Delegates to AFSCME’s 75th anniversary convention elected Lee Saunders as president and Laura Reyes as secretary-treasurer late yesterday. Saunders replaces Gerald McEntee, who retired after leading the nation’s largest public employee union for 31 years. (Read more about AFSCME’s convention at its blog here.) Through McEntee, AFSCME fought to reform the nation’s health care system and successfully prevented Social Security privatization under George W. Bush. McEntee is a co-founder and chairman of the board of the Economic Policy Institute, the pre-eminent voice for working Americans on the economy. For his efforts to improve the lives of working families, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights presented McEntee with its prestigious Hubert H. Humphrey Award in 2004.
Saunders defeated Danny Donohue, AFSCME’s New York leader, with 54 percent of the vote; and Reyes defeated Alice Goff, president of AFSCME District Council 36 in Los Angeles. Reyes becomes the union’s first female secretary-treasurer.
We know that Wall Street and their allies are engaged in an all-out assault against our members and the services we provide. 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. 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.
Saunders, who becomes AFSCME’s first African American president, served as AFSCME secretary-treasurer and as McEntee’s executive assistant, overseeing the union’s powerful political and legislative mobilization. He grew up in a union household in Cleveland and joined the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association (OCSEA)/AFSCME Local 11 when he began working for the Ohio Bureau of Employment Services in 1975. His father was a bus driver and a member of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) and his mother a member of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). He began his career with AFSCME in 1978 as a labor economist and has worked in the union’s collective bargaining, community action, organizing and field services departments.
Reyes, an AFSCME international vice president, is a mother of three children and provider for her oldest son, Damian, who has cerebral palsy. She joined UDW Homecare Providers Union/AFSCME Local 3930 in 2002. She was elected as a delegate to the AFSCME convention and became part of the committee that modernized and wrote the present UDW constitution.