United We Move Forward

by AFSCME Secretary-Treasurer Lee A. Saunders  |  July 12, 2010

A message from AFSCME's new International Secretary-Treasurer Lee A. Saunders.

(Lea este mensaje en español del nuevo Secretario-Tesorero Internacional de AFSCME, Lee A. Saunders.)

Dear Sisters and Brothers:

Just over a week ago at the AFSCME Convention in Boston, I was humbled to be elected Secretary-Treasurer of our great union. I am enormously grateful for the support I received from President McEntee and so many brothers and sisters who played a part in my campaign.

I am writing today to assure you that I will do my very best every day to represent your interests, to stand up for our union and to fight for the public services that the members of AFSCME provide.

As the first contested election for a top officer's spot in decades, the campaign for Secretary-Treasurer was spirited and energetic. But we all must understand that no matter where we started out, we've got to end up together — especially now, when so much is at stake for working families from one end of this country to the other.

Danny Donohue and I stood for election because we are both deeply committed to AFSCME members and deeply devoted to this union. I have known Danny for many years and worked closely with him in New York. As I told the delegates to the Convention, I will always appreciate his graceful call for unity as our campaigns came to an end.

In 2010, as we confront unprecedented state and local budget crises and attacks on public services, we must never forget the words from our constitution: "We are equally dedicated to exert ourselves, individually and collectively, to fulfill the promise of American life."

Fulfilling the promise of American life requires us to move forward as one, finding the strength, the determination and the resilience to lift up all working families. United, we must:

  • confront and overcome the forces that have declared war on our jobs and our pensions and benefits;
  • beat back privatization, because it not only robs us of jobs — it weakens vital public services;
  • learn from the experience of our remarkable retirees and prepare new leaders to carry on the fight;
  • continue our commitment to diversity — because diversity is at our core and gives us strength; and
  • elect public officials who respect the services we provide and will stand with working families, come hell or high water.

My first lessons in union activism and solidarity came from my parents. My late father, who died a year ago this month, spent many years as a bus driver in Cleveland and was a dedicated member of the Amalgamated Transit Union. I still remember the early lessons he taught me about the true meaning of solidarity. My mother was a community activist who went back to college after raising me and my brother, and ultimately became a community college professor and member of the American Association of University Professors. It's because of them that the first thing I did when I started working for the State of Ohio was to join the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association (OCSEA), an affiliate of AFSCME.

As a kid I would sometimes ride with my dad when he made his final bus run of the day. I'll never forget the pride he took in his job. He treated every person who boarded that bus with respect — the same respect he commanded as a driver. That's what our union is about: standing up for the dignity of all work and all working people.

As I begin my new responsibilities, I hope I can count on your help and your advice during the battles ahead. Working together, we can accomplish great things for our union, our members and the vital public services that make America happen.

In solidarity,

Lee A. Saunders International Secretary-Treasurer

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