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AFSCME Remembers Wanda Riley

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By Justine Winnie, AFSCME Council 28 Your Union Good and Welfare Labor Movement Activism Retirees Health Care
Wanda Riley (Photos courtesy AFSCME Council 28)
Wanda Riley (Photos courtesy AFSCME Council 28)

OLYMPIA, Wash. — AFSCME Council 28/WFSE and Retired Public Employees Council members are coming together to remember longtime activist and community pillar Wanda Riley.

Riley was a leader in WFSE for 30 years, serving on the WFSE and RPEC boards for many years. She passed away on March 9 surrounded by loved ones in Olympia.

“Wanda was a dedicated and fiery champion of working people. We will miss her dearly,” said WFSE President Sue Henricksen.

Riley was famed for her 1991 cross-country Thelma and Louise-style road trip, taken with fellow retiree Rosalie Gittings, in an aging ambulance to shout out the need for single payer health care.

Departing from Tacoma and joining a caravan of 15 other ambulances, Riley and Gittings navigated rallies, mechanical failure and meetings with politicians before arriving in Washington, D.C. On their journey, they met with many Americans whose lives had been terribly affected by the lack of access to care, stories that broke Riley’s heart.

AFSCME Remembers Wanda Riley

Upon finally arriving in Washington, D.C., Riley was asked what she’d like to share with then-President George H. W. Bush. She replied with characteristic moxie, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.” She and other activists delivered over 2 million health care ballots calling for national health care reform.

Riley’s advocacy and service are a legacy that will continue to inspire others. A celebration of her life will be held March 31 from 1-4 p.m. Pacific Time at the Olympia Yacht Club, 201 Simmons St., N.W., Olympia, Washington.

To learn more about her many contributions to her family, community and union, see Riley’s obituary here.