by Lee Saunders | September 20, 2016
Never Quit. That’s the spirit of AFSCME members. It’s who we are — proud, resilient hard workers who get up early and stay up late to keep our communities running.
At our 42nd International Convention this summer, that Never Quit spirit was downright electric, with enough wattage to light up the entire Las Vegas Strip. Several thousand delegates and alternates convened to strengthen public services and our union, preparing to fight for a better future for all working families.
We voiced our solidarity with AFSCME members in Illinois, passing a resolution denouncing virulently anti-worker Gov. Bruce Rauner, who has made the annihilation of labor unions his number-one priority. We pledged the national union’s support in the event of a strike.
We also passed a resolution in support of our sisters and brothers in Puerto Rico and their pension and labor rights. We passed a resolution demanding a Senate vote on U.S. Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland. And recognizing the importance of two of the nation’s most powerful union’s collaborating together more closely, delegates passed a resolution embracing greater coordination between AFSCME and SEIU on organizing, political and communications efforts.
We also announced the AFSCME Free College Benefit. AFSCME members, their families and retirees can now obtain an associate degree online — at no cost.
Why We’re with Her
It’s not every day you get to be in a room with the next President of the United States and hear her share a vision of an economy that works for everyone. It was an honor to welcome Sec. Hillary Clinton to our Convention, to hear her speak with passion about her plans to stand up for working families.
“I can’t imagine how we could run our country if we didn’t have people like you,” she told us, promising, “I will be by your side in this fight every step of the way.”
AFSCME members nationwide will work their hearts out this fall, pounding the pavement to ensure she wins. No question about it: We’re with her.
We have to be. Consider the alternative. This election is a choice between an unstoppable champion and an unstable charlatan. Hillary Clinton is a champion for the middle class, for union rights and equal pay, for affordable health care and retirement security. Donald Trump is a scam artist and hatemonger, whose agenda will destabilize our economy and our country.
We didn’t leave Las Vegas without getting in Trump’s face. He refuses to negotiate a union contract with employees at the Trump International Hotel. So AFSCME went out in the blistering desert heat to rally with our sisters and brothers in Culinary Union Local 226 and Bartenders Local 165, saying loudly and clearly that you don’t make America great by busting unions and attacking working people.
Trump has since settled a dispute with two culinary workers, and the National Labor Relations Board has reaffirmed the union rights of Trump's Las Vegas employees.
“What Happens Here…”
You know the famous Las Vegas slogan: “What happens here, stays here.” Well, not in our case. Because what happened at our Convention — a renewed commitment to our union, to never quit fighting for our rights, for public services, and for each other — doesn’t stay there. It comes home with us. We will bring it to life every day in our communities.
July 22, 2016
AFSCME Sec.-Treas. Laura Reyes was reelected to a second term on Thursday with 912,547 votes. "I’m humbled by this honor, and I look forward to working with President Saunders to continue the progress we've made over the last four years," Reyes said.
Secretary-Treasurer Reyes is the first woman to serve as AFSCME’s secretary-treasurer.
July 22, 2016
AFSCME delegates on Thursday passed a resolution that affirms our commitment to fighting and winning racial and economic justice, and honors the work of public safety officers who serve and protect the public without regard to race, color and creed.
The resolution reflects Monday’s keynote remarks by President Saunders, who said that we can achieve both law and order and racial justice "if we embrace our common humanity and listen to our better angels."
July 22, 2016
John Frazier: 77,426
Laura Reyes: 912,547
D’Jean DeVolle: 13,191
Kathryn Lybarger: 58,404
Alan Shanahan: 63,518
Danny Donohue: 155,469
Kathy Garrison: 44,947
Nick LaMorte: 144,182
Bob Pyjas: 20,440
Mary Sullivan: 155,470
Sherryl Gordon: 13,498
Mattie Harrell: 13,542
New York State District
Victoria Mitchell: 18,766
Kim Medina: 5,908
Stacy Chamberlain: 61,704
Greg Devereux: 56,112
James Robinson: 15,947
CeeCee Brown: 8,636
Janice Chalmers-Priest: 3,186
Connie Derr: 15,840
Carol Guthrie: 8,005
Betty Jo Aragon-Freeman: 433
July 22, 2016
California District: Alan Shanahan, Kathryn Lybarger
Capital District: Glenard S. Middleton Sr.
Central District: Steven Quick
CSEA District: Danny Donohue, Nick LaMorte, Mary Sullivan
Eastern District: Mattie Harrell
Hawaii District: Randy Perreira
Illinois District: Roberta Lynch, Michael Newman
Michigan District: Lawrence A. Roehrig
Midwestern District: Danny J. Homan
New York City District: Henry Garrido, Anthony Wells
New York State District: Victoria Mitchell
North Central District: Eliot Seide
No. New England District: Frank Moroney
Northwestern District: Stacy Chamberlain, Greg Devereux
NUHHCE District: Denise Duncan, Henry Nicholas
OAPSE District: Joseph P. Rugola
OCSEA District: Chris Mabe
Ohio District: John A. Lyall
Pennsylvania District: Richard Caponi, David Fillman
Puerto Rico District: Braulio Torres
So. New England District: Salvatore Luciano
Southeastern District: CeeCee Brown
Southwestern District: Connie Derr
UDW District: Doug Moore, Johanna Puno Hester
Wisconsin District: Paul Spink
July 22, 2016
Honored for their public service, activism and innovation, 12 AFSCME members received the first ever Never Quit awards.
The Service awardees are:
- Rachel Cooper (Georgia)
- Stephanie Croft (Kentucky)
- Niall O’Shaughnessy (New York City)
- Anne Sears (Alaska)
The Activism awardees are:
- Ann Marie Mathurine (Maryland)
- Carolyn Park (Cincinnati)
- Percy Winters (Oregon).
The Innovation awardees are:
- Barbara Cooper (Pennsylvania)
- Terry Magnant (Wisconsin)
- Melvin Puu (Hawaii)
- Eric Wisner (Missouri).
Pictured above is Atlanta school cafeteria manager Rachel Cooper. "My job is to make sure that every child that enters that building has a hot meal, even if they don’t want anything but a hug," said Cooper.
July 22, 2016
More than 2,000 members attending AFSCME in Action breakouts played out various scenarios aimed at learning how to handle real-world problems in the workplace.
"The more you practice something like this, you become more familiar with it. That way you can implement it effectively for positive change," said Carissa Stearns, president of Local 469 (Pennsylvania Council 13).
July 21, 2016
As a cafeteria manager with an elementary school and an intermediate school Rachel Cooper (Ms. Cooper to her students) does so much more than taking care of breakfast, lunch and snacks for her charges. She believes that her job means more than providing healthy, fulfilling meals. “When you feed a child, you nourish their souls.”
Ms. Cooper was honored for her commitment to public service with the AFSCME “Never Quit” Service Award at her intermediate school. In the audience watching her accept the award were fellow staff, teachers, administrators and Atlanta Public school board members as well as hundreds of her students. It was a surprise event that the entire school community, her AFSCME Local 1644 family and the students had been planning for weeks.
Students made signs and recorded messages of thanks and support for Ms. Cooper weeks in advance. The principal of Miles Elementary School also held the surprise event in the gym, quieting more than three hundred students before Ms. Cooper’s entrance.
“Ms. Cooper is the best cafeteria lady ever – she makes sure we have really tasty food to eat at breakfast and lunch. I love her,” Rosa Guiterrez shared on video when she was asked what Ms. Cooper means to her.
The AFSCME “Never Quit” Service Award celebrates members who demonstrate great pride and dedication in their work by going the extra mile in during the course of their daily duties.
As a public servant, Rachel Cooper does not believe her work as a cafeteria manager is a job, it is a calling.
And that is one reason why she was honored.
July 21, 2016
More than 2,000 AFSCME delegates took it to the streets Wednesday, standing in solidarity with Culinary Workers demanding a fair contract at the Trump International Hotel.
Local 226 and Bartenders Local 165 members who work at the Trump International Hotel won their union elections last December, and the National Labor Relations Board certified their victory in March. Yet Trump International has refused to begin contract negotiations and has conducted an aggressive anti-union campaign, including firings and intimidation of union supporters.
Though several members experienced discomfort from the excessive heat, AFSCME delegates demonstrated that we won’t stop fighting for all workers’ rights – whether ours or our sisters and brothers from other unions.
“I’m so happy to see you guys,” said Geoconda Arguello Kline, who started out as a hotel worker and is the secretary-treasurer of Local 226.
Kline said of Trump “He doesn’t respect working people...who make him money every single day. These workers here, they had an election. They won. We’re going to fight and we’re never going to give up. He’s been refusing and denying the rights of the working people… Mr. Trump, you’re fighting against the immigrants... you’re fighting against this country. And right now, the country will fight against you too.”
IVP Kathryn Lybarger pledged AFSCME’s support. “It’s the heat we’re turning up on Donald Trump. AFSCME is proud to stand in solidarity with you,” she said. “As long as Trump continues to undermine basic fairness for working people, the 1.6 million members of AFSCME stand with the Culinary Union to urge Trump to treat his employees with respect and negotiate a fair contract.”
July 21, 2016
The Rev. Dr. William Barber II challenged public workers and their labor unions to be part of the moral revival of our nation.
"I’m here with you today because we need a moral revolution of values to address the moral crisis at the heart of our democracy right now," he said.
That crisis is nothing new, Dr. Barber said, recalling the Civil Rights struggle led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. King knew that racial and economic injustice are intertwined, and he stood with AFSCME striking sanitation workers just a few days before he was killed.
But the achievements of the Civil Rights movement produced a backlash. Some people "developed code language to talk about race without talking about race," Dr. Barber added.
For nearly 50 years, the strategy was to blame minorities for our country’s problems, Dr. Barber said. And Donald Trump’s fearmongering continues that. So do steps taken by state legislatures, with the help of the U.S. Supreme Court, to suppress the minority vote.
They’re trying to suppress the vote "because they know the power of us coming together."
Referring to recent outbreaks of gun violence, Barber said, "We have to stand against violence and death, period."
If our moral crisis is like a heart problem, he concluded, we need to "call code," that is, revive the moral heart of our nation. And AFSCME can play a role in that.
"I came by AFSCME to call code!" Barber said. "It’s time for the labor movement and the Civil Rights movement … to realize we are the moral defibrillator of our time."
July 21, 2016
Determination. Pride. Commitment. That's what you hear when you listen to our "Our Voices," a program featuring AFSCME members fighting for fairness and justice in their communities.
Deb Hussey, a 911 call operator and member of Local 189 in Oregon, talked about the problem of understaffed 911 centers. "When you're fielding 911 calls, there's no worse feeling than having to put people on hold," she said. "But understaffing at our Multnomah County 911 center has forced us to, putting lives at risk."
Quentin Hutchins, a school bus operator and a member of Local 1644 in Atlanta, speaks out because fighting for fairness is in his heart and soul. He discussed Georgia's voter ID law, one of the strictest in the country. "Thousands of voters were given the wrong information about where to vote," Hutchins said, adding that those who arrived at the correct voting site were not allowed to vote, even if they were in line before the polls closed. "We cannot sit silent while the forces against us try to chip away at the progress that was made," Hutchins said.
Local 3437 sister Sharonda Johnson, of Flint, Michigan, knows firsthand about the importance of making her voice heard. She spoke about her city's unsafe water, and the danger it poses to children. "You know what happens when children are exposed to lead, what it does to their brains?" she asked. "They can't control their emotions. Their IQs can drop. It affects their school work, their families."
"Why did this happen?" asked Johnson, referring to the root causes of water contamination in Flint. "Because the same people who want to tear down our union because they don't like public service workers put an unelected, unaccountable manager in charge of the city where I live with my family."
"We have to fight, and we have to win," Hussey said.
July 21, 2016
Delegates on Wednesday approved a resolution to voluntarily partner more closely with SEIU. Resolution 53 calls for AFSCME and SEIU to find ways to jointly build power for working people, including more closer coordination of organizing, political and communications efforts.
As President Saunders noted in his Monday address, the two unions spent millions of dollars fighting each other in the past, allowing politicians to play each union off the other.
July 20, 2016
Secretary Hillary Clinton made a spirited case for public service workers to support her candidacy for President of the United States, contrasting her decades-long support for working families with Donald Trump's callous attempts to defraud them.
"AFSCME, you have my back, and as President I'll have yours," Secretary Clinton said. "When I'm President, working people will always have a seat at the table and a champion in the White House."
"You pioneered the basic bargain that made our country great," she continued. "That means working hard and playing by the rules should mean being able to earn a living wage and having a fair shot at the American Dream."
"I'm proud to be in the trenches fighting alongside you to raise wages and keep the 'public' in 'public service,'" Clinton said. And she urged delegates to support her by talking to our friends and neighbors, knocking on doors and registering people to vote.
Secretary Clinton promised to support us in our fights against governors like Bruce Rauner and Scott Walker, and she pledged to end private prisons that profit off our criminal justice system.
She also compared her record to that of Donald Trump, the millionaire who has called for a national right-to-work law and has said Americans need to be paid less.
James Rhodes, president of Local 1585 (Michigan Council 25), said Secretary Clinton's speech was "very inspirational." He was proud that she called us "one team, not a red team, not a blue team, not a Democrat team, not a Republican team. It's one team for America."
Laura Morrison, of Local 549 (New Jersey Council 52), committed to vote for Secretary Clinton. "I'm for Hillary 100 percent. I feel that she is for working people."
July 20, 2016
On Tuesday, delegates attending the 42nd International Convention reelected Lee Saunders as International president by acclamation. First elected to AFSCME’s top position in 2012, Saunders will serve another four-year term.
Saunders has presided over a period of unity, innovation and growth, despite unprecedented attacks on public service workers and the unions that represent them. In his first years as president, Saunders fostered a culture shift at AFSCME, returning the union to its organizing roots.
With a renewed focus on organizing, AFSCME has added new members, trained thousands of new activists and strengthened the bond between members and their union. Since 2013, nearly 340,000 fee-payers and nonmembers have signed up with AFSCME.
July 20, 2016
AFSCME Sec.-Treas. Laura Reyes told delegates Tuesday in her keynote speech: "You are writing the next chapter in AFSCME’s long, proud history."
That history goes back more than 80 years, to Wisconsin, where working people came together "and stood up to a system that unfairly fired public service workers just because of their personal politics."
"We started out as an idea," said Reyes, "a spark...that grew and spread. And as it spread, our union grew in size and shaped the events that made us a better nation. We marched for equal pay for women, and stood up for workers’ rights, LGBTQ rights, immigration and voting rights."
Reyes said the next generation is ready to continue that legacy.
"Because growing this union, winning for working people, and making America happen takes a team that has each other’s backs," Reyes said. "We are that team!"
Reyes told cheering delegates that it takes a team to make sure every worker earns fair pay, sick leave and overtime; we can afford retirement; and every parent can afford to feed their children. "The sisters and brothers in this room are that team!" she said. "If we rise above the challenges, we will keep winning!"
July 20, 2016
Suzanne Delaney and Hillary Clinton go way back. In 1994, Delaney was one of the nurses who rode on AFSCME's Health Security Express, a bus tour that traveled from Portland, OR, to the White House in support of health care reform for all.
Delaney, a Convention delegate and PEOPLE MVP, is a member of United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals (UNAC/UHCP). She was there when First Lady Hillary Clinton gave the speech to launch the tour. Along the way, "we collected thousands and thousands of petitions" for the health care reform effort.
While it became reality only years later, under President Obama, it was Hillary Clinton's efforts that helped make it possible. "I have been a Hillary fan since then because of health care," Delaney said. "I know Hillary will protect that."
"Her health background is one of my biggest reasons that she absolutely has to be the next President," she said. "We can't have a wild card in the White House. Lives are on the line."
July 19, 2016
AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders and thousands of delegates, alternates and guests rocked the Las Vegas Convention Center, on Monday, with deafening chants of "We Never Quit"— igniting a fire for the urgent work in the months and years ahead.
"To those who try to scapegoat public service workers, demeaning and denigrating us, questioning our professionalism and blaming us for fiscal recklessness, what do we say? To anyone who questions whether AFSCME is still up to the task of making America happen, what do we say?" Saunders roared. Delegates thundered back: "We never quit!"
Saunders reminded delegates of the progress made over the last four years, including an organizing campaign that to date has seen nearly 340,000 fee payers and non-members sign up with the union and a PEOPLE political action program that is bigger than ever. But the clearest evidence of AFSCME's improved strength, Saunders said, can be found in stories of members like Dana Norris who — through the Anchorage Municipal Employees Association, Local 16 — helped restore collective bargaining rights for herself and her co-workers, and a year later won $64 million in wages and maintained health benefits.
Saunders also urged delegates to knock on doors and make phone calls for the upcoming Presidential election, casting it as a choice between Hillary Clinton, an "unstoppable champion for working families" and Donald Trump, an "unstable charlatan" who made his fortune exploiting them. "I know whose side I'm on. I'm with her," said Saunders.
While acknowledging tough challenges still facing AFSCME members, particularly in Illinois and Connecticut, Saunders said that AFSCME has not only survived the attacks of the last several years, but that our union is thriving.
Saunders also committed to do more to tell the stories of public service workers. "We're going to make sure America hears your stories…feels your grit and determination," he told delegates as he unveiled a powerful new advertisement that captures AFSCME members' pride and passion on the job.
"Sisters and brothers, the clouds have lifted," Saunders declared. "The future is ours for the taking! And our plan is simple: Never quit!"
Encouraged, delegates expressed how Saunders made them feel empowered. "He can bring a room together. I don't care if it's two people or 2,000," said Barbara Zachreson-Senick, Local 1565 (Connecticut Council 4). "He's a good man," she said. Sherman Baisa, Local 646 (Hawaii United Public Workers), put it more simply. "I'd follow him to hell and back."
July 19, 2016
AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders on Monday announced an exclusive new benefit for AFSCME members modeled after a partnership between AFSCME Ohio affiliates OAPSE, OCSEA and Council 8 and Eastern Gateway Community College. The program allows AFSCME members in the state to earn an online associate degree from the college at no cost.
The plan is to take the Ohio program nationwide, working with affiliates to make the benefit available to members across the country.
"I was happy to learn from Mr. Saunders that the union is going to make that available to everyone – that employees and their immediate family members are entitled to free education, taking online courses," said Cynthia Stenson, a member of Local 768 (New York DC 37). "What it really means to us as members is we can get more education and better serve" our communities.
July 19, 2016
Delegates will elect the International president, the International secretary-treasurer and International vice presidents (IVPs) from each AFSCME legislative district. Nominations for president and secretary-treasurer will be taken today from the Convention floor.
The Convention will then recess, and delegates from each legislative district will go to the room assigned to their legislative district caucus to nominate candidates for IVP. A list of the room assignments will be available at delegates’ tables on the Convention floor.
In cases in which there are more nominees than offices to be filled, elections will be held, with the names of nominees posted in the Convention Center’s main hall. BallotPoint will conduct these elections on Thursday, July 21, from 7 – 10 a.m., in Central Hall C2 of the Las Vegas Convention Center. If a run-off is required for any election, it will be conducted on Friday, July 22, from 7 – 9:30 a.m. in Central Hall C2.
Shuttle service on Thursday will begin at 6 a.m. for elections. If there is a runoff election, shuttles to the Las Vegas Convention Center will begin again at 6 a.m on Friday.
by Clyde Weiss | July 18, 2016
Public service workers work around the clock to make our communities better. We never quit. And the 42nd International Convention is about honoring our commitment.
In a year with so much at stake for us and our nation, AFSCME delegates have arrived in Las Vegas to strengthen our union for the challenges ahead.
This year, we averted a major threat when the U.S. Supreme Court in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association effectively reaffirmed our right to come together in a union to negotiate collectively. But there is still much to be done to defend workers' rights and fight for an economy that works for everyone.
What we do for ourselves, we do for millions of working families across the nation. That's always been the case. In the next few days, as we chart the course of AFSCME's future, we will recommit to never quit on our common values, our communities or our union. We'll also commit to never quit on our country, by electing a leader for all working families in November.
Today we will hear from our president, Lee Saunders, and tomorrow from our secretary-treasurer, Laura Reyes. We have become stronger and better able to defend ourselves against attacks. Over the last four years, AFSCME members have recommitted to their union and many workers have joined as new members; and our political action program, PEOPLE, is bigger than ever.
On Tuesday we'll welcome Secretary Hillary Clinton, a friend of AFSCME who has vowed as President to protect and expand workers' rights and raise wages for the middle class. She's with us. And we're with her. Let's show her our support!
On Wednesday we'll demonstrate our commitment to workers' rights by standing in solidarity with members of Culinary Workers Union Local 226 who work at the Trump International Hotel. They're fighting for just and fair treatment, and a first contract that will support their families.
On Thursday we will hold our elections. Throughout the week we will celebrate the achievements and enduring spirit of AFSCME sisters and brothers from across the country
It's going to be a week to show who we are, to prepare for a better future, and to strengthen our union to meet the challenges confronting us and our country. Let's get to it!
by Clyde Weiss | July 18, 2016
Randon “Randy” Procious, a member of Local 2206 (Pennsylvania Council 13), made sure to be first in line to register at our 42nd International Convention. It’s a distinction in which Procious takes special pride.
Procious is a printer for the City of Erie Housing Authority and an AFSCME member for 22 years. He serves as president of his local and is a board member of Council 13, representing city workers. Procious felt it was important to come to Convention (his sixth one) to “network with other local presidents and members to find out what works for them and what doesn’t. It’s amazing how similar our problems are. I can learn how to deal with them.”
One of the solutions that’s working for Local 2206 has been the AFSCME Strong training. The local hosted a dinner for members, who then recommitted to their union by signing commitment cards. “We actually picked up one fair-share [member] into a dues paying member!”
Now that’s keeping it AFSCME Strong!
by Clyde Weiss | July 18, 2016
Jeremy Sanders, a senior animal keeper at the Bronx Zoo and president of AFSCME Local 1501 (DC 37), was one of the first delegates to share his story at the Storyline booth.
The Storyline project will help capture what it means to you to be a proud public service worker. Participants agree to a 30-minute audiotaped interview and a photograph that may be used for an AFSCME publication, video or website.
"It’s always fun to tell your story," Sanders said. "And who better to tell it to than other AFSCME folks?"
Sanders has been working for the zoo for 20 years and helps run the aquatic bird house, where he is responsible for the building and animal care. He doesn’t have a favorite animal, but ever since the Little Blue Penguins, also known as Fairy Penguins, arrived at the zoo a year ago, he’s been smitten.
"They laid eggs and reared one chick baby penguin," he said.
At Storyline, Sanders said, "each and every person was nice to talk to and helpful in getting my story out. The process was really great."
by Clyde Weiss | July 18, 2016
Getting a jumpstart on Convention, leaders of AFSCME’s 41 retiree chapters nationwide held their annual council meeting during the weekend to elect officers for the next two years; to learn about protecting and expanding Social Security and Medicare; and to gear themselves up for an election year that will impact not only their own retirement security, but that of their children and grandchildren.
At this year’s annual meeting of the AFSCME Retirees Council – the 36th to date – more than 200 representatives and guests heard from President Lee Saunders and Sec.-Treas. Laura Reyes and received briefings from AFSCME experts on a variety of topics including pensions, Social Security, Medicare and AFSCME Strong.
The retirees also learned about member benefits available through AFSCME Advantage, and how to build political power through activism. AFSCME Retirees are some of the most politically active members, and they demonstrate that with their support for PEOPLE. In 2015, retirees contributed more than $605,000, and 34 percent of retiree contributors are PEOPLE MVPs. To become an MVP, a member contributes a minimum of $100 a year.
By acclimation, the Retiree Council also re-elected its leaders: Gary Tavormina, New York Retiree Chapter 82 (chair); Phyllis Zamarripa, Colorado Chapter 76 (vice chair); and Jim Moore, North Carolina Retiree Subchapter 165 (secretary).