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AFSCME holds International Convention

By staff |
July 21, 2014
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AFSCME Convention delegates rally in support of cab drivers. (FightBack!News/Staff)

Chicago, IL - 4000 delegates from throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico gathered here, July 14 -18, for the International Convention of AFSCME, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees. Under the banner, "Bold, Brave, and Determined," delegates discussed the impact of recent attacks on public sector unions and strategies for strengthening the labor movement.

The convention was held just weeks after the Supreme Court ruled in the case, Harris v. Quinn, that home care workers are "quasi-public" employees and therefore non-members do not need to pay “fair share" fees for representation. At the convention, AFSCME announced that a six-month campaign to increase membership had resulted in more than 92,000 non-members signing membership cards to join the union. The organizing effort was part of a larger strategy in response to Harris v. Quinn that AFSCME developed in order to organize and mobilize members, expand new organizing efforts, build political power and strengthen alliances with community organizations.

Among the other efforts highlighted at the convention was the struggle of 22,000 University of California workers, members of Local 3299, who walked out on strike twice in the past 18 months before winning the best contracts they've ever had.

The convention delegates rallied mid-week in support of 12,000 Chicago cab drivers who are attempting to organize a union with AFSCME. The cab drivers have seen cuts in income averaging $7500 a year, due to reduced hours, high credit card fees, and other rule changes imposed by the city two years ago. Reverend William Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP and leader of the Moral Monday movement rallied the crowd of supporters from the podium as he told the crowd, "We must not allow those who drive us to be themselves driven into poverty."

The next day, Reverend Barber spoke to the entire convention and received multiple standing ovations as he spoke of the weekly rallies that the Moral Mondays movement, which he helps lead, has held on the steps of the North Carolina state capitol for the past year. He talked of the gains of reconstruction following the Civil War, the connection between civil rights and labor rights and the need to organize the South. He also reminded the crowd, "Nobody is going to come from the grave to save us. Martin Luther King is dead; Fannie Lou Hamer is dead. We have to organize and fight and save ourselves. We've got to have a movement, not just a moment."

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