|AFSCME Council 18|
AFSCME Public Safety Members from Across the Country Converge in Albuquerque
On September 11, 12 and 13, more than 400 public safety workers and first responders from across the country gathered in Albuquerque for the 2015 AFSCME Public Safety Congress, a biennial event. Public safety union members came to the Land of Enchantment from as far west as Hawaii and Alaska, and as far east as Puerto Rico to network, attend workshops and hear from national union leaders.
The weekend event began with a press conference on Friday, with rank and file public safety workers voicing AFSCME's opposition to the push by extreme-right politicians who advocate for "right-to-work-is-wrong" laws, and the U.S. Supreme Court of Freidrichs vs California Teachers Association, which would silence workers’ voices in their fight to ensure safe staffing levels, quick response times, functioning equipment and other aspects necessary to do the work demanded of public safety personnel. The press conference was emceed by Corrections Officer Daniel Dore of the Metropolitan Detention Center AFSCME Local 2499 and included Grant County Deputy Sheriff Manny Maldonado of AFSCME Local 2516, APD Fire Lieutenant Emily Kane.
The press conference was attended by several local and regional media. Please click on attached links below for full media report.
A solemn 9/11 memorial service followed on Friday evening which concluded with a video of AFSCME members from New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and beyond, who worked in the immediate hours after and years’ following the horrific act, to restore New York City. Each of the members spoke with clarity on the devastation and with extreme sadness on that mark in America’s history.
AFSCME Council 18 Executive Director Connie Derr formally welcomed the attendees Saturday morning and shared the ups and downs in New Mexico in the past year. Sister Derr spoke of labors’ success in defeating the right to work is wrong bill during the 2015 legislative session and the absolute necessity of engaging our members, enhancing our community support and educating our allies in order to successfully fight back the anticipated attack during the 2016 session. Sister Derr reminded the participants of the deadly prison riot at the New Mexico State Penitentiary 35 years ago in which thirty-three people died and many more were injured, including seven AFSCME corrections officers and that its cause was preventable.
AFSCME Local 923 City of Espanola Police Officers’ Union President Sammy Marquez gave a heart-felt introduction of the keynote speaker to the Congress, AFSCME International President Lee Saunders. President Saunders, who was in Albuquerque just two weeks earlier for AFSCME Council 18’s biennial convention and where he received a unanimous endorsement for his re-election next July, pounded on Governor Martinez’ failure to support public safety in New Mexico.
In referring to AFSCME Local 3422 Department of Corrections’ Union’s on-line petition to improve staffing and pay, President Saunders roared, "Sign the AFSCME letter, demand that Governor Martinez take action and prevent the next riot. Demand respect, demand dignity for NM Corrections!”
“Low pay, and long hours meant high turnover before the 1980's riots here in New Mexico. Sound familiar? Some things remain the same,” President Saunders said. “What happened in New Mexico in 1980 should serve as a warning, but look what's going on here and across the country today. Corrections officers are working maximum amounts of mandatory overtime, face huge vacancy rates, and the pay is so bad that one official in this state said we're competing with McDonald's on wages for employees." President Saunders on-point statements kept the crowd jumping to their feet.
Daniel Solis, president of Santa Fe County Detention Center Officers’ Local 1413, a first timer at the Public Safety Congress, said, “Being in this room, with AFSCME members who do the same job I do but in different states, feeling this incredible energy, hearing the commitment to the work, listening to the honesty of our national president, this is why I am proud to be a corrections officer and to do it as an AFSCME member!”
Brother Solis’ sentiments were echoed by Local 3422, Central Chapter President Robert Darnell, “We fight like hell for the safety of our officers because we have the backing of our council and the national union. This conference shows that AFSCME members across the county are fighting for the same thing. We all want to be able to go home at the end of our shift.”
Amy Burns, a 911 dispatcher from Grant County, said, “As public safety workers, we must have the proper tools to do the work. This is where collective bargaining comes in. We do the work and we know what is needed. It was an awesome conference and I’m ready to get my local stronger and more involved.”
Grant County Sherriff Deputy Manny Maldonado, who participated in the earlier press conference, said, “Meeting and sharing information with fellow law enforcement officers is vital. We risk our lives day in and day out. Our fight for public safety is about protecting the public.”
Council 18 and Local 624 President Casey Padilla said, "International President Lee Saunders and Secretary Treasurer Laura Reyes, along with hundreds of our AFSCME brothers and sisters, signed our letter 'SAVE New Mexico Corrections,' drawing attention to the critical staffing shortages we face at most of our state's public correctional facilities. The 72-hour work week inside the dangerous prison environment must end."
The twelve workshops offered included the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA); Women in Public Safety; Garrity and Weingarten Rights; Body Cameras and Equipment; Handling of a Critical Incident; Crafting Policies to Increase Public Safety; Mental Health Issues in Public Safety; and Psychological Survival in a High Stress Work Environment. In addition to the experts within AFSCME International’s Research and Collective Bargaining department, workshop presenters included staff from the Department of Justice, National Council on Crime and Delinquency, a psychologist and public safety legal counsel.
AFSCME public safety and first responder members include law enforcement, corrections officers, probation & parole officers, 911 dispatch, security and emergency medical services.
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