AFSCME Wisconsin Next Wavers Demonstrate Commitment

September 28, 2010

AFSCME's young activists in Wisconsin
DIGGIN’ IT! – AFSCME's young activists in Wisconsin participated in service work during their first Tri-Council Next Wave Conference in September. (Photo credit: Robert Allen)

AFSCME’s Next Wave of young activists swept into Milwaukee in September, paving the way to elect worker-friendly candidates, volunteering in the community and discussing how to build a new generation of union leaders.

“We have a strong foundation to build on,” said corrections officer Matt Davis, a member of AFSCME Local 48 (Council 24) and one of three masters of ceremony. “But there can be no question that we have to keep building. We cannot rely on the legendary leaders that have brought us here.”

Davis was one of approximately 160 members of councils 24, 40 and 48 – ages 35 and younger – who converged in Milwaukee for three days to attend the state’s first-ever Next Wave conference.

Demonstrating their commitment to supporting labor-friendly candidates in the November elections, most of the Next Wavers fanned out throughout the county’s west side to knock on the doors of hundreds of union households while some worked a phone bank, making 1,638 calls in support of U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold (D) and state Sen. Jim Sullivan (D).

Later that day, they gathered outside the Milwaukee County Courthouse with hundreds of other union members to counter attacks on public workers and to point out the anti-worker record of gubernatorial candidate Scott Walker (R). AFSCME Secretary-Treasurer Lee A. Saunders joined a host of local speakers at the rally. Saunders said the union understood the stakes in Wisconsin and was committed to deploying “an army of green shirts” to the state to help support the get-out-the-vote effort, plus the financial resources needed to make an impact.

The Next Wavers also made their mark on the community during their conference by volunteering to clean, paint, prune and perform other tasks at three area non-profit organizations.

The young AFSCME activists also attended workshops that focused on busting myths about public employees, labor history and electronic social networking. Finally, during an electronic town hall, they offered suggestions on how to build AFSCME’s youth movement.

Concluding the conference, Saunders encouraged the Next Wavers to tackle the tough challenges ahead. “This isn’t the 1930s, but the gap between workers and the wealthy is wider than ever,” he said. “Something is wrong with this picture. It’s your job to take us to a brighter future.”

Approximately 13 percent of AFSCME’s 1.6 million members are in the 35-and-under age group. Learn more about AFSCME’s Next Wave here. Also, check out this story about three Next Wave leaders, including Matt Davis.

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