Saunders is great choice for International President

by Chris Dugovich, Council 2 President and Executive Director on September 25, 2012

This year’s AFSCME International Convention held in Los Angeles marked a new era for this union. Lee Saunders, who has served in a host of positions on AFSCME staff and with various councils, was elected to be only the fourth individual to serve as International President. 

I first got to know Lee during a long afternoon in the late eighties, meeting and talking to prospective members in an organizing campaign in Indiana. That day we traveled to a number of road maintenance shops around Indianapolis.

Organizing new members is never easy and unsurprisingly some individuals can just be downright rude. We weren’t exactly welcomed with open arms, but Lee was not about to give up and at least say hello to every eligible voter we ran across.

I’m sure we made at least a small difference that day and you can rest assured that he has done all the less-than-glamorous tasks this union has to offer. He also didn’t hesitate to keep at it that day.

It’s the same type of unending energy and enthusiasm for the job he will bring as International President.

He was sent in to New York City’s District Council 37 during some dark days for the union in the late nineties. The 120,000-plus City Union had been run by some individuals who, along with having some money issues, also ran a shady contract ratification process.

President McEntee and AFSCME took over the union and Lee was sent in to right the ship.

 It took a number of years but right it he did! Mayor Giuliani in those days started to get tough on public employees and Lee Saunders was up to the effort of defending and advancing the public employees working life in New York.

I’ve heard some of the stories, but it was also a story of tragedy when 9/11 hit. District Council 37 represented a countless number of first responders. Their headquarters in lower Manhattan near the Trade Center also encountered severe damage. 

I’m sure he would call his experience in New York more than challenging. What he left was a much more democratic and well run city union. His hard work made the difference.

His breadth of experience is really what will make him the next excellent afscme President. From a young man not far out of college working in afscme research department to organizing new members in field services to becoming President McEntee’s right hand person, he’s seen and encountered many aspects of this Labor Union’s efforts.

We are all the beneficiaries and I wish him congratulations in this new position.