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External Organizing – Power to the PEOPLE

Photo Credit: Luis Gomez
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AFSCME members have led the way, reaching out to fellow workers in public service – including some working in the private sector – and bringing more workers into the fight and building power. 

Delegates in Boston celebrated some of these new additions to our unions, hearing from members of recently organized groups.

Winston Ingraham of Local 1, Public Employees Union in California kicked things off when he spoke of all the independent organizations, like PEU, that have grown stronger and more effective by joining with AFSCME. 

“AFSCME was the natural choice to partner with. You share our values: our deep commitment to making our communities safer, stronger and better. That’s why the members of PEU Local 1 voted overwhelmingly to join AFSCME, to stand up and fight with you,” he said.

Jessica Ellul, an oncology care coordinator and a member of Connecticut Health Care Associates (CHCA/NUHHCE/AFSCME), spoke movingly about her devotion to her patients.

“When management cuts staffing levels, we can’t care for patients the way they deserve. My job is to sit with patients and their families. To hold their hands through the night. To ease their fears the best I can. If I have too many patients, I can’t be there for them when they need me. If our nurses have too many patients, they can’t respond quickly when they’re needed,” she said.

It’s that commitment to speak out for the people she serves that led her and others in her hospital to organize for a voice with AFSCME.

Chicago’s Crystal Gardner and Washington, D.C.’s, Lindsay Washington also care for the public: Gardner as a case manager at UCAN residential center and Washington as an EMT for American Medical Response.

Gardner’s work with severely traumatized youth means safety is paramount in her job.

“Our top priorities are the safety of our kids and the safety of our staff. But to ensure that safety, and to provide the best possible care for our kids, we knew we needed to have a voice. And that meant joining together in a union,” said Gardner, a member of AFSCME Council 31.

When she fulfilled her dream of being an EMT, Washington was surprised how she had to fight for even the most basic equipment to do her job.

“I’d go to start my shift and find my rig was practically empty. We needed pulse-ox monitors. Neck collars. Even things as basic as bandages and needles. It’s not just missing and outdated equipment that puts patients’ lives at risk. When we’re scheduled for too many shifts or for too long, that can create real danger. We needed one voice to stand up for our patients. So we decided to organize,” said Washington, a member of AFSCME District Council 20. 

Both Washington and Gardner were key voices in their workplace’s efforts to organize and both are now speaking up with their co-workers for the people they serve.