District Council 57

AFSCME Puts Words Into Action at Las Vegas Convention

Council 57 delegates joined with thousands of AFSCME members at the Las Vegas Convention Center last week to send a strong message to the rest of the country: We never quit.

The 42nd International Convention provided much inspiration as delegates heard rousing speeches from AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders, Secretary-Treasurer Laura Reyes, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and North Carolina NAACP Pres. the Rev. Dr. William Barber II. Throughout the week, delegates learned organizing tools from a full menu of workshops held to empower Locals. The delegates also passed a number of significant resolutions that will shape the future direction of our Union and allow our members to make a stronger impact on the communities in which we serve.

Saunders, Reyes fire up the delegates 

Saunders fired up the crowd to start off the convention by reminding delegates of the progress made over the last four years, including our AFSCME Strong campaign that, to date, has seen nearly 340,000 fee payers and non-members sign up with our Union.

Saunders also committed to do more to tell the stories of public service workers. "We're going to make sure America hears your stories…feels your grit and determination," he told delegates. 

"Sisters and brothers, the clouds have lifted," Saunders continued. "The future is ours for the taking! And our plan is simple: Never quit!" 

Saunders also unveiled a surprise during the convention. AFSCME members will now be able to earn an online associate degree from Eastern Gateway Community College at no cost. The program is modeled after a partnership between AFSCME Ohio affiliates OAPSE, OCSEA Council 8 and Eastern Gateway Community College.

In her keynote address, Secretary-Treasurer Reyes said our Union is well-equipped to keep growing in numbers and influence because, just like the founding members understood more than 80 years ago, building power takes a team effort. She told cheering delegates that it takes a team to make sure every worker earns fair pay, sick leave and overtime; we can afford retirement; and every parent can afford to feed their children.

"The sisters and brothers in this room are that team!" she said. "If we rise above the challenges, we will keep winning!"

Clinton makes a commitment to working families

Secretary Clinton made a spirited case for public service workers to support her candidacy for President of the United States, contrasting her decades-long support for working families with Donald Trump's callous attempts to defraud them. 

"AFSCME, you have my back, and as President I'll have yours," Clinton said. "When I'm President, working people will always have a seat at the table and a champion in the White House." 

AFSCME Council 57 delegates will vote on the endorsement for Clinton at the Delegate Assembly on July 30. 

“Many Council 57 members felt deeply that Bernie Sanders presented the most progressive choice for the presidency,” said Council 57 President Cynthia McCabe. “That passion and commitment resulted in moving the Democratic Party platform to a more progressive one, for which all working families can stand behind and be proud. It allows us to unite around candidates with our values and not the anti-worker, anti-woman, anti-immigrant values for which Donald Trump prides himself.”

‘We need a moral revival’ 

Reverend Barber got delegates out of their seats when he challenged public workers and their labor unions to be part of the moral revival of our nation. He also said the country needs to have a real conversation about race, class and violence, referring to the Black Lives Matter movement and the recent outbreaks of gun violence. He also recognized that AFSCME represents thousands of public safety workers and challenged us to bridge what are often broken connections. 

If our moral crisis is like a heart problem, he said, we need to "call code," that is, revive the moral heart of our nation. And AFSCME can play a role in that. 

AFSCME delegates made sure those words were backed up with action by passing a racial justice and public safety resolution that affirms our commitment to fighting and winning racial and economic justice while honoring the work of public safety officers who serve and protect the public without regard to race, color and creed. 

Delegates also passed another resolution that everyone had been waiting all week to hear about. That resolution called on AFSCME to voluntarily partner more closely with SEIU and find ways to jointly build power for working people, including closer coordination of organizing, political and communications efforts. 

Council 57 members engaged throughout the week 

Our Council 57 brothers and sisters were deeply engaged in the week’s activities. Local 444 submitted a resolution on the risks of climate change, which passed on Thursday. Likewise, Chapter 57 Retirees worked with a retirees chapter in New York State to craft and successfully champion a resolution on the unfair GPO and WEP provisions of the Social Security Act. 

The deep engagement also showed with first-time convention goers like Local 1684 member Shannon Kenney. She said Saunders’ speech got her re-energized, and seeing all the delegates come together to take care of the business of the Union made her realize that every person can make a difference in AFSCME. 

“Being here at the convention lets me know that I make a difference in the Union and that I can touch other people,” Kenney said as she reflected on the week. 

Local 829 member Julian Venci said he was impressed by the quality of the convention. The production, speeches and voting reminded him of a political convention, and witnessing those activities in person gave him a deeper understanding of how our Union really works. 

“As a government employee, we don’t always know what our Union is doing,” Venci said. “So seeing the work that they do for us—the work that most people don’t get to see—was just really amazing.” 

Our delegates also got to take part in a special organizing workshop called “AFSCME in Action,” which teaches members how to strategically develop direct actions, build power and develop leaders. During the workshop, members gathered at roundtables and discussed the different parts of putting together an action, from identifying spokespeople and developing the overall message to making signs and chants. 

At the end of the workshop, members staged a mock action to demonstrate what it would look in real life, even modeling a possible confrontation with management. More resources about the AFSCME in Action workshop, including how Locals can develop their own organizing trainings, will be available soon on afscme.org. 

Local 10 member Phil Tinney said he really enjoyed the workshop because it showed “our heart and our energy.” 

Trump rally, elections 

The convention ended on a high note with a rally at the Trump hotel and the election of our Union’s new officers. 

Despite the 104-degree weather, hundreds of AFSCME members flooded the Las Vegas Strip to stand in solidarity with the Culinary Workers demanding a fair contract at the Trump International Hotel. Though several members experienced discomfort from the excessive heat, AFSCME delegates demonstrated that we won’t stop fighting for all workers’ rights.  

The rally was such a success that the next day, the Trump hotel agreed to settle a case and pay two workers $11,200 in lost wages to avoid going to trial following a complaint issued by the National Labor Relations Board. 

Saunders and Reyes were both re-elected. International Vice President Kathryn Lybarger, who is also the president of AFSCME Local 3299 and president of the California Labor Federation, was also re-elected. AFSCME Local 1902 Executive President Alan Shanahan, whom we supported as a council, was the top vote-getter for the other California position for International Vice President.

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