AFSCME members urged to get into ‘good trouble’ to defend democracy, voting rights

By AFSCME Staff ·

Voting rights, racial equity and the legacy of the late civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis were discussed during the “Good Trouble” program Thursday at the 45th AFSCME International Convention.

The program takes its name from this famous 2018 quote by the longtime Georgia lawmaker who died two years later at age 80: “Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in some good trouble, necessary trouble.”

AFSCME President Lee Saunders described Lewis as one of America’s great humanitarians and praised his courage in “staring down brutality and advancing the cause of human dignity.”

In March 1965, the then-25-year-old Lewis led a group of activists in a march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, as they protested the disenfranchisement of African Americans in the South. The group was attacked with tear gas and nightsticks, and Lewis was beaten so badly that he nearly lost his life.

But just days after that march, President Lyndon Johnson embraced the cause. And less than six months later, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 became law. A comprehensive biography of Lewis is here.

Saunders noted the growing effort nationwide today to rig the political system and restrict ballot access.

“We’re here to inspire the next generation of John Lewises,” he said, urging AFSCME members to commit to defend our democracy during this year’s and every year’s elections.

“If we are complacent, then we’re just forfeiting our seat at the table and silencing our own voice,” Saunders said. “John Lewis risked too much and sacrificed too much for us to surrender now. To honor his memory, we must be disruptors and agitators for change like he was, just like he was. Let’s stand on his shoulders. Let’s summon his courage. Let’s make some good trouble.”

After a video tribute to Lewis was played, Convention delegates approved a resolution titled “Voting Rights: Making Good Trouble.” The resolution says AFSCME should continue to support the policies in H.R. 1, the For the People Act, to ensure that eligible Americans have the right to vote.