AFSCME members are incredibly diverse! AFSCME represents state, county, and municipal employees and some private employees. We are correctional officers, county clerk employees, nursing assistants, social workers, nurses, mental health professionals, building inspectors, parks workers, librarians, museum employees, IT workers, parking enforcement officers, and sanitation workers, just to name a few.
Since many members work in 24/7 facilities, our days can look wildly different; they might start at 7:00 AM or 6:00 PM. Members might work in a team or independently, in an office or out in the field repairing roads or cleaning parks. We might work with the elderly or with children. Some of us work with our hands repairing equipment, and others use computers and software. One thing is constant: we are always serving the public and helping to make the lives of community members’ safer, healthier, and thriving.
Because our work varies greatly, so do the issues that impact AFSCME members. As a union we often advocate for increased funding for public services, such as parks, libraries, and schools. Many AFSCME members work in dangerous conditions, so we organize for meet-and-confer with management, so that each workplace has a specific set of protections to keep workers safe. We organize against privatization which introduces profit as a motivation when caring for community members. We also care a great deal about racial and economic justice and do so by advocating for workplace policies which diminish inequities among community services and workers’ pay and conditions.
There are several misconceptions about public employees having exorbitant wages and benefits or that they benefit unjustly from taxpayer dollars. This is also paired with the misconception that public employees do not work hard. The reality is that many public employees sacrifice a great deal in their positions. The average correctional officer is used to working 16-hours shifts several times a week. CNAs and nurses often stand for hours on their feet. Highway employees go out in snowstorms to clear the way for us. Social workers enter many unsafe spaces to protect kids and families. Many of these workers incur a great deal of danger for us. AFSCME members must organize for any pay raise or increase in benefits. As many politicians seek to balance the state or municipal budget, it is often by undercutting the wages and positions of public employees. Nothing is handed to public employees; we have to organize for every gain we make.
Check back on Friday for more on the future of AFSCME Council 32!