From Nat Bender
TALLAHASSEE – AFSCME Florida Council 79 members held a two-day virtual convention December 10 to 11. The convention was focused on ways the council’s 58 locals could continue the successful internal and external organizing that has been the hallmark of the last year years. Members committed the council to a robust program of actions to continue the struggle for fair contracts, safe working conditions with respect and dignity for workers
Members also held elections for executive board officers. President Vicki Hall was re-elected for a four-year term and, in her acceptance speech, urged convention delegates to help the council, which represents than 100,000 workers throughout the state, keep organizing for economic, racial and social justice.
“Demand for the essential services our members provide continues to increase because people keep moving to Florida,” said Hall. “Florida gained more than 2.7 million residents since the last census and these 21.5 million people have many needs our members work to meet. Our members deserve a fair share of the state’s economic growth in a time of rising costs, with affordable, quality healthcare and the ability to retire with dignity in the future themselves.”
Hall outlined several vital current issues impacting workers.
While Governor Ron DeSantis identified $225 million for raises for state workers in his proposed budget last, state negotiators are refusing to offer raises at the bargaining table, keeping the lowest paid of the unit in such poverty they qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program that they administer, according to Hall.
With the detection of the Omicron variant in Florida and concerns about the increase in hospitalizations, regulations allowing for telecommuting need to be articulated and addressed for the safety of workers and the general public, according to Hall.
“Due to low pay and understaffing associated with the pandemic, many members throughout the state report suffering from stress and job burnout,” said Hall. “We are strong in our resolve to articulate the voices calling to make Florida a better place for public workers to build our careers and advance professionally,” she said.