Friday, January 14, 2011

AFSCME Lobby Day Scheduled

Join your AFSCME sisters and brothers as we flock to the State Capitol on Lobby Day to tell policy makers -- face-to-face -- about issues that matter most.

As in past years, AFSCME will charter buses from all corners of the state to deliver members to Madison. Events begin with a gathering in the Madison Masonic Temple, just a few blocks from the Capitol. There, members hear briefings from top Capitol insiders, union leaders and AFSCME’s own lobbyists. We then head up to the Capitol for pre-scheduled meetings with legislators and staff members.

Last year, nearly 500 AFSCME members converged on Madison. We came to support maintaining the kind of quality public services that Wisconsin is known for and that are needed more than ever in tough times. This year, a new governor and new legislative majorities have us facing a tidal wave of anti-worker and pro-privatization proposals.

AFSCME Lobby Day is your chance to stand against the tide and talk about the work you do and the challenges you face. It's a chance to replace rhetoric with reality. Mark your calendar now and watch this website for updates. You also can learn more from your Take Back America organizer, by calling your Council or the Area Office at 608-836-6666.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and Public Service

On Monday, 1/17, we all will celebrate a day set aside to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis, TN during an AFSCME public employee strike. Dr. King was there to lead the community and the workers in a campaign to establish dignity. We all remember the haunting picket signs, “I am a Man.” How true that rings today. So much of the rhetoric in today’s Republican circles and by rightwing shock jocks takes away from our dignity and value as public workers. Somehow we are the enemy, somehow we are the cause of the economic recession; somehow we are socialists/communists; somehow we have forced industry to Mexico; somehow we have caused political disruption. It seems to us that we are nothing more than scapegoats for their venom. We are workers of dignity, workers who perform valuable services to the citizens of our state and our country. We are people – parents, church-goers, scout leaders – we are citizens and we are proud public workers. Dr. King gave the ultimate sacrifice for us as public workers, and we must never let him down. We must fight and struggle and do what we need to do to our last breath to assure the value and dignity of public service. The battle is on – are you in?

Source: AFSCME Council 24 Weekly Summary dated; 01/14/2011

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Limits on Employer Liability for Harm to Workers

Testimony of; Joanne Ricca, Legislative Research Director
Wisconsin State AFL-CIO

The Wisconsin State AFL-CIO testified on Tuesday in opposition to the first bill introduced as part of Governor Walker’s emergency special session on jobs. "Click Here" to read the entire testimony.

SS SB 1 and AB 1 (identical bills) strip away many legal protections under Wisconsin’s liability laws that protect workers and consumers from hazardous working conditions and faulty products. For example, the punitive damage award against the Mitsubishi Corporation won by the families of three ironworkers (Jeffrey Wischer, William DeGrave and Jerome Starr) who died due to reckless decisions made by the company’s agents during construction of the Miller Park stadium would have been impossible if the liability limits in SS SB 1/AB 1 were law at that time.

The testimony of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO explains many of the negative effects of this legislation in more detail. The Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce has been seeking such changes to our state’s liability law for years. Over a period of 9 ½ hours of testimony at the hearing, supporters of the bill did not promise one new job. They only made references to creating a “friendlier business climate.” The legislature is expected to vote on SS SB 1/AB 1 the week of January 17. The Wisconsin State AFL-CIO will be issuing an e-alert for contacts with legislators to oppose the bill.

"Click Here" to sign-up for the email alerts of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO.

Authored by; Phil Neuenfeldt, President / Stephanie Bloomingdale, Secretary-Treasurer

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Commerce for Cronies

Letter-to-the Editor
Distributed to all major state daily newspapers on 01/12/2011

Dear Editor,

Wisconsin was one of the first states to put a wall between politics and public service employment. Now, our new governor wants to tear down that wall.

As a result of its strong civil service system, our state became known for clean and efficient delivery of vital services. This is why Wisconsin gets more done with fewer public employees per capita than all but a handful of other states.

That's because getting a job in the public sector under civil service is based on what you know, not who you know.

Gov. Scott Walker's proposal to privatize the state's Department of Commerce would not only decrease accountability for the millions of taxpayer dollars the department doles out each year, it would politicize employment at that new entity from top to bottom.

You may have 20 years of experience and an excellent record of service, but if the governor doesn't like your politics, there is nothing to protect you. If the new boss wants to replace you with a party hack, you are gone. If the powers that be want somebody younger, tough luck.

The governor has said as much, promising to dump employees who aren't "getting the job done for us." Given the raw partisanship displayed by this new regime, the "us" here sounds a lot like the party in power. Even if this administration rises above the temptation, what's to stop the next?

Removing the wall between politics and simply doing your job moves us back to the bad old days of political patronage. This is not only bad news for employees of the department -- it's a giant step backwards for Wisconsin.

Marty Beil, executive director
Wisconsin State Employees Union, AFSCME Council 24
Madison, WI

Blame Wall Street, Not Our Unions

Wall Street Journal
January 11, 2011

William McGurn ("Labor's Coming Class War," Jan. 4) cavalierly notes the erosion of private-sector retirement and health-care security as if these were inevitable realities. That's even more galling than his false assertions about divisions within the labor movement.

The glaring connection Mr. McGurn overlooks is between working families in the private sector struggling to get by and the fortunes reaped by a small elite which has shipped hundreds of thousands of jobs overseas. Working families didn't create class warfare. The facts speak for themselves: While median incomes in the U.S. have stagnated since the mid-70s, incomes for those in the top 5% have more than doubled. In the past 10 years, with record-breaking tax breaks for the wealthy, income for the top 1% has tripled.

State budget problems were caused by the reckless behavior of Wall Street bankers who drove our economy into a ditch. This created massive unemployment and a real-estate crisis that directly led to a decline in state revenues. State general fund expenditures are smaller now than they were three years ago, proving that our budget problems are not at all related to employee compensation.

Union members in the public and private sectors are working together to counter the lies and distortions of those who continue to attack working people, their unions and their chance to share in the American dream.

Gerald W. McEntee, President
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees
Washington, DC

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

AFSCME Decries Anti-government Attacks

Monday, January 10, 2011
Contact: Gregory King, 202-429-1145

AFSCME Pres. Gerald W. McEntee issued the following statement regarding the shootings on Saturday in Tucson, Ariz.:

"The senseless tragedy that occurred on Saturday in Tucson, Ariz., has shocked all Americans. We do not at this time know what motivated the gunman who, in a matter of seconds, murdered six individuals and injured 14 others. We join in extending our prayers and sympathy to the families of all the victims, including Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

"This horrendous crime has produced a national conversation about the tenor of public debate and the use of violent imagery and extremist anti-government rhetoric in political discussions. As public employees, our members know what it is like to be on the receiving end of anti-government attacks. Less than a year ago, an anti-tax extremist smashed his airplane into the IRS office building in Austin, Texas, where more than 200 federal employees worked. Only last week, two mail-bombs were sent to government offices in Maryland where AFSCME members work to provide vital services.

"We urge everyone engaged in public debate to take concrete steps to ensure that our discourse remains civil and that nothing is said or done that might precipitate another attack on our democracy and the values we all cherish."

# # #

AFSCME’s 1.6 million members provide the vital services that make America happen. With members in hundreds of different occupations — from nurses to corrections officers, child care providers to sanitation workers — AFSCME advocates for fairness in the workplace, excellence in public services and prosperity and opportunity for all working families.

Working Families Oppose Senate Bill 1/ Assembly Bill 1 Tort Reform

January 11th, 2010
Contact: Karen Hickey, 414-573-7579

Labor and community groups hold press conference to urge Legislature to focus on job creation

(Madison, WI) – Labor and community groups gathered this afternoon in the State Capitol to express concern over Special Session Senate Bill 1/ Assembly Bill 1 Tort Reform. This is the first initiative of the emergency economic session and contains numerous changes to Wisconsin’s civil justice system which will negatively impact workers and their families.

“Unfortunately, the special session on job creation is being used as a cloak for corporate interests to achieve a long-desired goal – to deny meaningful access to the courts for workers who are injured or killed on the job, as well as consumers and other victims who have been harmed,” said Phil Neuenfeldt, President of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO.

The Bill would have the following consequences for workers and the community:

· Changes punitive damages criteria for those injured on the job. Victims of at work accidents will now have the burden of proving that the injury was “intended” by the employer in order to be awarded punitive damages. This new heightened standard effectively closes the courthouse door to most victims of egregious conduct resulting in serious injury or death.

· Changes to product liability law that encourage the export of jobs. The bill requires that victims harmed by faulty products seek compensation from the manufacturer first. Since it is near impossible to track down manufacturers and pursue legal remedies in countries such as China, this bill creates a perverse incentive to shift more manufacturing jobs out of Wisconsin.

· Eliminates retailer responsibility for harmful products sold in sealed packages. This means that if a child is injured by a faulty toy the family has limited rights and options.

· Limits the rights of nursing home resident’s families to protect their loved one from negligent care. The bill changes legal standards for nursing homes making it significantly harder to hold institutions accountable.

“The legal climate sought by business through this legislation is one that nearly eliminates accountability to citizens for corporate wrongdoing and recklessness. This is not about job creation. This is an extreme shift in the balance of the law to dramatically favor corporate interest over ordinary people,” concluded Stephanie Bloomingdale, Secretary-Treasurer of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO.

Organizational sponsors of the press conference include the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, the Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups, the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, the Wisconsin Alliance for Retired Americans, and the Wisconsin Association for Justice.