McEntee's legacy is unmatchedby Chris Dugovich, Council 2 President and Executive Officer on June 12, 2012
During this year’s AFSCME International Convention the torch will be passed and a new era of leadership will begin for this union. Gerald McEntee, who has served this union for close to 50 years and been International President since 1981, is stepping down. His accomplishments for this union are long and without precedent.
Gerald McEntee was President when I was hired in 1982 and over the years I was able to get to know him and learn a great deal from him about labor unions.
The first thing was he is an extremely hard working individual whose days are long. His insight and knowledge of unions, politics and maybe most of all organizing new members, was unmatched. Council 2 has tripled in size since 1982 and that growth is largely due to the assistance that he personally made sure we received.
In his early days, he was responsible for leading the organizing campaign that ultimately led to afscme gaining upward of 100,000 members in Pennsylvania. His focus on bringing the benefit of belonging to a union to the public sector more than doubled the size of afscme nationwide.
Politically he had a real sense of what was possible and who best could help the public employee lead a better work life. In the fall of 1991 I remember attending a conference in which he was promoting a little-known governor from Arkansas. That governor was an unknown commodity in a presidential race that was largely viewed as an automatic win for the first George Bush.
He recommended Bill Clinton and afscme endorsed early. What most viewed as a real long shot McEntee saw clearly what took the rest of us a while to realize. Clinton could become an American president who puts the country on the right track and who respects public employment. McEntee was right and his insight proved invaluable to this union’s membership through the nineties and beyond..
During my eight years on the International Executive Board I enjoyed watching him chair the meetings and appreciated his insight into all types of union issues. His sense of humor would come out and he used it to keep things light when needed.
Probably my best memory was spending the better part of a day driving him from Las Vegas to Laughlin, Nevada for the Arizona state afscme Convention. It was August on a blazing hot 118-degree day in the desert and for better than three hours each way he told great stories about working for the union.
The purpose of that hot drive was that he wanted to know all about what Initiative 747 was — the 1 percent property tax limitation that was appearing on the ballot in November of 2001. McEntee made sure we had the resources to fight one of Eyman’s efforts. He did this even though the odds were against us and there were countless other priorities across the country. It was automatically his fight and he cared about the negative effects it would have on our membership. There were countless issues over the years where his reaction and response were the same.
Without question, he has loved his time working for AFSCME and his enthusiasm and energy is unsurpassed. He has pulled and pushed more people of influence and people without influence into respecting all the professions that make up public employment.
He deserves our applause and thanks and if you happen to be attending the Los Angeles International Convention and have the opportunity to say hello, make sure you thank him!