June 18, 2019

Making AFSCME Strong a priority

AFSCME Local 29 members at the Shapiro Developmental Center in Kankakee are proud to be AFSCME Strong. Employees at the state residential and training center for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities are tight-knit with a long history of being 100% Union.

 “We’ve always been well organized, it goes back a long way,” said Local President Gary Ciaccio, a mental health technician who has worked at the center for 38 years. “Our leaders have always stressed internal organizing because we know that the more organized we are, the more successful we are.”

The anti-worker forces behind the recent Supreme Court case Janus v. AFSCME Council 31 know that unity ensures success at the bargaining table too. That’s why they set out to eliminate fair share fees—they believed it would weaken and even destroy union solidarity.

“Employers always look at your numbers and they know if there are a lot of people who choose not to be members,” Ciaccio said.

Ciaccio said that unity became even more critical to the local after the Supreme Court ruled against working people in June.

“When fair share ended, we made we sure talked to every person one-to-one about the importance of everyone being a member to keep us strong,” he said. “We were worried there would be drop-off after Janus but there hasn’t been.”

That’s because their work began even before that 2018 decision.

“We’ve been under attack since Rauner was elected, and that has actually helped us rally people around our union,” Ciaccio said. “We haven’t had a contract, our steps were frozen, all these things guaranteed that members understood the importance of us standing together.”

While the local always has near 100 percent membership, that doesn’t mean they sit back and relax, Ciaccio said. They make sure to talk to every new hire and explain the benefits of being a union member.

Local 29 has also helped organize private sector employees in the area who are now AFSCME members at KCTC, Good Shepherd and Pinnacle group homes.

Ciaccio encourages his fellow AFSCME locals to keep up the fight and never quit working for your local to be 100% Union: “Our strength is in numbers and in unity.”  

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