Three Union Members Win National Awards for Outstanding Service

by James Parks, May 22, 2010

Three union members—two police officers and a veteran voice actor—received prestigious national awards for outstanding service in recent days.

Tonight, veteran voice actor Sheldon Smith will receive the Howard Keel award, presented by the Screen Actors (SAG). A long-time member of SAG and the American Federation of Radio and Television Artists (AFTRA), Smith is an award-winning actor/narrator and perhaps the best-known voice of Republican media campaigns in America.

Senior Sgt. Mark Todd and Sgt. Kimberly Munley, members of AFGE Local 1920, received the Top Cop Award from the National Association of Police Organizations. They heroically shot the gunman and protected the public during a bloody rampage at Fort Hood Army base in Texas last November.

Munley and Todd were among the 26 winners of the award who attended a White House ceremony with President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder last week. The Top Cops Award program honors America’s outstanding law enforcement officers, highlighting those who have made a significant contribution to our country above and beyond the call of duty.

AFGE President John Gage said:

We hope this recognition educates the public on the ways they are served by their government. Kim and Mark are shining examples of the millions of public sector workers who have dedicated their careers to making America work.

SAG President Ken Howard will present tonight’s award to Smith as part of the union’s annual regional branch division board meeting. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka will address the board meeting this morning. Smith serves as a member of SAG’s National Financial Core Task Force, and has a passion for organizing. For the past several years, he has presented a popular workshop nationwide which teaches members how to convert non-union work into union jobs.

Smith says:

I am honored and humbled by this recognition. To me, it reflects the gratitude I have for my membership in the Guild and in AFTRA. Being a union member has afforded me professional opportunities I would not otherwise have enjoyed and my earned union benefits have allowed me to be a full-time working actor with a long and rewarding career.

SAG Vice President David Hartley-Margolin adds:

Sheldon has lent his time, energy, intellect and considerable talent to an extraordinary number of efforts that have benefited not only Washington-Baltimore members, but members across the country. Sheldon’s service has been tireless, staggering, and offered for years without regard for recognition, making him more than deserving of this distinguished award.

Named for legendary actor-singer and former SAG President Howard Keel, the award is annually presented to persons who make a significant contribution to the promotion of SAG and the welfare and benefit of members in their local branch, or nationally.

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Public Schools Need a Bailout

A number of sectors of the economy appear to be bouncing back. Housing starts, home foreclosures and job creation all show movement in the right direction. But the fiscal situation in most states will not improve for quite some time. And, for public schools, the coming year promises to be the worst yet of the economic downturn. READ ON >

Greater Fairness Comes to Airline and Rail Union Elections

May 10, 2010

WASHINGTON, DC – Transportation unions applaud the announcement today by the National Mediation Board (NMB) that it has amended union election procedures in the airline and rail industry to make them fairer and more consistent with democratic norms.

“In too many instances, airline and rail workers were denied the ability to bargain collectively because of arcane election rules that were more onerous than those used in the elections of Governors or members of Congress,” said Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD).

The new rules replace old procedures that required a majority of workers to vote just to validate a union election.  Any worker that didn’t participate in an election was tallied as a “no” vote – a procedure found nowhere else in American democracy.  The old rules also encouraged a climate of voter suppression, because companies could prevent unions from forming by encouraging workers to simply sit out the election.

“Workers should be able to vote for a union in a system that isn’t rigged to arbitrarily assign meaning to votes that weren’t cast,” Wytkind said.  “With the change announced today, union elections in the airline and rail industries stand a real chance of reflecting the true will of the employees that vote.”

The proposed rule change received widespread support, with 39 Senators, 179 Democratic House Members and 13 Republican House Members having written letters of support.  In addition, the Center for American Progress, American Rights at Work, national, state and local unions, and numerous political scientists and labor professors offered their support.

“Until today, veto by silence was the rule of the day.  With this change, only workers who cast a vote will be counted,” Wytkind said.  “The Transportation Trades Department commends the NMB for this important reform, which ensures greater fairness in union elections for airline and rail workers across the country.”

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Saturday, May 8: Help Letter Carriers ‘Stamp Out Hunger’

Reminder NALC Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive is Saturday

With the U.S. underemployment rate at 16.9 percent in March, the Letter Carriers’ (NALC’s) annual national food drive next month comes at a time when millions of Americans are struggling to put food on the table. More than 49 million people—including 16.7 million children—live in households that are hungry or risk of hunger, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This represents more than one in seven households in the country (14.6 percent).

You can help “Stamp out Hunger” by collecting canned goods and dry food, such as tuna, canned meat, soups, pasta, rice and cereal, and leaving them in a bag or box by your mailbox on Saturday, May 8. Your letter carrier will pick them up as they deliver your mail. NALC members will deliver the goods to local food banks, pantries and shelters to help needy families in 10,000 cities and towns in all 50 states and U.S. jurisdictions.

Last year, carriers collected a record 73.4 million pounds of non-perishable food. NALC President Fredric Rolando says the drive this year must be even bigger.

Millions and millions of families are suffering, struggling to make ends meet and put food on the table. Food banks, pantries and shelters need our help more than ever this year. As families count on them for support, they’re counting on us and we will not back off on our commitment.

Rolando noted that donations are particularly critical at this time since most school lunch programs are suspended during the summer months and millions of children must find alternate sources of nutrition.

This is NALC’s 18th annual food drive, which is held on the second Saturday in May in more than 10,000 cities and towns in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam. Donations from this year’s drive are expected to push the overall total since the annual drive began to more than 1 billion pounds.

Postal employees and rural letter carriers are assisting in the effort, as are members of other unions and thousands of volunteers. In New York City, where transportation problems limit mailbox pickup, citizens are asked to take donations to their local post offices between May 3 and May 8. Those who have questions about the drive at their location should ask their letter carrier or contact their local post office.

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