42nd International Convention   ·   July 18-22, 2016

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Never Quit Awards

July 22, 2016

Never Quit Awards

Honored for their public service, activism and innovation, 12 AFSCME members received the first ever Never Quit awards.

The Service awardees are:

  • Rachel Cooper (Georgia)
  • Stephanie Croft (Kentucky)
  • Niall O’Shaughnessy (New York City)
  • Anne Sears (Alaska)

The Activism awardees are:

  • Ann Marie Mathurine (Maryland)
  • Carolyn Park (Cincinnati)
  • Percy Winters (Oregon).

The Innovation awardees are:

  • Barbara Cooper (Pennsylvania)
  • Terry Magnant (Wisconsin)
  • Melvin Puu (Hawaii)
  • Eric Wisner (Missouri).

Pictured above is Atlanta school cafeteria manager Rachel Cooper. "My job is to make sure that every child that enters that building has a hot meal, even if they don’t want anything but a hug," said Cooper.

Watch this moving video of Rachel Cooper receiving her award.

Delegates Rally at Trump Hotel

July 21, 2016

Delegates Rally at Trump Hotel

More than 2,000 AFSCME delegates took it to the streets Wednesday, standing in solidarity with Culinary Workers demanding a fair contract at the Trump International Hotel.

Local 226 and Bartenders Local 165 members who work at the Trump International Hotel won their union elections last December, and the National Labor Relations Board certified their victory in March. Yet Trump International has refused to begin contract negotiations and has conducted an aggressive anti-union campaign, including firings and intimidation of union supporters.

Though several members experienced discomfort from the excessive heat, AFSCME delegates demonstrated that we won’t stop fighting for all workers’ rights – whether ours or our sisters and brothers from other unions.

“I’m so happy to see you guys,” said Geoconda Arguello Kline, who started out as a hotel worker and is the secretary-treasurer of Local 226.

Kline said of Trump “He doesn’t respect working people...who make him money every single day. These workers here, they had an election. They won. We’re going to fight and we’re never going to give up. He’s been refusing and denying the rights of the working people… Mr. Trump, you’re fighting against the immigrants... you’re fighting against this country. And right now, the country will fight against you too.”

IVP Kathryn Lybarger pledged AFSCME’s support. “It’s the heat we’re turning up on Donald Trump. AFSCME is proud to stand in solidarity with you,” she said. “As long as Trump continues to undermine basic fairness for working people, the 1.6 million members of AFSCME stand with the Culinary Union to urge Trump to treat his employees with respect and negotiate a fair contract.”

Rachel Cooper – Never Quit Service Award Recipient

July 21, 2016

Rachel Cooper – Never Quit Service Award Recipient

As a cafeteria manager with an elementary school and an intermediate school Rachel Cooper (Ms. Cooper to her students) does so much more than taking care of breakfast, lunch and snacks for her charges. She believes that her job means more than providing healthy, fulfilling meals. “When you feed a child, you nourish their souls.”

Ms. Cooper was honored for her commitment to public service with the AFSCME “Never Quit” Service Award at her intermediate school.  In the audience watching her accept the award were fellow staff, teachers, administrators and Atlanta Public school board members as well as hundreds of her students. It was a surprise event that the entire school community, her AFSCME Local 1644 family and the students had been planning for weeks.

Students made signs and recorded messages of thanks and support for Ms. Cooper weeks in advance. The principal of Miles Elementary School also held the surprise event in the gym, quieting more than three hundred students before Ms. Cooper’s entrance. 

“Ms. Cooper is the best cafeteria lady ever – she makes sure we have really tasty food to eat at breakfast and lunch. I love her,” Rosa Guiterrez shared on video when she was asked what Ms. Cooper means to her.

The AFSCME “Never Quit” Service Award celebrates members who demonstrate great pride and dedication in their work by going the extra mile in during the course of their daily duties.

As a public servant, Rachel Cooper does not believe her work as a cafeteria manager is a job, it is a calling.

And that is one reason why she was honored.

Our Voices

July 21, 2016

Our Voices

Determination. Pride. Commitment.  That's what you hear when you listen to our "Our Voices," a program featuring AFSCME members fighting for fairness and justice in their communities.

Deb Hussey, a 911 call operator and member of Local 189 in Oregon, talked about the problem of understaffed 911 centers. "When you're fielding 911 calls, there's no worse feeling than having to put people on hold," she said. "But understaffing at our Multnomah County 911 center has forced us to, putting lives at risk."

Quentin Hutchins, a school bus operator and a member of Local 1644 in Atlanta, speaks out because fighting for fairness is in his heart and soul. He discussed Georgia's voter ID law, one of the strictest in the country. "Thousands of voters were given the wrong information about where to vote," Hutchins said, adding that those who arrived at the correct voting site were not allowed to vote, even if they were in line before the polls closed. "We cannot sit silent while the forces against us try to chip away at the progress that was made," Hutchins said.

Local 3437 sister Sharonda Johnson, of Flint, Michigan, knows firsthand about the importance of making her voice heard. She spoke about her city's unsafe water, and the danger it poses to children. "You know what happens when children are exposed to lead, what it does to their brains?" she asked. "They can't control their emotions. Their IQs can drop. It affects their school work, their families."

"Why did this happen?" asked Johnson, referring to the root causes of water contamination in Flint. "Because the same people who want to tear down our union because they don't like public service workers put an unelected, unaccountable manager in charge of the city where I live with my family."

"We have to fight, and we have to win," Hussey said.

What’s Your Story?

by Clyde Weiss  |  July 18, 2016

What’s Your Story?

Jeremy Sanders, a senior animal keeper at the Bronx Zoo and president of AFSCME Local 1501 (DC 37), was one of the first delegates to share his story at the Storyline booth.

The Storyline project will help capture what it means to you to be a proud public service worker. Participants agree to a 30-minute audiotaped interview and a photograph that may be used for an AFSCME publication, video or website.
"It’s always fun to tell your story," Sanders said. "And who better to tell it to than other AFSCME folks?"

Sanders has been working for the zoo for 20 years and helps run the aquatic bird house, where he is responsible for the building and animal care. He doesn’t have a favorite animal, but ever since the Little Blue Penguins, also known as Fairy Penguins, arrived at the zoo a year ago, he’s been smitten.

"They laid eggs and reared one chick baby penguin," he said.

At Storyline, Sanders said, "each and every person was nice to talk to and helpful in getting my story out. The process was really great."