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HONORING GERALD W. MCENTEE

WHEREAS:
In 1956 Gerald W. McEntee became an AFSCME member, following in the footsteps of his father, William J. McEntee. Later, as a staffer at AFSCME District Council 33, representing municipal workers in Philadelphia, he dreamed of organizing all of Pennsylvania’s public employees. As leader of the Pennsylvania Organizing Committee he saw those dreams become a reality when Act 195 was signed into law in July 1970 and 76,000 commonwealth employees voted for AFSCME; and

WHEREAS:
His work had only just begun. On August 30, 1973, McEntee, now Executive Director of Council 13, signed a three-year agreement with the state. For the first time, members had fully-paid health insurance coverage and a prescription drug program. However, a wage reopener during the oil crisis in 1975 led to a standoff. The state would not budge and McEntee led state employees on the largest public employee strike in United States history. A settlement was reached by the third day of the strike; and

WHEREAS:
On December 17, 1981, McEntee was elected President of the International Union to fill the unexpired term of Jerry Wurf, who died following a lengthy illness. He moved to Washington, D.C., leaving behind an exemplary record of improving the working conditions and welfare of members in Pennsylvania; and

WHEREAS:
At the 1984 convention in San Francisco, McEntee was elected to his first full term as International President. He told delegates that AFSCME must meet new challenges and continue to adapt. He said, “We have to continue to take risks, knowing that we will sometimes stumble as we have before, but knowing just as clearly that if we do nothing to shape our future, we will be overwhelmed.” These words guided him for the next 28 years; and  

WHEREAS:
President McEntee has fought discrimination wherever it exists. In the 1980s, the issue was sex-based wage discrimination. Under President McEntee’s leadership, AFSCME made pay equity a major bargaining issue. AFSCME negotiators bargained major comparable worth settlements in seven states and many cities. In 1986 we won a pay equity victory in the courts in Washington, capping a battle AFSCME began in 1973; and

WHEREAS:
President McEntee recognized the importance of union political action on the local, state and national level. Under his leadership, AFSCME has become the most politically active and politically effective union in the labor movement. From PEOPLE to the Grassroots Lobbying Network, from AFSCME Retirees to Project 500 for state legislatures, President McEntee led the way with innovative programs that produced results. In his position as chair of the Political Education Committee of the AFL-CIO Executive Council, he convinced the labor movement that political action was essential. In 2011 he enlisted AFSCME affiliates around the country in Battleground State Partnerships to fight the vicious attacks on our members and on public services. Together we spearheaded the Main Street movement, first in Wisconsin and Ohio, and soon nation-wide, joining labor and allied groups in the fight for working families; and

WHEREAS:
President McEntee also recognized AFSCME’s crucial role in fighting for progressive legislation, funding for crucial programs and aid to state and local governments in the U.S. Congress. Under his leadership, AFSCME helped win the passage of many significant laws, including the Family and Medical Leave Act, amendments to the Fair Labor Standards Act covering public employees, increases in the minimum wage, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Civil Rights Act of 1991, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and, in 2011, the Affordable Care Act; and

WHEREAS:
McEntee led the fight against privatization and contracting out to protect vital public services. From corrupt local garbage contracts to information technology boondoggles to prisons for profit, he has kept the false promises of privatization front and center. Under his leadership, the misguided efforts of George W. Bush to privatize Social Security were halted; and 

WHEREAS:
President McEntee had the vision to make AFSCME the largest union in the AFL-CIO. Under his leadership, AFSCME has grown from 960,000 members to more than 1.6 million members. He put in place the strongest organizing program in the labor movement. He continued to fight for state and local collective bargaining legislation to allow public service employees to organize. Recognizing the importance of affiliations, under his leadership over 100 independent groups affiliated with AFSCME; and

WHEREAS:
He has been has been an AFSCME member for 56 years and our International President for the past 31 years. He has made AFSCME a leading force in American life. President Bill Clinton said that “he has the heart of a lion,” and President Barack Obama noted that he has “built AFSCME into such an important force for change.” He is ending his career as International President at AFSCME’s historic 2012 convention.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED:
AFSCME salutes the vision, leadership and commitment that Gerald W. McEntee provided every day during his decades of work. We are proud of his record of service to our union, our families and our nation. We stand ready to carry on with the dynamism and determination he displayed for more than three decades as our leader. We will always remember him. We will always seek to match his rare combination of joy, tenacity and wisdom. We will invite him as an honored guest to all future AFSCME International conventions; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED:
That President McEntee’s legacy will be continued in future generations through the creation of the Gerald W. McEntee scholarship fund; and

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED:
The International Headquarters in Washington, D.C., will be named the Gerald W. McEntee Building and appropriate steps will be taken to commemorate his long record of service and leadership.

SUBMITTED BY:
Todd Singer, President
Jane Beveridge, Secretary
AFSCME Council 13
Pennsylvania

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