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Arizona Custodians Win Jobs Back

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Omaha Steve Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-08-09 03:53 PM
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Arizona Custodians Win Jobs Back

August 4, 2009

VICTORY ACHIEVED A group of Arizona state custodians stand proudly before the House of Representatives after lawmakers voted to rehire them.

Photo Credit:

Roxana Guevara

State custodians who lost their jobs to inmate labor and a private contractor earlier this year have won the right to reclaim their posts.

Laid off in April, 34 custodians represented by AFSCME Local 3111 fought to be reinstated, building support among lawmakers from both parties. A bill ordering the state to rehire them and prohibiting their jobs to be outsourced was signed into law on July 13 by Gov. Jan Brewer (R). With 38 years of public service, Terry Nickerson, lead custodian of the laid-off unit, says it was like I didnt count when the state decided to replace him and his colleagues. Instead of giving in, they fought back.

The custodians met with key legislators pointing out that if the state can afford to hire a privateer, it can also afford to keep its own dedicated employees. They also noted the low quality of work done by contractors.

The lawmakers couldnt prevent the layoffs, but Senate President Pro Tempore Thayer Verschoor (R) agreed to sponsor a bill to get the workers jobs back. Lobbying other lawmakers in person and by phone, the custodians gained bipartisan support for the measure, which passed both houses in June with votes to spare.

Nickerson, among the custodians who watched from the Senate gallery as their hard-fought victory unfolded, expressed pride in their achievement. It felt good to know they realized that replacing us with contractors wasnt the way to go, he says. A lot of people say, Whats the use of fighting city hall when theyve got the upper hand? This proves that you can win when you work together."

Sheri Van Horsen, an 18-year state employee who has been Local 3111s full-time president for the past three years, agrees with Nickersons assessment. Too many state employees feel they are powerless to change their situation, she says. But the AFSCME custodians proved that, by banding together with their union, they could defy all odds to achieve their goals.

Read more about the custodians in The Arizona Republic and CBS news affiliate KPHO.

Several links in story at link.

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