The electricity that 4,000 AFSCME Convention delegates and alternates will generate in the Windy City this week will light the way for 1.6 million AFSCME sisters and brothers nationwide who are counting on a “bold, brave and determined” direction for the future.
That’s the theme of our 41st International Convention: Bold, Brave, Determined. That’s what we must become as we stand up to some of the most difficult challenges workers – especially members of public service unions – have ever faced.
We’ve organized this week to focus on each of the four pillars of AFSCME’s Power to Win plan. For starters, today we’re highlighting one of the most important campaigns we’ve launched in recent years. This year, we’ve trained an army of Volunteer Member Organizers (VMOs) in an effort to grow our union by 50,000 new members by the start of this Convention.
This campaign, which we call 50,000 Stronger, launched in January with a meeting of AFSCME leaders. Today, in his keynote address, Pres. Lee Saunders will reveal just how well we did.
VMOs also will be front and center in today’s special program. Some of those activists who took up our 50,000 Stronger challenge will tell their compelling stories.
Tuesday’s special program focuses on building political and legislative power. Activists from several states will describe their fight-back campaigns against attacks from extremist rightwing, anti-worker politicians. Sec.-Treas. Laura Reyes will deliver Tuesday’s keynote address, and Wisconsin gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke and Florida gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist also will address the Convention.
Wednesday, we will highlight our efforts to grow our union through external organizing. We will highlight campaigns by Vermont home care providers, New Orleans taxicab drivers and most recently Chicago’s 13,000 licensed cab drivers to build power by organizing with AFSCME. We’ll take to the streets on Wednesday on behalf of those cab drivers. We’ll also hear that day from our friend U.S. Secretary of Labor Tom Perez and Ramogi Huma, founder and president of the National College Players Association.
We’ll talk about building power with allies on Thursday. Barb Kalbach, president of the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement Action Fund, and Paul Moist, national president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, will address the Convention. Delegates from the Southwest Region will elect an International Vice President, and we’ll participate in our first-ever AFSCME’s Got Talent karaoke competition.
President Saunders will wrap up our Convention on Friday with final thoughts and a challenge to turn the energy of this Convention into positive results in every state where AFSCME members live and work. We’ll also hear from Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK, an organization active on critical issues, who in 2012 helped organize the “Nuns on the Bus” tour that fought against devastating federal budget cuts.
Throughout the week, delegates will also consider key policy resolutions and Constitutional amendments, and renew friendships while making new ones. We’ll leave Chicago bold, brave and determined together.