by Clyde Weiss | July 08, 2011
AFSCME International Pres. Gerald W. McEntee addresses the Next Wave Conference in Atlanta on Friday. (Photo by Alex Jones)
At a pivotal moment when public service workers’ collective bargaining rights are under attack nationwide, approximately 600 AFSCME activists, ages 35 and under, are meeting today in Atlanta. Their goal: Build the next generation of union leaders.
AFSCME’s second Next Wave Conference will address the needs of AFSCME’s young activists through workshops and sessions focusing on national attacks by right-wing governors, lawmakers and their corporate-backed sponsors. They will learn about strategies for fighting back and winning.
Conference attendees will also have opportunities to learn from one another, and to hear from the union’s national leaders, including AFSCME International Pres. Gerald W. McEntee and International Sec.-Treas. Lee A. Saunders.
In a keynote address on Friday, President McEntee noted, “This is the worst economy for any new generation of workers since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Millions of workers under the age of 30 were put out of work when the recession hit. Many more have joined their ranks. And instead of pulling together and focusing on creating jobs, too many politicians are spending their time dividing Americans.”
Rather than supporting the middle class, McEntee said “Wall Street and corporate interests” who back right-wing politicians “are trying to take advantage of the economic crisis” to attack public service workers. “That’s why they want to destroy our right to collective bargaining.”
This morning, conference attendees began their day with a tour of Atlanta’s civil rights landmarks, including the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site. Dr. King lost his life in 1968 while supporting striking sanitation workers in Memphis, Tenn., members of AFSCME Local 1733. The 1,300 workers recently were inducted into the U.S. Department of Labor’s “Labor Hall of Fame.”
Secretary-Treasurer Saunders will give his keynote address on Saturday. The conference ends Sunday.
Learn more about AFSCME’s Next Wavers here.