Saunders Wins AFSCME Presidential Election, But Big Questions Remain
Yesterday, Lee Saunders, secretary-treasurer of the American Federation of State, County and Muncipal Employees (AFSCME), defeated CSEA Local 1000 President Danny Donohue by more than 100,000 delegate votes (AFSCME does not vote in a direct election for its president but through delegates representing members) to become the union's fourth president in 75 years. Saunders will become the first African-American president of the 1.3 million-member AFSCME, whose famous 1968 Memphis sanitation workers' strike was being supported by Martin Luther King Jr. at the time of his assassination.
The election of the 60-year-old Saunders, who was backed by outgoing AFSCME’s President Gerald McEntee, will likely mean that many of the current top headquarters staff of AFSCME will stay in place and that AFSCME will maintain a similar course to that plotted under McEntee in recent years.
“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,” said AFSCE President-elect Lee Saunders in a statement. “We know that Wall Street and their allies are engaged in an all-out assault against our members and the services we provide. 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.”
Donohue pledged to continuing working with Saunders to improve the union.
“We concede this union election. But, we’re not conceding the need to fight for a better union,” said Donohue. “At this convention, Lee Saunders has echoed our goals. AFSCME members are counting on him to live up to those commitments. All of us, together, as one union, we’re going to rebuild, renew, unify and fight the enemies of public services and public workers.”