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January 1, 1978. Jimmy Carter was President, the Bee Gees’ “How Deep Is Your Love” topped the charts, and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees gained 157 new members in Corvallis, Oregon. AFSCME membership would surpass one million that year.

The Gazette-Times reported on December 20, 1977 that contract negotiations would begin that January between the City and AFSCME.

Striketober and Strikesgiving are over, but worker strikes are still going strong. As I write this, Kellogg’s workers are holding the line in Michigan, Nebraska, Pennsylvania and Memphis. Alabama miners are heading into their ninth month of standing up to Warrior Met Coal. And the wave of worker actions demonstrating power and the fight for fairness continues to rise.

As solidarity actions and strikes sweep the nation, workers are making history by organizing their workplaces for the first time.

When workers belong to a union, they have a unified voice to create safer, stronger and healthier workplaces. Organizing is our most effective tool to determine workplace dignity, hours, working conditions and quality of life. Workers aren’t stuck with dangerous workplace conditions with poor wages and benefits. They can improve them, together.

We’ve said it before: Life is better in a union

Workers who belong to unions make more money than their nonunion counterparts. They have better health care insurance and retirement plans, more job security and safer working conditions. They’re happier.

Some of the nation’s largest cultural institutions accepted more than $1.6 billion in federal help to weather the coronavirus pandemic, but continued to let go of workers – even though the assistance was meant to shore up payrolls and keep workers on the job, according to a report released by AFSCME Cultural Workers United.

When Fran Krugen’s late husband was first diagnosed with diabetes, his insulin cost about $35 a bottle.

But Krugen, an AFSCME retiree from Arizona, will never forget the day when she and her husband went to the drug store to pick up his insulin and the pharmacist told them it now cost $900 a bottle.

“This was medication he needed to live, and we had insurance,” she said at a press briefing earlier this month. “We looked at each other and had to ask ourselves: Do we make the house payment? Do we buy food? Or do we pay for his medication?”

The pandemic has led many of us to take stock of our lives and our goals. For AFSCME New Jersey member LaTrenda Ross, the pandemic ignited a long-held dream—starting her own life coaching business.

“I was thinking about revamping my whole entire life,” recalls Ross, a member of Local 2306. “I was looking out for things I want to do, things I haven’t been going after.”