of the “What You Can Do For Your Country Act of 2019,” which was introduced today by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, and Tim Kaine of Virginia. This legislation would fix transparency issues and expand eligibility in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program to ensure that public service workers who make their communities safer, stronger and healthier every day are actually receiving the relief they were promised: 

“The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program was started to provide student loan debt relief to public service workers who dedicate their careers to bettering their communities. Instead, the program has left millions of workers without a path to forgiveness, benefiting less than 1% of all public service workers who have applied. That’s why AFSCME is proud to endorse the ‘What You Can Do For Your Country Act of 2019,’ which would make eligibility requirements transparent, streamline the application process and close loopholes to give public service workers and their families a fair chance to get ahead. No one should have to take on crippling student loan debt to access the opportunities that come with higher education.”

AFSCME’s Saunders: ‘Anniversary of Dr. King’s Death is a Call to Action on Civil Rights’ Thu, 04 Apr 2019 08:10:25 -0500 One year after leading thousands of labor and civil rights advocates to Memphis, Tennessee, as part of the union’s I AM 2018 initiative, AFSCME President Lee Saunders issued the following statement on the 51st anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who was shot and killed in Memphis where he was helping 1,300 AFSCME Local 1733 sanitation workers strike under the iconic slogan “I AM A MAN”: 

The anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s death is a call for action and a potent reminder that workers’ rights and civil rights are inextricably linked. Dignity, fair wages and a voice on the job. AFSCME will continue the I AM initiative to fight for dignity for all workers, a voice on the job and an end to discrimination. Dr. King’s values are AFSCME’s values.”

‘Workers chose to stick with their union’: AFSCME Posts Strong Membership Numbers in New Filing with Department of Labor Wed, 27 Mar 2019 06:30:00 -0500 Gain of 9,000 new working members and 19,000 retirees, despite Janus v. AFSCME decision and right-wing efforts to ‘defund and defang’ public service unions and urging members to quit

Overall, union retained 94 percent of all represented workers, defying expectations over Supreme Court decision fallout

Threats remain; AFSCME focused on organizing, 2020 and continued wins in the courts

WASHINGTON —  The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) submitted its annual LM-2 filing with the Department of Labor, which requires all unions to report the number of members and agency fee payers they represent. AFSCME’s filing shows a gain of 9,097 dues-paying members and 18,638 dues-paying retirees over the union’s report last year, suggesting that efforts by the billionaires and corporations behind the Janus v. AFSCME case and the anti-worker majority of the United States Supreme Court to “defund and defang” public service unions have fallen flat. 

The report is the first since Janus v. AFSCME, the 5-4 Supreme Court ruling which held that requiring fees from public service workers who receive union benefits but choose not to join the union is unconstitutional. In the wake of the decision, the report shows that, overall, the union retained 94 percent of workers it represents, including both dues-paying members and fee payers. According to the report, AFSCME represents 1,329,594 working members, agency fee payers in the private sector and retirees, compared to 1,411,877 reported last year. Though this represents a bottom-line decrease of 6 percent thanks to the Supreme Court’s decision, it crushed union analysts’ expectations, which anticipated a loss upwards of 30 percent.

“In overwhelming numbers, AFSCME members have blunted the attacks of the wealthy special interests and chosen to stick with their union. Nurses, school employees, corrections officers, emergency medical technicians and others will not forfeit their seat at the table or let their voices be silenced. They will continue to assert their rights and freedoms,” said Lee Saunders, president of AFSCME.

The union’s AFSCME Strong campaign, launched in 2014, was essential to this success. AFSCME Strong represented a major culture shift, prioritizing one-on-one conversations and member-to-member engagement, modernized communications, a state-of-the art data infrastructure, and political engagement that has seen members advocating for and mobilizing behind candidates who support working families. In all, AFSCME Strong resulted in more than 1 million conversations between AFSCME members about the value of union membership since 2014.

A Growth Agenda and 2020

Since 2016, AFSCME has won 245 organizing campaigns and has ramped up those efforts across the country in both the public and private sectors.

There is also momentum in public and political support for unions and pro-worker solutions to a rigged system in which the richest few continue to take advantage of working people. At 62 percent, unions have reached their highest level of support in 15 years. Meanwhile, lawmakers and presidential candidates are increasingly advocating pro-worker policies, from a living wage to universal health care to student debt.

“Public service workers never quit doing everything possible to keep their communities safe and strong. The best way to do that is to come together in a strong union and negotiate for improvements that benefit everyone – lower nurse-patient ratios, smaller classroom sizes, better equipment for EMTs and higher funding for road repairs,” said Saunders.

The Battle in the Courts

Meanwhile, right-wing groups continue to rely on courts to implement an unpopular anti-worker agenda. But AFSCME and other public service unions continue to rack up victories in these cases:

  • Federal courts in Oregon, Washington, Illinois, Alaska, Ohio and California have rejected corporate interest groups’ bids to require unions to pay back agency fees that were collected and spent in representing the workers prior to the Janus decision. These courts have found that the unions acted in good faith and in accordance with controlling law at the time. In fact, the Illinois district court ruled that Mark Janus, the plaintiff in Janus v. AFSCME, is entitled to no damages. Any other result, these courts have noted, would promote lawlessness and erode the judiciary’s standing in the eyes of the public.
  • In two separate cases this month, judges preliminarily halted two Missouri laws, one that would eliminate merit system protections and collective bargaining over job protections for state employees and another that would hamstring all Missouri public service workers’ rights to collectively bargain. Both judges held that the respective laws violated Missourians’ fundamental right to collectively bargain, a right enshrined in the state constitution.
  • In February, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, in Mentele v. SEIU Local 925, rejected the Freedom Foundation’s and National Right to Work Foundation’s attempts to eliminate exclusive representation in labor relations, a bedrock principle of American labor relations.

“The Janus case taught us two things: first, the anti-worker Supreme Court majority cares more about rigging the system in favor of corporate interests than about facts and precedent,” said Saunders. “Second, public service workers are resilient and see the value of union membership. We will not let five justices determine the future of our union. We will fight any attempt to break our bonds of solidarity. We will continue to build power together to lift up our families and our communities.”

AFSCME Applauds the Introduction of the IDEA Full Funding Act Tue, 26 Mar 2019 12:05:48 -0500 AFSCME President Lee Saunders issued the following statement in support of the IDEA Full Funding Act introduced by Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) and Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) and Reps. Jared Huffman (D-California), John Katko (R-New York), David McKinley (R-West Virginia), Glenn Thompson (R-Pennsylvania) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pennsylvania). This legislation would fulfill a commitment made in 1975 to provide states with 40 percent of the average per-pupil expenditure for students with disabilities:

“All students deserve access to a free, safe, nurturing and quality learning environment. Students with disabilities are no exception. AFSCME members across the country work with these students, driving their buses to get them safely to and from school, assisting them in the classroom, and helping to make sure they have equal access to a good education and a brighter future. We support the introduction of the IDEA Full Funding Act to ensure that the federal promise made to students with disabilities nearly 50 years ago is kept.”

AFSCME Supports the ‘Excellence in Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Expansion Act’ Thu, 14 Mar 2019 11:58:00 -0500 AFSCME President Lee Saunders issued the following statement in support of the “Excellence in Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Expansion Act,” bipartisan legislation co-sponsored by Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan) and Roy Blunt (R-Missouri) and Reps. Doris Matsui (D-California) and Markwayne Mullin (R-Oklahoma). The legislation would increase the level of much-needed resources in 19 states to treat mental health conditions and addiction:

“AFSCME members are committed to making their communities healthier and stronger through treating addiction, mental health conditions and addressing the opioid epidemic. We support this important bipartisan legislation because it builds on the success and effectiveness of established Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs), which have expanded services and reduced wait times for patients who need urgent treatment. We thank Senators Stabenow and Blunt and Representatives Matsui and Mullin for their leadership and for making it easier for dedicated mental health professionals to provide better care for the clients to whom they are so dedicated.”

AFSCME President Lee Saunders on DNC Choosing Milwaukee for 2020 Convention Mon, 11 Mar 2019 19:18:07 -0500 AFSCME President Lee Saunders issued the following statement on the Democratic National Committee choosing Milwaukee to host the 2020 Democratic National Convention:

“America’s heartland is a great place for the nominee of the Democratic Party to communicate a vision for how he or she will lift up working families. That would include making it easier for workers to join in strong unions. Wisconsin is where AFSCME was founded. The issues our members care about will be front and center in political debate heading into 2020, especially as the Democratic National Convention will be held in a state where voters rejected former Gov. Scott Walker’s disgraceful attacks on working people.”

The Trump 2020 Budget is Wrong for America Mon, 11 Mar 2019 12:00:00 -0500 AFSCME President Lee Saunders issued the following statement on President Donald Trump’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2020:

“President Trump’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2020 is an attack on working people and another attempt to rig the economy in favor of the privileged and the powerful.

“Instead of strengthening our communities with robust investments in job creation and public services, the administration is seeking a staggering $2.7 trillion in domestic spending cuts. That would mean less access to health care, fewer job-training opportunities, an increase in the number of underfunded schools, a rise in decaying infrastructure, and more. Meanwhile, corporations and the wealthiest Americans would continue to avoid paying their fair share in taxes.

“On the heels of the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, this is the moment for a consensus-seeking budget that unites us around core values, one that ensures continuity in public services and one that does not jeopardize the paychecks of hardworking government employees and contractors. Instead, the president continues to go the most divisive route possible with his request for $8.6 billion to build an unnecessary and unpopular border wall.

“We call on Congress to reject this cruel budget and write a new one that empowers working families and their communities.”

Institutional Investors Continue to Press Companies for Disclosure of Lobbying In 2019 Wed, 27 Feb 2019 12:00:00 -0500 Corporate lobbying disclosure remains a pressing shareholder proposal topic for 2019. A coalition of at least 70 investors have filed proposals at 33 companies asking for disclosure reports that include federal and state lobbying payments, payments to trade associations and social welfare groups used for lobbying and payments to any tax-exempt organization that writes and endorses model legislation. This year’s campaign highlights the theme of corporate political responsibility, with a focus on climate change lobbying.

Corporate lobbying affects all aspects of the economy, including issues ranging from climate change and drug prices to financial regulation, immigration and workers’ rights. Lobbying can provide decision-makers with valuable insights and data, but it can also lead to undue influence, unfair competition and regulatory capture. In addition, lobbying may channel companies’ funds and influence into highly controversial topics with the potential to cause reputational harm.

More than $3.4 billion in total was spent on federal lobbying in 2018. Companies also spend more than $1 billion yearly on lobbying at the state level, where disclosure is far less transparent than federal lobbying. Additionally, trade associations spend over $100 million annually, lobbying indirectly on behalf of companies. For example, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce spent $95 million on federal lobbying in 2018 and has spent over $1.5 billion on lobbying since 1998.

To address potential reputational and financial risk associated with lobbying, investors are encouraging companies to disclose all their lobbying payments as well as board oversight processes. We believe that this risk is particularly acute when a company’s lobbying, done directly or through a third party, contradicts its publicly stated positions and core values. Disclosure allows shareholders to verify whether a company’s lobbying aligns with its expressed values and corporate goals.

A major focus for the investor coalition continues to be undisclosed trade association lobbying payments because they are not required to disclose the sources of their funding. In some cases, a trade association may actively lobby for issues that are contrary to a company’s public statements and values or take a controversial public stand. If this is the case, investors urge the company to publicly clarify any differences between its position and that of the trade association.

Whether a company’s lobbying aligns with its values and goals captures the emerging concept of corporate political responsibility. Many corporations positively portray their climate policies and sustainability goals while their lobbying through trade associations can tell another story. For example, General Motors declares its commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions yet its trade association, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, has lobbied to weaken fuel standards. Corporate political responsibility requires companies that embrace sustainability to be transparent about their political activity.

Regarding climate policy, there are many cases of lobbying misalignment. Companies with programs addressing climate change are also funding the Chamber of Commerce, which has lobbied consistently against effective climate change regulations. Drug pricing, net neutrality, sick leave, shareholder rights and tobacco are other areas where lobbying misalignment takes place. A drug company may support access to affordable medicines while belonging to and funding the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, which spends millions lobbying against affordable drug price initiatives. A telecom company that claims support for an open internet may belong to US Telecom, which is actively fighting net neutrality. Many companies belong to the Business Roundtable and National Association of Manufacturers, which lobby against the right to file shareholder proposals.

The proposals for 2019 focus on companies that lobby significantly at the federal and state levels, do not disclose their trade association lobbying payments, or are members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which has a record of opposing climate change policies and regulation.

Since 2011, this coalition that is comprised of religious investors, members of the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility, foundations, public and labor pension funds, asset managers and individual investors has filed nearly 400 shareholder proposals. The campaign has led to more than 75 agreements to provide greater lobbying disclosure. Additionally, coalition members have engaged more than 80 companies that have left ALEC, including notable 2018 departing companies AT&T, ExxonMobil, Honeywell and Verizon. Investors have also written and held conversations with numerous companies on lobbying issues without filing resolutions. This initiative is coordinated and supported by AFSCME and Walden Asset Management, a division of Boston Trust & Investment Management Company.

2019 Announcement of Lobbying Resolutions

AFSCME Urges Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act Mon, 25 Feb 2019 10:15:01 -0500 AFSCME President Lee Saunders issued the following statement in support of the Never Forget the Heroes: Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act. The bipartisan legislation would ensure that first responders and survivors who were injured by the toxins at Ground Zero and have certified 9/11 illnesses receive their full compensation through the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF):

“Our nation’s first responders answer the call each and every day. When disaster strikes, they put themselves in harm’s way to protect their neighbors. For their courage and sacrifice in service to our communities, they have earned the nation’s unwavering respect. It is unconscionable that those who were injured or have become ill responding to the 9/11 terrorist attacks should receive anything less than the full compensation they deserve. They were there for us at Ground Zero; now, we need to be there for them. AFSCME supports this bipartisan legislation and we urge Congress to pass it immediately.”

AFSCME Stands in Solidarity with West Virginia Teachers Tue, 19 Feb 2019 12:00:00 -0500 AFSCME President Lee Saunders issued the following statement in support of the West Virginia public school teachers strike that began today:

“Once again, West Virginia politicians are trying to starve their schools of the resources needed to give children the quality public education they deserve. These actions are no doubt in retaliation for teachers striking in 2018 to demand those very resources.

“But West Virginia teachers are undaunted. For the second time in a year, they are standing up for their students and their communities, demonstrating their power in numbers through bold collective action. AFSCME stands with our West Virginia sisters and brothers in the struggle to ensure that teachers have the tools they need to do one of society’s toughest, most important jobs.”

Saunders Salutes Budget Compromise, Calls State of Emergency an Abuse of Power Thu, 14 Feb 2019 12:00:00 -0500 AFSCME President Lee Saunders issued the following statement in response to President Donald Trump’s decision to sign a budget bill and declare a national emergency for border wall funding:

“I’m pleased that we have a bipartisan spending package that will keep the government open and give federal employees a 1.9 percent raise. Going forward, we need an end to the brinksmanship and a return to normalcy when it comes to funding the government. That means budgets passed on time, with no more manufactured crises that threaten to disrupt public services.

“But the president’s decision to declare a state of emergency to build a border wall is an abuse of power. Having failed to achieve his goals through the normal give-and-take of governing, his plans to pursue a deeply divisive ideological strategy are harmful to our democracy. Emergency powers exist to address pressing matters of life and death, not to help presidents shore up their political base.”

Lee Saunders: Invest in Our Communities and Public Services to Strengthen the Nation Tue, 05 Feb 2019 22:55:31 -0500 AFSCME President Lee Saunders issued the following statement in response to President Trump’s State of the Union address:

“More than ever, people across the country are looking to Washington to empower their communities and lift up working families. If the president is truly committed to the bipartisan unity he talked about in his speech, he should abandon the threat of another disastrous government shutdown and take a declaration of national emergency off the table. It’s time to stop with the stunts and the gamesmanship. The president’s obsessive pursuit of an unpopular border wall threatens to paralyze the country and endanger our democracy.

“Sidelining federal employees and jeopardizing their economic security is no way to make America great. It’s time to re-invest in public services instead of compromising them. That means a bold infrastructure plan that creates jobs – strengthening our schools, roads and energy grid, without privatization or outsourcing schemes.

“At a moment when we need to increase access to health care, the president continues to denigrate and undermine the Affordable Care Act. At a moment when nearly unprecedented income inequality jeopardizes the American Dream, the president continues to seek cuts in domestic programs to pay for more than $1 trillion in tax breaks for wealthy corporations. President Trump and the GOP said their tax cuts would mostly benefit the middle class and small businesses, but now working families are shocked as they pay their taxes and actually owe more.

“This is a moment to rebuild the middle class and unrig the economy. And the best way to do that is to make it easier for working people to come together and organize in a union – a topic not mentioned in tonight’s address. The state of our union is strong when unions are strong.”

AFSCME Applauds Congressional Proposal to Invest $100 Billion in America’s Public Schools Fri, 01 Feb 2019 17:42:17 -0500 AFSCME President Lee Saunders issued the following statement in support of the Rebuild America’s Schools Act, which would make a much-needed $100 billion investment in America’s public schools:

“There’s nothing more important to the strength of our communities than the quality of our schools. But for too long, schools have been neglected, starved of the investments our children need to thrive.

“Millions of students and education professionals spend all day in unsafe facilities without basic resources. Lack of proper air conditioning forced students in Ohio out of school last year; the year before, thousands of children in Flint, Michigan, were exposed to lead in drinking water. AFSCME applauds Chairman Bobby Scott for the Rebuild America’s Schools Act, which would provide $100 billion to address critical physical and digital infrastructure needs in schools across the country.”

AFSCME President Lee Saunders: Time to Permanently End Shutdown, Restore Vital Services Immediately Fri, 25 Jan 2019 17:20:09 -0500 AFSCME President Lee Saunders issued the following statement in response to the announcement that a temporary agreement has been reached to reopen the federal government for three weeks until February 15:

“It is about time that the 800,000 federal government employees who serve our country get some relief from this unnecessary and harmful shutdown. The American people deserve a permanent solution now with all the vital services our communities rely on restored immediately. Anything less weakens our country and shows an unconscionable disregard for the livelihoods of dedicated public service workers and their families. We cannot allow a single divisive partisan demand to paralyze our entire country. This unprecedented brinkmanship must end.”

New Union Membership Data Reveal Anti-Worker Assault Is Failing Fri, 18 Jan 2019 12:00:00 -0500 The vicious anti-worker assault on American public sector unions—epitomized by the Janus Supreme Court case—has failed to gain traction, new data released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics confirm.

Despite a multimillion-dollar, decades-long war waged by special interests on public sector workers’ right to join together for a better life—culminating in Janus, which was meant to “defund and defang” unions—official statistics show 2018 public sector membership held strong at 7,167,000, a marginal 0.5 percent decline, with total U.S. union membership at 14,721,000 million. Public service unions have all seen more membership joins than drops since the decision.

Since Janus was decided in June, its funders have poured millions of dollars into deceptive campaigns encouraging public service workers to quit their unions, while continuing to manipulate the judicial system to attack the rights and freedoms of working people. But courts are increasingly siding with workers over special interests in the face of attempts to further disenfranchise working families by asking judges to reverse pre-existing and sound law.

The legal merits, the facts and public opinion have always been on the side of working people.

American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees President Lee Saunders said: “Momentum is on our side. Public support for unions is at its highest level in 15 years, and elected officials nationwide are embracing unionism as the key to unrigging an economy that overwhelmingly favors the privileged and powerful over working families. Our challenge now is to make it easier for working people to join unions—the one way for workers to get the dignity and respect they deserve.”

“After the Janus ruling I got a letter telling me that I didn’t have to pay fair share fees anymore unless I wanted to,” said Todd Bennington, principal planning analyst for Hennepin County Human Services in Minnesota and a member of AFSCME Council 5, Local 2864. “That’s when I became a member. Being a member is very important to me, particularly in the wake of that decision. It’s important because I believe in the power of collective action, that working together we have a lot more power to effect change in the world and in our own lives. A sense of community and connectedness is so much more appealing to me than the idea of every person for himself. Collectively, we’re going to get a lot better outcomes.”

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said: “It’s heartening that working people have seen straight through these right-wing anti-union groups’ brazen attempts to destroy our union and other democratically run, independent public sector unions. In fact, our union is growing, and winning. Since Janus, we have had 11 organizing wins, adding thousands of new members across higher education, healthcare and PSRP units.

“Union members have sent a clear message to the anti-labor right-wing ideologues: We are sticking with the union. While the right wing has many acts left in its playbook, Janus and the follow-up attacks have backfired. Educators, nurses, grad workers and so many others are joining unions because they see them as vehicles for a better life, a voice at work and a vibrant democracy. This week, the Los Angeles teachers are on strike to ensure students have the resources they need to succeed. The attacks will continue, but our members—and the American labor movement as a whole—are determined to stare them down and emerge stronger than ever.”

According to AFT member Holly Kimpon, a high school biology and anatomy teacher and president of the Genoa Area Education Association in Ohio, “It’s no different now than it was in June when the Janus ruling came out: The teachers in our district will stick together and stick with our union to make sure we have a say in the future of our kids.” Kimpon continued, “I come from a rural and conservative part of Ohio, and all but one of our teachers are dues-paying members, and not one has left the union. In fact, all six new staff members hired this year joined the union. Why? Because we know that our ability to create a safe learning environment for our students and make teaching a viable profession comes directly from being part of a strong union.”

National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García said: “Support for unions remains strong, even in the face of continual attacks on the rights of working people by corporate special interests, because unions represent the voice of working people in the fight against an economy rigged against the middle class. The NEA remains the nation’s largest labor union because educators—from West Virginia to California and in cities across America—know that together we have a powerful voice to make sure that our students have the public schools they deserve.”

“After the Janus decision, many people across the country wrote off labor unions,” said Jay V. Barbuto, a seventh- and eighth-grade language arts teacher from Phoenix. “You know what they didn't consider? Reality. The constant struggle our students face in their schools due to a lack of funding and resources. Educators and support professionals who live check to check because of their undervalued pay. Educators like me will continue to advocate for our students and colleagues as a collective power—as a union—regardless of any decision made by politicians or powerful special interests.”

Service Employees International Union President Mary Kay Henry said: “The numbers back up what we’ve seen all across the nation: Public service workers are sticking together in unions because they know they are stronger together. When workers are united, they have the power in numbers to have a strong voice for the good jobs and quality public services our communities need.”

“I’ve had several conversations with co-workers about how important it is we maintain a united front to continue winning higher wages and better working conditions,” said Adam Korst, a graphic designer for the city of Beaverton, Ore., and SEIU Local 503 member. “While extremist groups like the Freedom Foundation continue to attack our rights and encourage us to drop our membership, we must strengthen our resolve and fight harder than ever. The assault on working people is an assault on all of us who have come together and gained the right to voice what we want and need in the workplace.”


Not only does the strategy to get members to quit their unions appear to be backfiring, but so does the anti-worker legal crusade in the wake of Janus. Recently, inDanielson v. AFSCME Council 28, a case out of Washington state, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington tossed out an attempt to force AFSCME to pay back lawfully collected fair share fees that public service workers chipped in to help cover the cost of collective bargaining prior to the Janus decision. The court ruled that the fees were collected in good faith. In Fisk v. Inslee, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit also rejected an effort by such groups to cancel contracts made between public service workers and their unions.

AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders Calls on President Trump to Accept House and Senate Proposals to End Shutdown Wed, 02 Jan 2019 12:00:00 -0500 AFSCME President Lee Saunders called on President Donald Trump to accept Democratic proposals put forward this week by House Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to end the government shutdown. The proposal is a product of bipartisan negotiations to fund the majority of affected agencies that are not party to the current dispute over border security. In addition, the proposal would allow time for continued negotiations over border security, and the Department of Homeland Security would be funded through Feb. 8: 

“It is time to end the shutdown that is denying millions of Americans critical public services and unnecessarily hurting nearly 800,000 dedicated public service workers, their families and communities. Speaker-designate Pelosi and Leader Schumer should be commended for working to end the shutdown and for putting forward a commonsense proposal with provisions that already have bipartisan support in the House and Senate. I call on President Trump and members of Congress to support the deal. Refusal to do so, all to satisfy a divisive single demand, shows a blatant lack of respect for the service of the people who keep our communities safe, healthy and strong.”

AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders Calls Trump Executive Order Canceling Pay Raises ‘Cruel’ Sat, 29 Dec 2018 12:00:00 -0500 AFSCME President Lee Saunders said the following on the Trump administration’s decision to cancel a promised 2.1 percent pay increase for federal employees set to take effect January 1, 2019:

“Canceling promised pay raises for working people out of spite is cruel. Thankfully, new pro-worker leadership in the House of Representatives takes over in just a few days. One of their first orders of business should be to reopen the federal government and deliver on promises made to working people.”

AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders: Shutdown is Irresponsible and Hurts Workers the Most Fri, 21 Dec 2018 23:55:00 -0500 AFSCME President Lee Saunders issued the following statement in response to the partial government shutdown over Trump’s border wall:

“Shutting down the government to build a border wall and satisfy a divisive agenda is the height of irresponsible political brinkmanship. It falls hardest on hundreds of public service workers and their families, who deserve respect rather than contempt from their elected leaders. The president should come to the table, put our communities first and work to end this unnecessary and harmful shutdown.”

AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders Calls For End to Shutdown Brinkmanship Tue, 18 Dec 2018 12:00:00 -0500 AFSCME President Lee Saunders issued the following statement regarding a potential federal government shutdown:

“It’s time for the president to come to the table and end the brinkmanship that is already wreaking havoc on hundreds of thousands of dedicated public service workers, their families and their communities. It is irresponsible to head down this path, especially around the holidays, all to pursue a divisive partisan agenda that voters have flatly rejected. Congress has already reached bipartisan agreement on every element needed to fund the federal government, so this is entirely avoidable. The ball is in the president’s court.”

AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders: ‘It’s Time to End the Attacks on Millions of Americans’ Health Care’ Sat, 15 Dec 2018 12:00:00 -0500 AFSCME President Lee Saunders issued the following statement in response to a Texas judge’s ruling in Texas v. Azar to repeal the Affordable Care Act and take health care away from millions of Americans:

“In November the American people spoke loud and clear that they want to protect the Affordable Care Act, strengthen and expand Medicaid and maintain protections for people with pre-existing conditions. It’s time to end the attacks on millions of Americans’ health care.”

AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders: Washington State Court Decision a Big Win for Working People Wed, 28 Nov 2018 18:08:00 -0500 AFSCME President Lee Saunders issued the following statement in response to a positive ruling in the corporate-backed case, Danielson vs. AFSCME Council 28, which was heard in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington:

“Today’s decision marks a big win against corporate interest groups – the same forces behind the Janus v. AFSCME case – who continue to try and manipulate our nation’s judicial system to rob working people of their freedom to improve their lives. The facts and the law have always been on our side, and despite these repeated attacks, we will never quit fighting to make our communities stronger in Washington and across the country.”

Read the decision here.

As California Fires Rage, AFSCME Members Fight to Protect Their Communities Tue, 13 Nov 2018 14:08:00 -0500 AFSCME President Lee Saunders issued the following statement in solidarity with the California communities and AFSCME public service workers who are braving raging fires and personal loss while protecting their communities:

“As the fires raging in California continue to wreak devastation throughout the state, AFSCME members across the country are sending their thoughts, prayers and support to the people of California. We mourn the tragic loss of life and property, and we stand in solidarity with the affected communities and families.

“And we stand firmly with the first responders – including firefighters and the thousands of AFSCME EMS workers, 911 Dispatchers, front-line public service workers as well as those behind the scenes – who are working around the clock under unimaginable circumstances to protect their communities.

“Some of these brave public service workers have also lost their own homes in the fires, their lives changed forever by this unthinkable tragedy. But they show up for work each day and continue to fight on. Because to them, public service isn’t just a job, it’s a calling.”