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Our Voices

July 21, 2016

Our Voices (from left to right): Sharonda Johnson (MI Local 3437), Deb Hussey (OR Local 189), Quentin Hutchins (GA Local 1644)

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.

AFSCME Delegates Resolve to Work More Closely with SEIU

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.

Hillary Clinton’s Promise to AFSCME

July 20, 2016

Hillary Clinton’s Promise to AFSCME Hillary Clinton addresses delegates at AFSCME's 42nd International Convention (Photo by Tessa Berg)

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."

AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders Wins Reelection by Acclamation

July 20, 2016

AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders Wins Reelection by Acclamation President Lee Saunders addresses delegates at the 42nd International Convention in Las Vegas, NV. (Photo by Tessa Berg)

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.

Secretary-Treasurer Reyes: “It Takes a Team!”

July 20, 2016

Secretary-Treasurer Reyes:  “It Takes a Team!” Secretary-Treasurer Reyes delivers her keynote address at the 42nd International Convention. (Photo by Tessa Berg)

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!"

Hillary Will Protect Health Care — That’s Why I Give to PEOPLE

July 20, 2016

Hillary Will Protect Health Care — That’s Why I Give to PEOPLE Suzanne Delaney (CA, UNAC/UHCP)

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."

President Saunders Fires Up Convention with Message of "Never Quit"

July 19, 2016

President Saunders Fires Up Convention with Message of President Saunders, addresses the crowd during the AFSCME International Convention on Monday, July 18. (Photo by Luis Gomez)

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."

Free College: An Exclusive New Benefit for AFSCME Members

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.

Learn more about the program here »

Elections: What You Need to Know

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.

AFSCME: We Never Quit

by Clyde Weiss  |  July 18, 2016

AFSCME: We Never Quit Members in front of the "Never Quit" sign during the 2016 AFSCME Vegas Convention Sunday, July 17. (Photo by Tessa Berg)

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!

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