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AFSCME union elects first African-American president

  • Written by NNPA News Service
  • Published in News

(NNPA) Delegates to the 40th International Convention of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO (AFSCME), elected Lee A. Saunders to be president and Laura Reyes to be secretary-treasurer of the union representing 1.6 million public service workers.

Saunders becomes the first African-American elected AFSCME's president, while Reyes becomes the first woman secretary-treasurer.

"Both Laura and I are committed to our members and cherish this union," said AFSCME President-Elect Saunders. "We had a vigorous and energetic campaign, but now the union will pull together to win victories for working families and our members all across this great country."

Saunders said Wall Street and its allies are engaged in an all-out assault against AFSCME members and the services the union provides.

"They know that AFSCME stands in the way of their efforts to destroy the middle class. We are united in our commitment to stand up for the men and women who care for America's children, nurse the sick, plow our streets, collect the household trash and guard our prisons," said Saunders. "Our members are a cross-section of America, not some elite group as our opponents try to claim. We are energized and ready for the battles ahead."

Pres. Gerald W. McEntee, who retired after 31 years as AFSCME president, said the delegates' decision to elect Saunders and Reyes "strengthens our leadership and will enhance our ability to face the challenges that await us around the country."

Saunders will be the fourth president of AFSCME since the union's formation 75 years ago in Madison, Wis. Arnold Zander served as AFSCME's first president from 1936, when the union was first chartered by the American Federation of Labor (AFL), until 1964. The union's second president, Jerry Wurf, was elected at the 1964 AFSCME Convention. McEntee ascended to the union's presidency following Wurf's death in 1981.

AFSCME represents members in hundreds of different occupations — from nurses to corrections officers, child care providers to sanitation workers.

(Special to the NNPA from the Chicago Crusader)

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