President’s Message – July 2015
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is coming to our doorstep. I’ve warned you about them before. They’re the organization run by the billionaire Koch Brothers who are determined to gut our rights to bargain collectively and have a voice in politics. On July 22nd, ALEC used lobbyist money from large corporations to pay for hundreds of politicians and out-of-town millionaires and billionaires to be wined and dined at a lavish resort in San Diego. While we’re lucky that ALEC and their allies don’t have as much power in Sacramento as other state capitols, their convention here tells us they are coming after California. They will present legislators with draft legislation, away from the prying eyes of voters, to benefit only the rich and powerful—laws to keep paychecks low, corporate welfare high and restrict the rights of unions.
Why California? Because in many ways, we are a model for the nation. We were first to pass safe nurse-to-patient ratios. Our cities have been raising the minimum wage. ALEC wants to turn all that around. As nurses and health care professionals, we cannot have this agenda here. With the patient and worker protections we’ve won over the years, we have too much to lose. So let me echo what you’ve often heard from our Political Department. Become an AFSCME PEOPLE MVP and get involved in this fight. In addition to the threat from ALEC, the U.S. Supreme Court recently granted review of Friedrichs v California Teachers Association, a case challenging agency shop and fair share laws and regulations that have stood for more than 35 years and that we depend on to keep our unions strong. We cannot sit around and wait for the fight to come to us; we need to bring the fight to them.
On a more positive note, I want to celebrate two huge victories. In our Kaiser National Agreement, among other big wins we firmed up retirement security for decades to come—setting ourselves dramatically apart from non-Coalition unions who represent the Kaiser RNs up north and stuck their own retirees, current and future, with higher medical co-pays and ever-increasing premiums, making retirement security for them a thing of the past. We also restored the frozen pensions of the Kaiser Southern California Pharmacists, who lost them under their former union. This was their number one bargaining priority, and an incredible feat that we could not have achieved without hundreds of our members showing up in blue during bargaining, and the tremendous solidarity of the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions. It went down to the wire, but we would not take no for an answer.
Ken Deitz, RN