For Immediate Release
Contact: Natalia Pérez Santos

‘Never Stronger’: AFSCME’s 2020 virtual convention to honor front-line public service heroes

Vice President Biden to give virtual address to thousands of delegates as they double down on a union growth agenda, commit to political activism in 2020 and honor the courage shown by AFSCME members in combatting the coronavirus pandemic.

On Aug. 13 and 14, thousands of delegates will participate in virtual proceedings during AFSCME’s 44th International Convention. During the convention, the delegates will conduct the business of the union, including elections for the offices of International President, International Secretary-Treasurer and International Vice Presidents. The theme of the Convention, “Front-Line Heroes: Never Stronger,” celebrates the remarkable arc of AFSCME’s growth, activism, political engagement and resilience through some of the most trying times in the history of the union and of the nation.

AFSCME delegates also will hear from presumptive Democratic nominee for president Joe Biden, whom the union endorsed in March. Biden will deliver an address as AFSCME’s delegates focus on working to deliver wins for pro-worker candidates up and down the ballot. In addition to Biden’s address, delegates will also hear from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and Stacey Abrams via recorded video.  

Resilience in the face of a pandemic

When the coronavirus pandemic hit, AFSCME’s 1.4 million members rushed into action to keep their communities safe, healthy and strong. Often risking their lives, AFSCME EMS workers, hospital workers, custodians, sanitation workers, child care providers, home care workers, corrections officers, behavioral health professionals and unemployment claims providers and others worked around the clock to beat back the virus. At this year’s convention, they will channel that same passion to win in 2020; to organize like never before; to fight for racial and economic justice; and to unrig the system so it benefits all working people. 

“AFSCME members never shy away from a fight, not at the Supreme Court, at the ballot box or on the front lines of our communities against a deadly virus,” said AFSCME President Lee Saunders. “The commitment of public service workers to their communities and their union in the face of unprecedented threats is the reason why our union has never been stronger. We will celebrate these everyday heroes because they deserve the gratitude of the nation, and we will double down to deliver a win for working people in 2020 and confront head-on the many challenges threatening the health and prosperity of the country.” 

Two years of growth, activism and legislative victories despite the odds

In the two years since AFSCME convened its 43rd International Convention in Boston, the union has experienced strong membership growth, despite the Supreme Court’s June 2018 decision in Janus v. AFSCME Council 31. AFSCME members have increased their level of political activism, delivering key legislative victories to working people during the 2018 elections and positioning unions at the forefront of the national political conversations during the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

After helping to turn the tide in favor of working people in the midterm elections, AFSCME spearheaded a legislative initiative in 2019 to win collective bargaining for 20,000 state workers in Nevada. A few months later in California, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a landmark bill granting 40,000 child care providers in California the freedom to collectively bargain. Last month, those providers voted overwhelmingly to form a union, the culmination of the largest union organizing campaign in the country. This April in Virginia, Gov. Ralph Northam signed a historic collective bargaining law giving tens of thousands public service workers the right to negotiate with their employers. This momentum comes as support for unions reaches a near 50-year high and nearly half of all Americans say they would join a union if given the choice.  

“Strong unions mean strong communities,” said AFSCME Secretary-Treasurer Elissa McBride. “For the past two years, we have focused on growth, innovation and mobilization to build power for working people. Now more than ever, we must exercise that power to pull our communities and our country through these trying times. We can and we will.”