The 44th International Convention will be unlike any in AFSCME’s history. The coronavirus pandemic makes it unsafe and impossible for us to convene in person in Los Angeles as planned. So, we will have a virtual convention, allowing us to come together online, on August 13 and 14, to write our union’s next chapter, to build on the successes of the last few years and march boldly into the future.
The last few months have been some of the most challenging ever for our nation. We have never seen a public health and economic crisis like this one. But this is when AFSCME is at its best. As they have done so many times before during moments of confusion and distress, AFSCME members are standing courageously on the front lines, risking our health and safety to protect our neighbors. Once again, when our communities need us most, we are proudly answering the call.
Public services have never been more important, but they remain chronically and recklessly underfunded. For more than a decade, state and local government budgets have been squeezed to their breaking point. Since the Great Recession, we’ve been told to somehow do more with less, to make do with reduced staff levels, sub-par equipment and obsolete technology. That was difficult enough before the onset of COVID-19; now, it’s next to impossible. At our virtual convention, we will celebrate AFSCME members’ heroic work during this national emergency, and we will also continue the fight to secure the tools and resources we need to do our jobs.
To effectively serve our communities in their hour of greatest need, we need to have a strong voice on the job. We need the ability to negotiate with the boss over wages and working conditions, to build power and stand together in a strong union. Our adversaries have spent years trying to undermine those rights and freedoms. Their orchestrated campaign to scapegoat and destroy us culminated with the Supreme Court’s decision in Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, just before our last convention.
At the time, most pundits and analysts left us for dead. But as usual, they got it wrong. Shaking off adversity is what we do. They underestimated our loyalty to each other and our commitment to strengthening our communities. They didn’t understand that our AFSCME Strong campaign had prepared us for growth and success.
Over the last two years, we have gone aggressively on offense. We have been winning at the negotiating table, in the organizing trenches, in state legislatures and at the ballot box. Pro-worker activism and the values of unionism are on the rise nationwide. And we are working day and night to contain the coronavirus outbreak, continuing to serve and sacrifice even in the face of grueling hardship.
We aren’t just AFSCME Strong. We are Front Line Heroes: Never Stronger.
A virtual convention will be a new experience. But needless to say, we’ve adapted to much more difficult things than this. We will not let a few logistical obstacles interfere with our pressing business. We may be physically apart, but we have never been more connected and united in common purpose. A lot has changed in the world, but one thing hasn’t: our collective commitment to our union. We look forward to “seeing” you in August.
Lee Saunders, International President
Elissa McBride, International Secretary-Treasurer