AFSCME Members Take Part in Legislative Lobby Days

With Florida’s 2017 legislative session passing the halfway mark, many critical issues facing AFSCME members remain in flux. While the attacks to retirement security, health care and even the very right to a democratic voiceon the job continue, the weeks of incredible outreach over the phones, in person and at events around the state by AFSCME members and allies have had a real impact.

The Senate’s budget includes money for state employee pay raises for the first time in a decade. Attempts to preempt local wage and safety ordinances have been slowed. And there’s much more.

During the first week in April, seven AFSCME leaders from Local 199Local 1542 and Local 3292 in Miami-Dade County participated in the Florida AFL-CIO’s Working Families Lobby Corps to make sure all working people in the state are represented fairly and are not used as pawns by the power brokers of this state.

“Laws can be pushed through the legislature that affect our everyday lives with hardly any discussion by the people being impacted,” said Jared Crawford, deputy clerk of courts in Miami-Dade County. “We have to stay involved during the legislative session to actually hold them accountable for the promises they make during the election.”

Throughout the week, the members attended hearings and spoke out on issues and met with elected officials to advocate for legislation affecting them and their coworkers. For example, Fannie Steele and other Local 199 participants spoke about the need to reclassify certain positions as "Special Risk" due to the duties performed and work environment.

Marcellous Stringer Jr., a waste truck driver with Miami-Dade County, said that the experience reinforced for him how all union members are in this together.

“The politicians who want to silence our voices at work don’t understand how a union operates, what we do for our communities and, quite frankly, they don’t care,” said Stringer. “All they think about it how to limit our ability to bargain and, ultimately, limit how many of us are even able to be in a union.”

The AFL-CIO made sure members worked closely with Lobby Corp participants from other unions around the state and even took the time to experience a different side of Florida with an evening reception at the famous Cooter Stew Café along the Wakulla River in St. Mark’s.

For Antonio Eiroa, who is with the Miami-Dade Port Authorities’ Aviation Department, the experience already has him planning for next year.

“With so much to cover in such a short amount of time, there is only so much that can actually happen once session starts. So the real work that we need to do is to be meeting with legislators over the summer and fall, so when the next session starts our priorities are at the top of the stack,” said Eiroa.

“Florida is a big, diverse state, but this experience shows there is something that unites us all – there are more demands than budget dollars to meet them,” said Steele, a system analyst and computer program for the Miami-Dade Clerk of Courts. “If you are not talking to your elected officials about what you and your coworkers need, somebody else is arguing they need that piece of the budget pie.”

We know the attacks on the middle class will continue, but AFSCME Florida, with the support of members and allies across the country, will work to defend workers’ rights and keep the middle class strong.

Photos of the members in action can be found by clicking here. Members also helped with the weekly legislative update video which can be viewed by clicking here.