by Michael Byrne | February 02, 2016
Recognizing the remarkable success AFSCME members have had in organizing and mobilizing workers in Indiana and Kentucky, AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders told the founding convention of Council 962 in Indianapolis that the new council is “a prime example of working people fighting for a better life.”
“This renewed focus on internal organizing is causing a culture shift within AFSCME,” President Saunders said. “Councils and locals, no matter how big or how small, are empowering themselves to make change, rather than wait for someone from ‘the union’ to do it for them. Our members – and our activists – are making change.”
Over the past year, the union signed up 729 new members, converted 456 agency fee payers to full-fledged members and signed up more than 1,000 new PEOPLE MVPs – those who donate at least $100 annually to the union’s political action fund. More than 3,700 members were assessed through direct conversations, and 10 coaches and 518 activists received AFSCME Strong training.
This success occurred despite the fact that Indiana is now a so-called “right-to-work” state, and members in Kentucky had to fight off the spread of right-to-work county ordinances throughout last year.
Debra Garcia, a 36-year veteran whose career began with AFSCME Indiana-Kentucky, was elected to be the executive director of the new council, and she vowed to continue the fight to grow the union, build political power in the two states, “and to create the future we deserve.”
“When we know our calling deep in our hearts, our work becomes easier,” she told the delegates. “Organizing becomes our number one goal. It is our job to bring others into the fight so that they too can channel their outrage and energy into change.”
AFSCME Council 962 also can claim credit for several impressive external organizing victories – the St. Joseph County, Indiana, 911 operations voting overwhelmingly to join the union, and the AFSCME Local 4468 members working at the Lexington-Fayette County, Kentucky, Solid Waste Management fighting for a first contract through three years of stonewalling and efforts by management to decertify the union.
“Members have every right to be proud of the work you have done, and feel ready for the battles ahead,” President Saunders said. “You will never quit!”
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