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For Immediate Release

Friday, July 02, 2010

Lee Saunders Sworn-in as AFSCME Secretary-Treasurer

Boston — 

Lee Saunders was sworn-in today as International Secretary-Treasurer of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), AFL-CIO, during the closing session of the union's 39th Biennial Convention in Boston.

Saunders told the delegates that solidarity is all about “standing up for the dignity of all work and all working people.” He pledged to work for AFSCME members and workers across the country, saying “Throughout our history, this has been what we do. We come together in support of those whose names may never be known, but whose work safeguards neighborhoods and strengthens communities.”

“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,” added Saunders.

"Lee has worked side by side with me for many years," said AFSCME Pres. Gerald W. McEntee. "He has the experience, the judgment and the integrity to strengthen our union and keep us on the path to victory. He will be an outstanding Secretary-Treasurer."

Saunders accepted the office in honor of his mother, and his late father, who died a year ago this month, saying “My heart is full of gratitude as I remember the early lessons he taught me about the true meaning of solidarity.” Saunders grew up in a union household in Cleveland, Ohio. His father was a bus driver and a member of The Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU). After raising two sons, his mother went back to college and became a community college professor and a member of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP).

Prior to becoming Secretary-Treasurer, Saunders served as the Executive Assistant to President Gerald W. McEntee. As McEntee's top aide, Saunders oversaw the union's legislative, political, retiree and public affairs activities. He managed what is acknowledged to be the most effective political and legislative operation in the history of the American labor movement. Saunders thanked President McEntee for chairing his campaign and for his leadership, which he said has made AFSCME the “the boldest union in the American labor movement.”

He also praised Danny Donohue, his main competitor for the position, saying “You are my brother today, tomorrow and always. And I thank you for your grace and goodwill.”

Saunders immediately joined OCSEA when he started his first full-time job as a contract specialist at the Ohio Department of Employment Services. He subsequently joined the international staff in 1978, working in several AFSCME departments and as the administrator of a number of AFSCME councils and large local unions across the country, including District Council 37, New York City's largest public-employee union. After three and a half years, he helped to restore the fiscal health and good name of the council and its 56 affiliated locals.

During the campaign, Saunders declared his intention to fight, alongside AFSCME Pres. Gerald W. McEntee, for additional federal funding to protect and strengthen the jobs of AFSCME members. He made it clear that he would increase the focus on AFSCME’s battle against the privatization of vital public services, partnering with community allies and making sure privateers do not break the law or profit by skimping on pay or benefits.

Saunders said that he will promote the recruitment and training of young union leaders and help councils and locals mount a full-scale campaign to defend defined pension plans and protect the pension benefits AFSCME members fought for and won at the bargaining table. He plans to build on AFSCME’s commitment to diversity and developing stronger ties to constituency organizations that promote pride and tolerance among minority workers. Likewise he will continue the union’s fight to secure equal pay for women.

Lee and his wife Lynne live in Washington, DC and have two sons, Lee, Jr. and Ryan.

A detailed biography of Lee Saunders is available at: http://www.afscme.org/saunders

Video is available at: http://convention.afscme.org/blog/united

Photos are available at: http://convention.afscme.org/photos/