Vernon Watkins was the consummate labor leader – a passionate force for change. Vernon passed away on March 5, but neither he nor his historic contributions to this union and working people in California will soon be forgotten. Vernon was essential in the organizing of Local 3090 into AFSCME and bringing the pay of female city workers in line with their male counterparts. His organizing skills and commitment to workers through building the union helped to grow District Council 36 and AFSCME throughout the State of California.
As Kent Wong, director of the UCLA Center for Labor Research and Education told the LA Times, “He embodied the spirit of the civil rights movement and the labor movement.”
Now is the perfect time to embody the spirit of Vernon as we move forward in our contract negotiations with the city. We are engaged in mediation and signed a confidentially agreement so while I can’t divulge details of the negotiations, I can tell you we are inching along. There are still a couple of hurdles to overcome and we are committed to doing that. We are encouraged that the new tentative agreement between the city and the Los Angeles Police Protective League includes an increase in health care subsidies.
Across the country public sector unions continue to be a target for those who seek to take away the right of workers to choose to have representation by belonging to a union. There is any number of pending court cases intended to stifle unions, the most dangerous of which before the Supreme Court is the challenge to paying agency fees – the law which requires everyone to pay their fair share for representation. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security. You should know that management does not give us anything out of the goodness of their heart or the sense of doing what is right. They have to be pressured to do so. You need to be a voluntary member to be able to vote on the upcoming contract. If you are not sure of your status call the office at 213-487-9887 ext 340 for Bernice. Talk to your co-workers about the benefits of being part of the union and the power you have as a voting member.
I also want to thank all our members who helped us get out the vote or took the time to cast their ballots in the recent LA City Council elections. All of AFSCME’s endorsed candidates won handily. This is great news, especially in District 8 where newcomer Marqueece Harris-Dawson will bring understanding and a fresh perspective to the needs of the community and working people.
We continue to support the “Raise the Wage” campaign and encourage all to get involved whenever possible. The final regional hearing is scheduled for Thursday, April 2, 6-8 p.m. at the Museum of Tolerance, 9786 W. Pico Blvd. There are hundreds of thousands of people in this city who are trying to survive on poverty wages. This needs to change. The campaign is pushing for a $15 an hour living wage minimum. Let’s stand in solidarity and lift our brothers and sisters out of poverty.
The next membership meeting is Wednesday, April 1, at 6:30 p.m. See you there!
In loving memory of Vernon Watkins,