The Good Fight
Looking back with pride on all we’ve done to improve the lives of working Americans.
Pres. Gerald W. McEntee (Photo by Dave Siccardi)
Sitting down to pen my last column for AFSCME WORKS, I am reminded of my father. A trash collector and union leader, he taught me that nothing mattered more than solidarity. He showed me that a good cause was always worth a good fight.
In the 1960s, I saw a good cause: 75,000 public service workers in Pennsylvania without a union. I led those workers in a good fight. We won the right to bargain collectively. We won fairness for workers.
Bigger Fights, Bigger Wins
But then as now, I knew that AFSCME always builds towards bigger fights, bigger wins.
The 1994 midterm elections were an all-out bloodbath. Republicans took control of the House and Senate, determined to gut Medicaid and Medicare. We fought the good fight. We stopped the privatization of health care services that seniors and low-income families rely on. And then we shook up the AFL-CIO, which desperately needed a sea change.
In 2005, Pres. George W. Bush announced his devastating plan to privatize Social Security. Again, we fought the good fight. We saved Social Security. Out of that fight, with an eye towards building a stronger organization, our Power To Win plan was born.
Though Power To Win gave us several years of powerful victories, we took a hit in the 2010 midterms. The right took back the House, 11 governorships and came after us. Like before, we made a plan — this time with our groundbreaking Battleground State Partnerships — and fought to victories in Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida and elsewhere.
Tribute to the People
These defining moments in AFSCME’s 75-year history are a tribute to the people who made them happen: people like you. You have revitalized this movement, this country. You have reaffirmed the meaning of my father’s lesson on solidarity, and it has been a privilege to stand with you all these years.
On the eve of my retirement as president of our great union, I can look back with pride on all we’ve done to improve the lives of working Americans.
Our work is far from finished. Our accomplishments, our achievements are at risk. Corporate-backed politicians are trying to steal what we have fought for.
Even as we face our fiercest foes, I am not worried. You have proven that even in the face of the worst, you always give your best. Just as I knew AFSCME was meant for bigger, for better, back in the 1960s, I know that we are gearing up for the biggest wins we’ve seen in 2012 and beyond. Pulling together as one, I have no doubt that we will prevail.
Thank you, sisters and brothers, for your support, your commitment, your fight during the 56 years I have been a member of AFSCME and the 31 years I have had the honor of serving as president. You are just getting started. While leaders come and go, because of people like you, our union stays and stays and stays.