For almost four years, as attacks against organized labor reached a fever pitch nationwide, AFSCME members in Florida responded by launching an unprecedented organizing campaign unlike any the Sunshine State had seen before. Last week, members started writing a new chapter in their union’s proud history by ratifying a new constitution and electing officers during the two-day AFSCME Florida Council 79 convention.
The constitution puts AFSCME Florida on a new course in the fight for working people. Since 2015, thanks to the organizing push, the council has grown by more than 4,000 active and engaged members.
AFSCME International President Lee Saunders, who addressed delegates on the first day of the convention, highlighted how this growth is part of a national trend that has seen AFSCME membership rise even as corporations and those opposed to working peoples’ rights ramped up their efforts to harm public services unions in the wake of Janus v. AFSCME court case.
Just last month, AFSCME announced a gain of 9,097 dues-paying members and 18,638 dues-paying retirees nationwide since the Janus ruling was issued last summer.
This is all a clear indication that the labor movement is alive and well in Florida and across the nation and that the #AFSCMEStrong campaign, which prioritizes one-on-one conversations and member-to-member engagement, has succeeded in revitalizing and modernizing our union.
Top: New leaders of AFSCME Florida, led by President Vicki Hall (center; black top), being sworn in.
Above: AFSCME Florida members at convention.
“You’ve brought about a huge and important culture change,” Saunders said. “You are now a union that confronts employers and builds power and numbers every day by taking bold grassroots action.”
The energy that filled the room during Saunders’ speech continued throughout the convention as delegates discussed ways to keep AFSCME Florida moving in the right direction. During workshops, trainings and seminars, members identified new organizing opportunities, shared best practices and committed themselves to fulfill Saunders’ request that they return to their co-workers “ready to roll, ready to fight, ready to win.”
AFSCME members elected strong leaders who are ready to match their commitment and vision for the union. Vicki Hall, who has led AFSCME Local 1184 through tremendous growth and bargaining success with the Miami-Dade County Public Schools, was elected council president.