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For Immediate Release

Friday, October 28, 2011

Celebrating 75 Years of Solidarity with America’s Working Families

Washington, DC — 

Beginning this month until October 2012, AFSCME will celebrate its 75th anniversary as a fighting union. Begun in 1936 by a group of civil servants in Madison, Wis., who sought to prevent political interference in the hiring of public employees, AFSCME has grown to 1.6 million members nationwide and is the largest union in the AFL-CIO.

“For 75 years, our members have worked to build a strong middle class and keep the American Dream alive for every working American,” notes AFSCME Pres. Gerald W. McEntee. “We have a proud history fighting for collective bargaining rights, for civil rights, for women’s rights and for the vital public services that Americans depend upon in good times and in bad.”

The union has developed a traveling exhibit “AFSCME: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow” that will be displayed at union meetings and conventions around the country throughout the coming year. An early version of the exhibit was first previewed at the AFSCME Women’s Conference in October. The completed exhibit will be displayed in the union’s Washington, DC, headquarters on Monday and Tuesday, Oct. 31 and Nov. 1. In the coming months, it will be displayed in Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and other states throughout the country.

“This exhibit will remind our members of the long struggle to secure the rights that so many take for granted today,” McEntee said. The exhibit includes panels featuring the union’s fight for collective bargaining rights in the mid-20th century, including the historic struggle of the Memphis sanitation workers, all members of AFSCME Local 1733, who struck in 1968 to gain recognition for the union. “Martin Luther King Jr. died while fighting for the rights of our members,” McEntee noted.

The exhibit also contains panels detailing the union’s successful campaigns to create pay equity for women, including the decade-long effort in Washington State to end discriminatory pay scales for women and the historic 1981 strike by Local 101 in San Jose, Calif., which led the city to raise salaries for positions typically held by women. More than 50 percent of AFSCME’s membership is comprised of women, and the union has a long history of leadership on issues of women’s rights and equality.

Other topics highlighted in the exhibit are AFSCME’s efforts to protect Social Security and the retirement security of American workers and the union’s long struggle to ensure the passage of health care reform legislation. The exhibit also depicts the union’s efforts to protect collective bargaining rights, which were attacked by Wall Street-backed politicians in states such as Wisconsin and Ohio earlier this year. The reaction in those states led to widespread public demonstrations throughout the country and the emergence of a Main Street Movement to create an economy that would benefit all Americans, rather than just the very wealthy.

AFSCME plans other activities and programs to commemorate the union’s 75th anniversary, including events at the union’s biannual convention which will be held in Los Angeles in June 2012. A special video and website will be available in the coming weeks.