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2020 McEntee Scholarship Winner: WFSE’s John McClung

Previous Biden: ‘AFSCME workers are holding this country together right now’
By Pete Levine ·
Tags: Benefits
2020 McEntee Scholarship Winner: WFSE’s John McClung
John McClung, 2020 Gerald W. McEntee Scholarship winner

The 2020 Gerald W. McEntee Scholarship winner is John McClung, a University of Washington custodian and member of Local 1488, WFSE (Council 28). McClung will receive a $5,000 scholarship toward future graduate studies in UW’s master’s program in infrastructure, planning and management.

The Gerald W. McEntee Scholarship is awarded annually to an AFSCME member who best exemplifies former President McEntee’s commitment to strengthening our union through organizing, building political power for working families, defending workers’ rights, and supporting public services.

John McClung does all that – and more.

As a shop steward for his local, McClung fights on behalf of other Local 1488 custodians to make sure they understand their rights and, as he described in his winning scholarship essay, to “convince [them] that solidarity is in their best interest … that their job security, safety standards, benefits, pay and fair treatment is contingent on their collective power.”

As a front-line activist, McClung has embraced fighting on behalf of his fellow custodians, many of whom are of Asian, Latin American and African descent.

“I love working directly with our membership in understanding their needs, building trust and motivating action,” says McClung. “I feel a purpose every time I stick up for a co-worker as their shop steward. Whether it’s issues over their vacation time, misunderstanding with management or help understanding the contract, my sense of duty is fulfilled when I stand shoulder to shoulder with someone and fight for their respect.”

But being a local steward is only one piece of his activism.

McClung has also led new employee orientations, met with workers across our union, lobbied at the state capital, and participated in local Labor Council conventions to debate and pass robust and progressive resolutions.

McClung, a Filipino-American, recalls having spent many years working in low-wage jobs before returning to pursue his undergraduate degree.

“I've have had more jobs than years on earth. I came of age in Arizona, which is a right-to-work state, where I worked all manner of toiling, back-breaking work with no representation for under $6 an hour for years,” said McClung, who now calls Seattle home. “I've experienced first-hand the full oppressive power of an exploitative job with little to no power.”

Those experiences have energized McClung, spurning him to immerse himself fully in various union activities, since becoming a custodian at UW in 2015, where he earned his undergraduate degree.

“I'm on [our] bargaining team, local and state executive board, the Washington State Labor Council and Martin Luther King Labor Council Delegate,” says McClung. “I'm on the state strike committee, state grievance committee and the vice chair of the higher education committee.”

These past few months have been particularly stressful for the ever-busy McClung. During the COVID-19 pandemic, McClung says, “Front-line sanitation work for the state feels like I’ve been deployed to a battle field.”

Nevertheless, McClung has no plans to slow down, either on the job, or in fighting for his fellow union members.

To learn more about the Gerald McEntee and other AFSCME scholarships, please visit our scholarship page.

Additionally, Union Plus scholarships totaling $300,000 were awarded this year to 215 students representing 43 unions, including 26 AFSCME members and children of AFSCME members. To see the complete list of AFSCME winners, view the press release here.

The Union Plus Scholarship program, sponsored by the Union Plus Education Foundation, offers eligible applicants from AFSCME and other unions a way to defray the cost of higher education. These are one-time cash awards ranging from $500 to $4,000. Students can re-apply annually.

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