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Public Employee Press: PEP Talk

45th AFSCME International Convention

Together in Philly

PEP photos by Thea Setterbo
Local 374 President Leonard Paul (right) with local delegates on the AFSCME convention floor.

Energized by the theme All Together, more than 2,000 delegates met in Philadelphia, PA, for the 45th AFSCME International convention, July 11-15.

The biannual convention celebrated the life and legacy of Gerald “Jerry” William McEntee, former AFSCME president who died July 10. McEntee served AFSCME for 31 years from 1981 to 2012, and led the fight to protect the rights and freedoms of working people in America. A politically perceptive visionary and fearless organizer, McEntee spoke to the hearts of working people and the consciences of elected officials, including multiple U.S. presidents. He helped grow AFSCME’s membership to more than one million state, county, and municipal workers.

Leaders from DC 37 nonprofit locals rise to support resolutions that protect working families.
“We must not give up,” said AFSCME President Lee Saunders during the convention’s opening ceremony. “AFSCME will not rest until everyone who works in public service has collective bargaining. Because we deserve to be at the table and not on the menu!”

Saunders highlighted the sacrifices public service workers made throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, often at great personal risk, as they continue to provide vital services.

“We have no greater obligation, and there is no greater illustration of our strength, than to grow our union,” Saunders said. “Organizing is the lifeblood of our union.”

In a show of solidarity and union strength, DC 37 local members are all together at the 2022 AFSCME convention.
Keynote speaker Elissa McBride, AFSCME Secretary-Treasurer, said, “Our stories powerfully tell the union’s history of standing up for economic, racial, and social justice, and the difference belonging to our union makes in wages, working conditions, and quality of life for workers and our families.”

Leaders in action (from left) are DC 37’s Associate Director Rose Lovaglio-Miller, President Shaun D. Francois I, Associate Director Jahmila Edwards, Secretary John Hyslop, and Executive Director Henry Garrido.
The convention featured inspiring videos, including one showing the late U.S. Congress member John Lewis who urged people to “make good trouble” by speaking out and marching for social justice and progress. More than 40 resolutions and amendments were proposed to strengthen public workers’ rights and benefits.

“Our story speaks to what we do every day to make a difference,” McBride said. “Our stories keep us connected, help share our vision, inspire activism, and bring our values to life. Our stories strengthen and grow our union.”

The convention spotlighted the historic rise in organizing and collective bargaining victories across the country from California to Philadelphia. Employees at childcare centers and coffee shops, museums, warehouses, and newsrooms are uniting for a voice at work and for collective economic gains that lift workers and families. Thousands of AFSCME delegates gathered at a July 13 rally for Philadelphia Museum of Art Union Local 397, whose members are fighting to win their first contract. AFSCME contributed $25,000 to the union’s strike fund.

Political Action Committee Chair Donald Nesbit (l.) with Local 372 President Francois (rear) and convention delegates.
Convention guest speakers included powerhouses Stacey Abrams, Georgia’s gubernatorial candidate and voting rights activist; Liz Shuler, AFL-CIO’s first female president; and U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh, who Saunders said represents the “most pro-worker, pro-union White House of our lifetimes.”

Local 389 President Margaret Glover leads the pledge of allegiance as AFSCME President Lee Saunders looks on.
“AFSCME members are the backbone of their communities,” Walsh said. “Your members work every day to lift others up. And more than that, you stand up for what’s right.”

The PEOPLE fund and the AFSCME Green Machine helped flip Georgia from red to blue, carrying the Biden-Harris ticket and achieving historic wins in two special Senate elections. To strengthen economic recovery, AFSCME helped pushed through the American Rescue Plan and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

Saunders said, “Above all, our strength comes from our unity and solidarity, the confidence of knowing I have your back and you have mine. That you’re never alone in the fight. That we’re always all together.”

The convention energized DC 37 delegates to recommit to growing union membership and winning the Nov. 8 general election.
Motivated to fight harder than ever, Saunders asked delegates to “kick the Mean Green Machine into overdrive and recommit to building, growing, and strengthening our union.”