Press Release Feed Press Releases Tue, 3 May 2011 05:00:00 +0000 AMPS en hourly 1 AFSCME Opposes Proposal to Merge Departments of Education and Labor Thu, 21 Jun 2018 16:19:00 -0500 AFSCME President Lee Saunders issued this statement following the Trump administration’s proposal to merge the Department of Labor and the Department of Education into one federal agency:

“The U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of Education are each tasked with a mission that is distinctly defined and unique to the needs of America’s working people and students. One agency exists to ‘foster, promote, and develop the welfare of wage earners, job seekers, and retirees … improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights.’ The other seeks to ‘promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering education excellence and ensuring equal access.’ The success of each of these agency’s pursuit of its mission is critical to our success as a nation and the future of working families.

“The proposal to merge these two agencies is wholly inappropriate and ill-advised, especially at a time when workers and students are struggling to get ahead. This latest attack on the federal civil service underscores this administration’s utter disregard for the mission of these two vital agencies and lack of respect for the dedicated public service workers who carry out the work of the American people every day.”

AFSCME Condemns Immoral Trump Policy of Separating Children from Parents at Southern Border Wed, 20 Jun 2018 10:00:00 -0500 AFSCME President Lee Saunders issued the following statement announcing AFSCME has co-signed a complaint to the United Nations Commission for Human Rights in response to the Trump administration’s inhumane policy of separating children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border:

“AFSCME members make caring for families and communities their life’s work. From social workers to nurses to school bus drivers to first responders, public service workers do not choose their profession just to support their own families, but to keep all children and families healthy and safe. Like the vast majority of Americans, we are horrified by the Trump administration’s immoral policy of forcibly separating innocent children from their parents at the border. As parents, public service workers and American citizens, we cannot bear to see these injustices carried out in our name.

“This inhumane policy is a cruel choice that does not make us safer, and it does not make us great. There is no law that mandates traumatizing children, only the prerogative of this president. AFSCME has co-signed a complaint to the United Nations Commission for Human Rights, and we join the bipartisan calls for basic human decency: Mr. President, end this policy today.”

AFSCME President Lee Saunders on 2018 Social Security and Medicare Trustee Reports Tue, 05 Jun 2018 17:32:00 -0500 AFSCME President Lee Saunders issued the following statement on the 2018 Social Security and Medicare Trustee reports:

“At a time of instability, uncertainty and rising income inequality, vital programs like Social Security and Medicare are more important than ever. Today’s report shows that Social Security and Medicare continue to be strong and are working for our communities. America should double down and expand these programs. We need to continue our commitment to the fundamental promise that after decades of hard work Americans should be able to retire with dignity and see a doctor when they need to.

“Attacks on Social Security and Medicare represent a dangerous political choice to serve corporate interests and manipulate the rules of our economy against working people. AFSCME members are on the front lines of our communities, working and fighting to keep them healthy and strong. We stand against the continued efforts by some members of Congress and the administration to hand out tax cuts to the wealthy and balloon the deficit to justify taking a sledgehammer to the retirement and health programs millions of Americans depend on every day.”

AFSCME Joins Federal Employee Lawsuit Against Trump Administration Fri, 01 Jun 2018 18:22:00 -0500 AFSCME President Lee Saunders issued the following statement announcing AFSCME’s motion filed today in federal court:

“Today, the 1.6 million members of AFSCME joined together with their AFGE sisters and brothers in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of President Trump’s executive orders, which attacked the rights of public service workers in the federal government. By instructing a federal agency to bargain in bad faith with its own workers, Trump has not only disrespected the people who take pride in keeping our country safe and healthy, he has also instructed his government to break the law and violated his own constitutionally mandated duty of care. Public service workers in our federal government are dedicated to improving America’s communities and they faithfully execute the laws of our country every day. We demand that the president of the United States be held to the same standard.”

AFSCME President Lee Saunders on Trump’s Executive Order to Undermine Federal Employees Fri, 25 May 2018 17:23:00 -0500 “It is shameful that this administration continues to undermine the important services and vital contributions our federal workers provide to the American people every day. These workers protect our national security and ensure that our communities run smoothly. For their service they deserve respect, not a constant barrage of attacks on their freedom to join together in strong unions and speak up together to deliver better services.”

President Lee Saunders on the Supreme Court Decision in Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis Mon, 21 May 2018 14:26:00 -0500 AFSCME President Lee Saunders issued the following statement on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis.

“The Supreme Court today chose to perpetuate and reinforce the rigged system that allows wealthy corporations to rake in profits by undermining workers’ rights.

“By ruling that companies can force employees into lengthy and expensive one-on-one arbitration procedures instead of allowing them to pursue class-action grievances, the Court is preventing workers from building power in numbers. It will now be harder for low-wage workers in particular to have access to justice, to recoup wages they’re owed, to fight sexual harassment and more.

“It is our hope that, in Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, another case currently under Supreme Court deliberation, the justices will choose to re-affirm rather than impair the freedom of working people.”

Lee Saunders: AFSCME Members Nationwide Stand in Solidarity with Striking UC Employees Tue, 08 May 2018 17:00:00 -0500 The following statement was issued by AFSCME President Lee Saunders on the University of California employees' strike:

“University of California employees never quit working hard to strengthen their campuses and communities. For their commitment to public service, they deserve the respect of fair wages and fair treatment. Instead, they are held down by a system of entrenched inequality that’s driven by outsourcing, with women and workers of color paid substantially less than their white male peers, and a disproportionate share of pay increases going to the wealthiest university officials.

“It’s hard enough for working families in California to stay afloat, with the cost of housing and other living expenses spiraling out of reach. These race- and gender-based pay inequities, which the administration is refusing to address, are making a challenging situation untenable for so many university employees.

“With no progress after more than a year of negotiations, members of Local 3299 have no choice but to go on a three-day strike. AFSCME members nationwide stand in solidarity with our California sisters and brothers in their struggle for racial and economic justice.”

AFSCME President Lee Saunders Slams Puerto Rico Oversight Board Plan Fri, 20 Apr 2018 16:19:00 -0500 The following statement was issued by AFSCME President Lee Saunders following the release of the federally-appointed Puerto Rico fiscal oversight board’s financial plan:

“The Fiscal Plan issued by the Oversight Board is a betrayal of the people of Puerto Rico. By issuing a plan that relies upon unrealistic projections of economic growth, the Board is condemning Puerto Rico to economic decline for years to come. Ironically, the Board is engaging in the same fantastical thinking regarding Puerto Rico’s economic growth that created the current situation. We call on the Board to reconsider this disastrous decision and develop a plan in the interests of the people.”

Background on the Financial Oversight and Management Board plan:

The new fiscal plan certified by the Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico on April 19 is based on unrealistically-optimistic assumptions of economic growth and related revenue collection. Despite the catastrophic damage caused by Hurricane Maria and a projected 12-percent decline in population, the plan purports to generate a six-year surplus of $6.7 billion in part due to severe cuts in public-employee compensation and pensions. Although federal recovery funds will undoubtedly produce higher short-term growth due to the stimulative effect of rebuilding, in the long term the certified fiscal plan will fail to overcome the negative effects of austerity measures and put Puerto Rico on a path to a second restructuring. The anticipated large payouts to creditors and bondholders can only be achieved by reducing assistance to the poor and cutting the compensation of workers. Once Puerto Rico begins to struggle under the certified fiscal plan and the projections are not achieved, a new round of cuts to workers and services will ensue and Puerto Rico will be forced to turn to the PROMESA process again.

Roselló’s ‘Out of State Program’ Will Increase Puerto Rico Deficit Fri, 13 Apr 2018 15:36:00 -0500 The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and its Puerto Rico affiliate, Servidores Públicos Unidos de Puerto Rico, sent a letter to the PROMESA oversight board on April 12, outlining several distortions and critical omissions in Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló’s April 5 justification of the so-called “Out of State Program.” The plan would hurt Puerto Rico’s struggling economy by offshoring jobs, lead to lower tax collections, and ultimately balloon the commonwealth’s substantial operating deficit.

The Puerto Rico Department of Corrections has made clear that it does not intend to wait for the Oversight Board to certify the governor’s plan. A Request For Proposal has been sent out to bidders. The department has announced that on April 24, it will hold a mandatory meeting for private prison company bidders.

In all three iterations of Rosselló’s fiscal plan, he fails to justify the so-called cost reductions claimed in this program. Instead, the governor has invented savings estimates and cited misleading figures in an effort to push through with his flawed plan, and he refuses to answer critics, including 35 members of Congress who recently penned a letter opposing his privatization scheme. In its letter to the Oversight Board, AFSCME cites the inaccuracies proffered by the governor and provides sources for each of its critiques. 

“We are frustrated and outraged that Governor Rosselló continues to make bogus claims that his privatization scheme will actually save Puerto Rico money,” said Steven Kreisberg, AFSCME’s director of research and collective bargaining, and a signatory of the letter. “Whose interests are being served by issuing a contract that will damage Puerto Rico’s fragile economy, increase costs to the government and create hardship for prisoners and their families?”

Key highlights of AFSCME’s letter:

  • Just one element of Rosselló’s plan would increase the government’s deficit by $46.6 million annually
  • Rosselló fails to support claims of $46.9 million  in alleged annual cost savings
  • Rosselló falsely claims that a similar effort to move Puerto Rican prisoners to private prions in 2012 was successful when the experiment ended with a prison riot that led to cancellation of the privatization contract 
  • Rosselló cites prison privatization efforts in Kansas and California, and makes erroneous claims about costs in each to support his claims

Read the letter here.

AFSCME President Lee Saunders on the 8th Anniversary of the ACA Fri, 23 Mar 2018 11:00:00 -0500 AFSCME President Lee Saunders issued the following statement on the 8-year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act being signed into law:

“Eight years ago, millions of Americans were finally guaranteed the health care coverage they need to live healthy and productive lives without fear if they get sick.

“After eight years of relentless attacks to take away health care, most recently the passing of a cruel tax scam that robbed millions of coverage, the ACA is still here because everyday people, including AFSCME health care professionals and other public service workers, have stood up to defend the health care they know their communities need and deserve. Americans have had enough of the continued attacks by politicians on our health care to line the pockets of billionaires. 

“AFSCME members Like Pat Waller, a labor and delivery nurse in Ohio, and Paula Stinyard, an in-home homecare aide in California, work every day to serve their communities and they see firsthand how access to programs like Medicaid, expanded through the ACA, has lifted up hardworking and vulnerable communities.

“We need to make it easier, not harder, for people like Paula and Pat to continue to improve our communities. We need to stabilize the ACA and stop undermining the health and strength of our communities.”

AFSCME President on the Omnibus Spending Bill Thu, 22 Mar 2018 16:30:00 -0500 AFSCME President Lee Saunders issued the following statement on the Omnibus Spending Bill:

“I am pleased that this bill rejects and reverses the deep and harmful cuts proposed by the Trump administration. It makes important investments in health care, education, and infrastructure. It also staves off extreme attacks on labor rights, immigrant rights, and other priorities of working families. Though the bill is far from perfect, for the first time in years, investments in working families will move in a positive direction.

“Despite these accomplishments, Congress has once again failed to protect DREAMers and stabilize Affordable Care Act exchanges. We continue to urge prompt action on this critical, unfinished business.”

AFSCME President Lee Saunders Praises Senate Democratic Infrastructure Plan Wed, 07 Mar 2018 16:44:00 -0500 AFSCME President Lee Saunders issued the following statement praising the infrastructure plan released today by Senate Democrats:

“This is a bold, comprehensive plan that will create 15 million good paying jobs by reclaiming recent corporate tax giveaways and investing those funds back into our nation’s communities, including in our roads, bridges, transit, schools and water systems. It ensures strong labor protections and puts the public interest first, rather than selling off the nation’s assets to private interests.

“The plan also pays for infrastructure the right way by making the wealthy and corporations pay their fair share of taxes and ends special privileges for Wall Street so that real work will be done on Main Street. We look forward to working with the Senate to strengthen and pass this critical plan.”

AFSCME President Lee Saunders on the West Virginia Teachers’ Strike Tue, 06 Mar 2018 19:58:00 -0500 AFSCME President Lee Saunders issued the following statement praising the heroic actions and subsequent victory of the West Virginia teachers who went on strike to stand up for themselves and their students:

“The West Virginia teachers’ strike, which has ended in victory for teachers and students, is a heroic demonstration of democracy in action – the kind of democratic action Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. fought and died for. Thousands of people came together to say ‘enough is enough’ and demand better for the children they teach and themselves.”

AFSCME President on Trump Administration DACA Deadline Passing Tue, 06 Mar 2018 16:27:00 -0500 AFSCME President Lee Saunders issued the following statement after the Trump Administration’s arbitrary March 5 deadline passed, ending protections for DACA recipients:

“It is time for real leadership from the White House and Congress to enact a permanent and compassionate solution for our nation’s DREAMers.

“The Administration’s arbitrary deadline to end DACA has now expired. Meanwhile, their continued silence and inaction threatens to tear families apart, destabilize our communities and keep DREAMers in a shadow economy that drives wages down for everyone. We urge Congress and the White House to get serious about a permanent solution and make a concerted effort to pass the DREAM Act.”

Joint Statement on Nationwide Mobilizations, Janus v. AFSCME Council 31 Oral Arguments Mon, 26 Feb 2018 13:00:00 -0500 Throughout the month of February, working people have been more energized and organized than any time in recent memory. There have been nationwide moments of silence and fast food strikes to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the 50th anniversary of the 1968 Memphis sanitation workers strike. Tens of thousands took to the streets in at least 30 cities this weekend to demand an end to a rigged economy. Today, there are more than 500 worksite actions. Working people are speaking out with pride and passion, even as billionaires and corporate interests tried to use the United States Supreme Court today to attack public service workers, good union jobs, and the health and safety of communities across America. 

The presidents of the four largest public service unions in America issued the following statements about the collective power of these nationwide mobilizations, and about oral arguments in Janus v. AFSCME Council 31. They are available for further comment today:

“If the Supreme Court’s decision is based on merit, on facts and on the law, there’s no doubt they will rule in favor of working people. In the face of ruthless, dishonest attacks against their freedom to come together in strong unions, working people are drawing the line. We stand united in fighting a rigged system that rewards the super-wealthy at everyone else’s expense. And we will not rest until we build an economy where everyone has a voice on the job, a seat at the table and a chance to succeed.”
Lee Saunders, President, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME)

“This case isn’t about Mark Janus—it’s a ruse funded by the Kochs, the Bradleys, the DeVoses and other anti-union oligarchs to deny working folks the opportunity for a better life. Unions help make possible what would be impossible for individuals acting alone: living wages and a decent retirement, safe and welcoming public schools, affordable college and healthcare, and a voice in our democracy. They’re attacking us because they see a strong labor movement as a threat to their wealth and power.
– Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers (AFT)

“Today, thousands of working people rallied outside the U.S. Supreme Court and around the country to send a message that, whatever the decision in this case, these oligarchs won’t stop working families from realizing our American dream. Make no mistake about it, we are living in a system that is rigged to benefit special interests and billionaires at the expense of American working people. It is no shock to most that is has become harder and harder for working people to get ahead and provide stability for their families. The corporate special interests behind this case are dead set on eliminating the rights and freedoms of working people to organize, to negotiate collectively and to have any voice in working to better their lives. This is a blatant slap in the face of educators, nurses, firefighters, police officers and all public servants who make our communities strong and safe.
– Lily Eskelsen García, President, National Education Association (NEA)

“Tens of thousands of working people have hit the streets to show that we won’t let any court case stop us from sticking together for the good, union jobs our communities need. Today we call on America’s elected leaders to take action to help more working people join together in unions to turn poverty-wage jobs into good, union jobs that provide financial security to families and strengthen communities.”
Mary Kay Henry, President, Service Employees International Union (SEIU)

Saunders Praises Overdue Bipartisanship on Federal Spending Package Fri, 09 Feb 2018 11:31:00 -0500 AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders issued the following statement in response to Congress reaching an agreement to end the brief government shutdown and reach a deal on a federal spending package:

“Finally, they have done their job. Finally, the Congressional majority has reached across the aisle and reached a bipartisan deal – as their bosses, the American people, want them to.

“As with any compromise, this spending package isn’t perfect. But it includes badly-needed resources for the public health sector, investment in crumbling infrastructure and relief for the people of Puerto Rico and other disaster-stricken areas. It contains essential funding for education, veterans and other critical programs that will make life better for working families and not just the wealthy, privileged few.

“It is outrageous that, for now, the Dreamers must continue to live with anxiety and uncertainty about their futures. I urge the House and the Senate to do the right thing for these women and men who have done everything expected of them, who know no other home but the United States. I commend Leader Pelosi for her historic stand for the Dreamers, and both Leader Schumer and Leader Pelosi for forcing a deal on domestic spending.

“Going forward, it’s our hope that the majority in Congress and the White House will seek cooperation at the beginning of the process and not the end. It took five stopgap spending bills and two shutdowns to finally – more than one-third of the way through the fiscal year – fund the government. If the public service workers represented by AFSCME approached their work responsibilities this way, our communities would suffer greatly.”

AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders Responds to the State of the Union Tue, 30 Jan 2018 23:00:00 -0500 AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders issued the following statement following President Trump’s State of the Union Address:

“If you’re among the wealthy and powerful corporate class, President Trump’s speech probably sounded pretty good. But for millions of working families, nothing that was said tonight – and nothing that’s happened over the first year of this administration – provided much reassurance or relief.

“President Trump continues to pursue an agenda that rigs the economy even more in favor of millionaires and billionaires. It’s the same-old trickle-down scam – Davos elites get rewarded, while working people get a raw deal.

“The Trump priorities are clear: lavish tax breaks on CEOs; outsource jobs while starving public services; take health care away from millions; cut education, Medicare and Medicaid; pass a so-called infrastructure plan that does more to enrich hedge fund managers than invest in communities, with working people paying the bill in the form of higher taxes and tolls; gut regulations in order to prioritize corporate profits over workers’ rights; and drive a cruel immigration policy that breaks up families and affronts human dignity.

“President Trump has had a year to prove the sincerity of his campaign promises about ‘the forgotten man and woman.’ Instead, he’s done the bidding of wealthy special interests time and time again. AFSCME members – including Virginia State Del. Elizabeth Guzman of Local 3001, who is delivering tonight’s Spanish language response to the State of the Union – will never quit fighting for freedom for all working people.”

Saunders: While Workers Relieved by End to Shutdown, Administration’s Brinkmanship Must Stop Mon, 22 Jan 2018 17:28:00 -0500 AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders issued the following statement after a short-term deal was reached in Congress to end the government shutdown:

“Like all public service workers, federal employees never quit on our communities and are relieved to see an end to the shutdown. We are also gratified that millions of vulnerable children will continue receiving health care. However, the dangerous and incompetent political brinkmanship of this administration must end. We need long-term solutions for funding the vital public services Americans rely on, and for protecting the Dreamers, who have known no other home but America.”

AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders Slams Trump, Congressional Allies for Shutdown Sat, 20 Jan 2018 09:18:00 -0500 AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders issued this statement following the Federal Government shutdown:

“On several occasions, President Trump has been a cheerleader for a government shutdown (‘Our country needs a good “shutdown,”’ he tweeted in May). Now, the White House and its congressional allies have gotten their wish – because they refused to engage on bipartisan solutions to important issues. They have refused to finalize a spending blueprint for this year and next. They have jeopardized the health care of nine million children from low-income families. They have left communities that need disaster relief in the lurch. They have held the Dreamers hostage, content to let them live with the fear that they will be removed from the only country they’ve ever called home.

“Instead, they’re choosing to shutter the doors of the federal government, a reckless and unnecessary move that will harm people across the country and create hardship for the hard-working people who provide public services. It’s time for those who control the government to actually govern. Federal employees and all public service workers wake up every day ready to do their work for the American people; right-wing politicians should do the same.”

AFSCME Amicus Briefs Argue SCOTUS Should Rule for Working People Sat, 20 Jan 2018 09:00:00 -0500 Over 35 amicus briefs filed with the United States Supreme Court in Janus v. AFSCME Council 31 make compelling arguments for upholding Abood. Collectively, the briefs ask a clear question of the justices: Does merit still matter in America in 2018?

The authors of these briefs include conservative First Amendment originalists, Nobel prize-winning economists, state and local public employers from across the country, Republican lawmakers, child protective service workers, more than 85 civil rights groups including the Human Rights Campaign, ecumenical communities and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, mayors of major U.S. cities, as well as U.S. senators who examine the political intent behind this case. Taken together, they make a compelling argument that the Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling of more than 40 years ago was correct: Fair-share fees are permissible under the First Amendment.

Compare these to the briefs filed by the other side in this case, which were mostly authored by political interest groups funded by a small cadre of right-wing interests. It is apparent that Janus v. AFSCME Council 31 is a political attack on the freedoms of working people by the same corporate billionaires and corporate interests that have for years rigged our economy and politics in their own favor.

At a time when America desperately needs to regain its faith in our government institutions, we hope the Supreme Court will see this ruse for what it is and decide the case on the merits, on precedent and on the principle that state and local governments should be allowed to decide for themselves how to handle their own labor relations.

Read the Amicus Briefs at SCOTUSblog (scroll to bottom).

Read AFSCME’s opening brief.

Saunders: Working People Continue to Come Together Despite Relentless Attacks Fri, 19 Jan 2018 12:53:00 -0500 AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders issued the following statement in response to the Bureau of Labor Statistics report on the 2017 union membership rate, which held steady from 2016:

“Despite relentless, dishonest attacks from wealthy special interests, working people continue to come together for a voice on the job and a seat at the table. Union membership held steady in 2017, a testament to the resilience of people fighting strong headwinds to continue organizing even in a hostile environment.

“It’s no surprise that they value unions – as the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ annual report shows, union workers earn considerably more on average than their non-union peers. Women and communities of color, for whom unions have historically been a pathway to the middle class, enjoy an even greater pay advantage when they join unions.

“Now, corporate CEOs and other billionaires are trying to use the courts to rig the system even more in their favor, chipping away further at the rights of working people. A Supreme Court case called Janus v. AFSCME, which will be decided this year, threatens the freedom of public service workers to negotiate a fair return for the value they add to their communities.

“No matter what happens, public service workers and all working people will continue to build power in numbers and stick together in strong unions.”

AFSCME Issues Merits Brief in Janus v. AFSCME Fri, 12 Jan 2018 12:39:00 -0500 The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) submitted today its brief on the merits of the corporate-backed Supreme Court Case, Janus v. AFSCME Council 31.

Enclosed you will find the merits brief that AFSCME submitted to the Supreme Court today, along with a summary of this brief. If facts, law, and precedent matter, all nine justices of the U.S. Supreme Court will rule in favor of working people in Janus v. AFSCME Council 31 – just as they did more than 40 years ago when they found the state and local governments’ system of ordering their labor relations to be constitutional.

Janus v. AFSCME Council 31 is nothing more than a politically-motivated assault on the freedom of working people to earn a better life and an attempt to further rig the rules in favor of billionaires and corporate interests. In these turbulent times, marked by division and attacks on fact and reason, we hope the Supreme Court will consider carefully the facts, precedent, decades of labor peace and stability, and the motivations behind those seeking to undo it.

Now more than ever in the modern era, Americans must be able to trust their governmental institutions. Just as millions of Americans who rely on public service workers to keep their water clean, care for their families in hospitals, and respond to their emergencies quickly and professionally, millions of public service workers now rely on nine Supreme Court justices to decide this case on its merits -- not on the ideological animus of the billionaires and corporate interests who are funding this blatant effort to silence the voices of workers.  

Read the brief

Surviving Memphis Sanitation Workers from 1968 Strike Honored by the NAACP with Prestigious ‘Vanguard Award’ Thu, 11 Jan 2018 13:25:00 -0500 On Tuesday, January 9, the fourteen surviving sanitation workers who participated in the pivotal 1968 Memphis Sanitation Workers’ Strike were honored by the NAACP in Memphis and received the organization’s vaunted Vanguard Award in conjunction with the 49th NAACP Image Awards, scheduled to take place in Pasadena, CA on January 15th and broadcast live on TV ONE. 

The NAACP is the first major organization to recognize the workers as part of the “I AM 2018” campaign launched by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and the Church of God In Christ (COGIC). The campaign is designed to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the strikers, in observance of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. King, who was in Memphis to support the workers in April of 1968.

According to the NAACP, the Vanguard Award is an “Honor presented in recognition of the groundbreaking work that has increased understanding and awareness of racial and social issues.” Previous honorees include Tyler Perry, Aretha Franklin, Stanley Kramer, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. 

Retired AFSCME Secretary-Treasurer, William “Bill” Lucy, was a leader in organizing the Memphis sanitation workers in 1968. On January 15, he will be presented with the prestigious NAACP Chairman’s Award during the Image Awards broadcast.

“We are humbled and honored that the NAACP has chosen to honor the Memphis workers as well as Bill Lucy,” said Lee Saunders, President of AFSCME. “Imagine the courage it took for African-American municipal employees in the Jim Crow South to defy the local power structure and go on strike – not just for a living wage, and not just for decent working conditions. These brave men were striking to demand dignity and respect; to demand racial justice and economic justice.”

The I AM 2018 campaign is a grassroots voter education and mobilization campaign that will train thousands of activists to create change in their communities and carry on the legacy of Dr. King and the sanitation workers. “I AM A MAN” was the slogan that the 1968 striking sanitation workers adopted to bring shine a light on their degrading working conditions and to assert their humanity. The I AM 2018 campaign will continue the unfinished work of confronting prejudice, poverty and advancing the freedom of all working people today.

“As we approach the 50th anniversary of these history-making events, we need to tell the story of Memphis again,” said Saunders. “I AM 2018 is about drawing inspiration from the heroes of Memphis, but it isn’t just a reflection on the past. It’s an urgent call to fight poverty and prejudice, an urgent call to advance the freedom of all working people and to remind America of the inextricable link between racial justice and economic justice.”

Congress Robs Working People to Give Tax Cuts to the Rich Wed, 20 Dec 2017 12:00:00 -0500 AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders issued the following statement on the U.S. House and Senate’s final passage of their tax bill:

“The tax bill passed by Congress confirms the absolute worst fears average Americans have about our leaders in Washington. The right wing of this Congress and the president have chosen not just to enrich wealthy and powerful corporations and CEOs, whose army of lobbyists helped to draft this bill in secret, but to personally enrich themselves at the expense of our communities.

“In order to lavish trillions in tax breaks on corporations and the wealthy, Congress and the president are willing to take away health care from 13 million Americans, raise taxes on tens of millions of working families, and strip-mine the vital public services our communities need. Not even Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security will be safe from the unchecked greed of corporate interests who have rigged the rules, and the politicians who do their bidding. This tax plan is a stunning betrayal of working families, and it will cause lasting damage to our nation.”

Congress Should Delay Tax Plan Vote Wed, 13 Dec 2017 12:00:00 -0500 AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders issued the following statement, calling on leadership in Congress to delay a vote on the tax plan:

“Congress is considering a radical and historically unpopular tax cut plan that will devastate working families while enriching millionaires, billionaires and CEOs. Democracy, fairness and common sense demand that all representatives elected by their constituents have the chance to deliberate and vote on that plan. Senator-elect Doug Jones should therefore be sworn in as soon as possible, with any vote on tax cuts delayed until he is seated. Anything less would represent a shocking disenfranchisement of the people of Alabama.”