While state and local governments and school districts across the country struggle with budget deficits, AFSCME members are standing up to tell their elected representatives that raising revenues is the best solution to a budget crisis instead of cutting critical public services just when they are needed the most.
State and local governments and school districts have a $178 billion budget shortfall this year alone.
In Illinois, more than 3,000 activists, including hundreds of members of AFSCME Council 31, rallied at the state Capitol rotunda in Springfield this month to demand that lawmakers pass legislation to increase the individual income tax rate and expand the stateâ€™s sales tax base.
Meanwhile, some 1,500 AFSCME members from throughout New York State demonstrated and met with legislators in Albany earlier this month to find a fair way to protect essential public services.
AFSCME President Gerald McEntee told the New York State workers:
Elected leaders are on the verge of destroying vital public services and putting more people out of work. Theyâ€™re jeopardizing the health and safety of the people and our communities.
In Maryland, a delegation of AFSCME members carried boxes of â€śBudget Fight Backâ€ť cards to their lawmakers in January. Signed by more than 3,000 state employees, the cards propose a plan to generate more than $2 billion in revenue to close a budget gap, including drawing on the stateâ€™s rainy day fund, expanding the sales tax to more services and increasing gas and alcohol taxes.
You can read more about efforts by AFSCME members in other states to save public services on AFSCMEâ€™s website here.
*This article originally appeared in AFL-CIO blog on February 24, 2010. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: James Parks had his first encounter with unions at Gannettâ€™s newspaper in Cincinnati when his colleagues in the newsroom tried to organize a unit of The Newspaper Guild. He saw firsthand how companies pull out all the stops to prevent workers from forming a union. He is a journalist by trade, and worked for newspapers in five different states before joining the AFL-CIO staff in 1990. He has also been a seminary student, drug counselor, community organizer, event planner, adjunct college professor and county bureaucrat. His proudest career moment, though, was when he served, along with other union members and staff, as an official observer for South Africaâ€™s first multiracial elections. Author photo by Joe Kekeris