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Ben Burris elected president of local AFSME local

Former City Councillor is believed to have achieved a first for Adair County. Others elected are Donna Hedgespeth, Vice President; Jeff Hadley, Secretary; and Steve Collins, Treasurer
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from AFSME Council 62 news

Former two-term Columbia City Councilman Ben Burris has become the first elected local office holder to later become an elected union official in Adair County history. While others may have been union officials before moving to, or after moving from the county, Burris, 40, is believed to be the first elected while living and working here.

During voting on December 7 and 8, 2010, Burris was elected President of Local #8-Cumberland Region for American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 62 winning 83 percent of the vote. "Local" is a term used by union members to define a certain geographic area and may not necessarily mean just one type of worker, city, county, or job site. AFSCME (American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees) is the largest member of the AFL-CIO and is the fastest growing labor movement in America with 1.6 million members nationwide.

Burris, who is a Youth Worker II at the Adair Youth Development Center, now presides over an 18 county area that stretches from Adair to Harlan counties. "It's a diverse geographic area roughly thesize of Delaware and also an immense honor and awesome responsibility. At the moment, I'm still overwhelmed," said Burris.

Burris represents Corrections Officers, Juvenile Justice Employees, and Social Workers in the Local. He will now be focused on network and membership building in the Cumberland Region, and appointing various members to positions to further strengthen the organization. Prior to this position, Burris also served on AFSCME's bargaining team as a negotiator for the supplemental agreement to the Executive Order and Master Agreement signed by Governor Beshear that allowed state employees to organize.

Also elected as the Local's officers was Donna Hedgespeth as Vice President who holds a Masters Degree in Counseling from Campbellsville University and provides services to approximately 13 counties for the Department of Juvenile Justice in South Central Kentucky. Jeff Hadley, who also works at the Adair Youth Development Center, was elected Secretary and Steve Collins a Youth Worker from the Lake Cumberland Youth Development Center in Wayne County was elected treasurer.

"There are many misconceptions about unions and state employees that I hope to address," Burris added. "We have some employees who now qualify for, or come within a few dollars of qualifying for, the very programs the state provides for its most indigent residents." Burris went on to point out that as public employees they are prohibited from striking, and that he believes services to the public can actually be improved by workers now being able to organize and speak with one voice. "The whole purpose of a union is to be able to focus on issues that affect everyone and achieve justice, fairness, and opportunity not only for our members, but for all."

This story was posted on 2010-12-23 06:18:24
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Ben Burris and Vice President Donna Hedgespeth

2010-12-22 - Photo by Julia Johnson, AFSCME member. Columbia, KY
President Ben Burris and Vice President Donna Hedgespeth are the new top officials of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 62, which represents workers at the Adair Youth Development Center (AYDC). They were elected during voting on December 7 and 8, 2010. (Photo taken by Julia Johnson, AFSCME member)

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