AFSCME president: Union still has 'power to stand in their way'

By Matt Glynn

Lee Saunders leads one of the nation's largest unions, with 1.6 million members.

Despite that massive total, he believes in the value of one-on-one conversations to connect with rank-and-file workers and understand their concerns.

Saunders, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME, made some connections in Buffalo last week. He came here to speak at an event presented by the Western New York Area Labor Federation, AFL-CIO.

"Nothing takes the place of sitting down and talking with members and non-members alike and listening to them, not dictating to them," Saunders said.

AFSCME, including members of CSEA Local 1000, represents more than 16,000 workers in Western New York.

The Buffalo Niagara region has high public sector union membership: 65.4 percent last year, which translated into about 57,000 workers, according to Unionstats.com. Statewide, 67 percent of public sector workers were union members, and nationally the figure was 34.4 percent.

"There's a proud history here, not only in the public sector, but the private sector," Saunders said.

New York State was home to the second largest number of unionized workers in the country last year, behind only California, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But nationwide, the bureau said, the number of wage and salary workers who belonged to unions in 2016 dropped by 240,000 from the year before.

Despite that trend, AFSCME increased its ranks by 12,000 members last year, Saunders said. It represents workers including nurses, corrections officers, child care providers and sanitation workers.

Saunders, meanwhile, said he has to ensure his union is working as effectively as possible for its members.

"We've got to take an honest approach at looking what we're doing right, but we've also got to evaluate what's not working and what we're doing wrong, so we can change that," he said. "We've got to change, because there are people out there who don't want to hurt us, they want to wipe us off the face of the earth. They want to take us out of the ballgame completely, because we still have the resources and the power to stand in their way."

The union a couple of years ago set a goal of its members having 1 million conversations with their colleagues about workplace issues that affect their lives, and so far has had 620,000 of those talks.

Saunders, who lives in Washington, D.C., is the first African-American to serve as president of AFSCME. The Cleveland native was elected last year to his second four-year term. Saunders said he has his own way of keeping in touch with the union's vast membership.

"I don't stay in the office," he said. "I think that some people believe that I'm a visitor when I'm in D.C. I come out to events like this."

Flo Tripi, CSEA Local 1000's Western region president, said Saunders' trip to Buffalo was a good example of his approach to his job. But she also appreciates seeing him on cable TV shows, getting his message out. "I think (members) respect that and they say, 'Oh, that's my president.' "

Richard Lipsitz Jr., president of the Western New York Area Labor Federation, said his organization has made an effort to bring prominent labor leaders like Saunders to town to speak. "We think our labor movement is certainly an active one that wants to stay relevant to the national issues." About 500 people attended Saunders' appearance.

Saunders backed Hillary Clinton for president, and a New York Times story last summer around the time of the Democratic convention called him an "increasingly important Washington power broker." But the political tide in Washington turned with November's presidential election. Saunders said the Trump administration has created "challenging times" for organized labor.

"We have a president who talked the talk – he talked about how he was going to be helping working families, he was going to be supporting working families, and he's not walking the walk, and I think that we've got to educate our folks and talk to them about the issues that he's supporting, that hurt working families," Saunders said.

Original source: http://buffalonews.com/2017/05/08/afscme-president-union-still-power-stand-way/

Early Christmas gift helps ‘shine the light’

Pictured left to right: (back row) Shirley Lawrenson, Joan Couch, Mickey Dunlap, Sharon Alves, Sara Kuykendall; (front row) Women’s Club President Joyce Kirkham, Women’s Club Vice President Gail Warmath, Barbara Bailey, Dolores Kuykendal, AFSCME 3282 President Walter Crenshaw, Vince Zaragoza, Acacia Councilmember Vicki Hunt, AFSCME 3282 Vice President Erik McMorrow, and Charlie Matos (Photo by Leslie McMorrow)

Pictured left to right: (back row) Shirley Lawrenson, Joan Couch, Mickey Dunlap, Sharon Alves, Sara Kuykendall; (front row) Women’s Club President Joyce Kirkham, Women’s Club Vice President Gail Warmath, Barbara Bailey, Dolores Kuykendal, AFSCME 3282 President Walter Crenshaw, Vince Zaragoza, Acacia Councilmember Vicki Hunt, AFSCME 3282 Vice President Erik McMorrow, and Charlie Matos

(Photo by Leslie McMorrow)

Peoria West Valley Women’s Club has received an early Christmas gift, but instead of coming by way of Santa’s sleigh, it was gifted to them from the City of Peoria employees through their union, AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees), Local 3282.

For the month of January, the Women’s Club’s mission is to “Shine the Light,” focusing on domestic violence awareness for all ages and how to build healthy relationships, especially for teens and young adults. Those who may be experiencing domestic violence, or know someone who is in a controlling relationship, don’t always know the signs, or how to get help.

Because of the importance of their mission, AFSCME 3282 has donated to help the Women’s Club with their upcoming event, the Domestic Violence Awareness and Prevention Summit, running 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Jan. 21 in Peoria Community Center, 8335 W. Jefferson St. There will be keynote speakers, presentations, resources and information, discussion panels, food, door prizes and more. Cost is $10 and the event is open to the public, but reservations are required.

For more information, contact Vicki Hunt at 623-695-2161, or send a reservation and check for attendance to GFWC Peoria-WV WC, PO Box 2442, Peoria, AZ, 85380.

Original source: Peoria Times (http://www.peoriatimes.com/news/article_9d546af2-bcac-11e6-8a79-172981e22217.html)

City employee leaders work for citizens

By LESLIE McMORROW, Special to Peoria Times

 

Photo by Leslie McMorrow

Leadership oath

AFSCME Local 3282 leaders are sworn in, following November elections. Pictured: Dave Miller (recording secretary), Walter Crenshaw (president), Cesar Orozco (trustee), Erik McMorrow (vice president), Roman Ulman (official). Not pictured: Fran Krugen (treasurer), Domingo Cadena (trustee), Michelle Dobrosky (trustee), Aaron Montano (backup trustee)

After suffering the unexpected loss of late President Randy Cordero in January 2014 and working through contract negotiations with the city, AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees) Local 3282 is “fully engaged, fully intact, and we’re moving forward,” according to former interim and now newly elected President, Walter Crenshaw.

Working on a strictly volunteer basis, union leaders and members are focused on the future of the union and city employee members, as well as the relationship the union has with city management and Peoria citizens.  

“Just as our military defends our country from foreign enemies, public employees are the first line of defense, not only against local terrorists, but every local disaster that threatens our community. So, it is my honor to install these outstanding leaders who represent the employees who keep us safe,” said Roman Ulman, president of the AFSCME Arizona Retirees, Chapter 97.

Original source: http://www.peoriatimes.com/news/article_7d458356-a8f6-11e5-8365-e358c6a513ea.html

Philadelphia City Workers Reach Tentative Agreement

The administration spent the past five years trying to force the council to accept a contract that would have reduced wages, benefits and working conditions. The mayor even went to the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court to overturn decades of collective bargaining law in order to have the ability to impose the city’s “last best offer.”