By Lee Saunders

This Labor Day, working people — especially those who dedicate their careers to public service — deserve recognition, respect and gratitude. This once-in-a-lifetime public health emergency has demanded more of us than ever, and we have delivered, often under life-or-death conditions.

In challenging moments like this, the power of a union means everything. Our strength in numbers was a difference-maker in the successful fight to pass the American Rescue Plan earlier this year. …

By Lee Saunders

This Father’s Day is a special one, as our country emerges from the worst of the pandemic, allowing many extended families to come together once again in person.

Emmett Saunders Jr., the late father of AFSCME President Lee Saunders, is flanked by President Saunders’ two sons: Ryan (left) and Lee Jr. (right). (1991 photo)

A lot of thought goes into what to get dad for Father’s Day. But nothing I ever gave my father, Emmett Saunders Jr., can compare to the gift he gave my brother and me every single day. His union job, as a bus driver for the city of Cleveland, didn’t just allow him to provide for our family. …

By Lee Saunders and Miren Algorri

We have some monumental “firsts” to celebrate this Women’s History Month. Sarah McBride, a new state senator from Delaware, is the highest-ranking openly transgender elected official in American history. Kim Ng of the Miami Marlins broke a glass ceiling in becoming Major League Baseball’s first woman general manager. And, of course, Kamala Harris is the first woman to serve as vice president of the United States.

But another “first” from the past year is nothing to celebrate: the first female recession.

AFSCME President Lee Saunders and San Diego child care provider Miren Algorri, a member of UDW/AFSCME Local 3930.

The pandemic has triggered a so-called “she-cession” that has wreaked havoc in women’s…

By Lee Saunders and Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II

You cannot add jobs by subtracting jobs.

AFSCME President Lee Saunders and Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II address delegates to AFSCME’s 42nd International Convention in Las Vegas on July 20, 2016. (Photo by Tessa Berg)

That is the simple truth behind desperately needed aid for states, cities, towns and schools. Over the last year, some 1.3 million public service jobs, many of them held by African Americans — including nurses, teachers, EMTs and sanitation workers — have evaporated because of holes the pandemic blew open in state and local budgets.

One of the most effective ways for Congress to crush this virus and get our economy moving again is to help states, cities, schools and towns bring these…

By Lee Saunders

As I watched the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, I couldn’t help but recall Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s abiding faith in nonviolent dissent and resistance — not just as the only morally right thing to do, but the most successful tactic to achieve deep and lasting change.

AFSCME President Lee Saunders
AFSCME President Lee Saunders delivers an address at Mason Temple in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 3, 2018, the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Mountaintop” speech. (Photo by Michael Starghill, Jr.)

Violence “solves no social problem; it merely creates new and more complicated ones,” he said in his speech accepting the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize. “It destroys community and makes brotherhood impossible. It leaves society in monologue rather than dialogue. Violence ends up defeating itself. …

By Lee Saunders

There is only one choice for working people in this year’s presidential election.

The Trump economy may be going gangbusters for those with big stock portfolios. But if you’re a working-class family weighed down by student loans, staring at a rising cost of living and struggling to make the rent or monthly mortgage payment, Donald Trump has nothing for you.

And if you’re a public service worker, Donald Trump has refused to support funding for the state and local budgets that provide your pay and benefits, budgets that have been decimated by this pandemic. …

By Lee Saunders

For Tina Suckow, helping people who are struggling with mental illness is a calling. She always wanted to be a nurse, and while she understood that her job at Iowa’s Independence Mental Health Institute could be dangerous, nothing could have prepared her for what happened on Oct. 24 of last year. A patient — believed to be in the throes of a manic episode — brutally attacked and beat her, leaving her unconscious with injuries to the head, knee and shoulder.

It has been a long road to recovery from her injuries. But in March, this nightmare…

By Lee Saunders

Public service isn’t just a job; it’s a calling.

Every single day all across the country, hardworking men and women go the extra mile to provide professional, first-class services to their communities. During Public Service Recognition Week, we all should take a moment to extend our thanks to those who have made a career out of helping and empowering their neighbors. It’s not just what they do for a living; it’s who they are as people.

No one gets rich or famous doing this work. If it were their goal to make a million dollars or get…

By Lee Saunders

When I was growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, in the 1950s and 1960s, there were three principal ways for African-Americans to make the climb into the middle class.

One was working in the industrial manufacturing mills that were the economic lifeblood of so many midwestern communities. The second was the United States Postal Service, traditionally one of the nation’s most reliable employers of African-Americans.

Unions provide a voice on the job and a seat at the table.

And the third was working in public transit. That was the path for my family. My father was a city bus driver; and while we certainly never got rich, his job gave us…

#MeToo has injected a new urgency in the battle to end sexual harassment once and for all

By Lee Saunders and Elissa McBride

The #MeToo movement has challenged our nation to confront pervasive sexual harassment in the workplace. Women of every age, every background and every profession have faced harassment, and for too many perpetrators there has been no accountability. According to a study conducted by the nonprofit Stop Street Harassment, 81 percent of women (and 43 percent of men) report experiencing sexual harassment or assault.

JGI/Jamie Grill via Getty Images

Whether you work at a big corporation, a mom-and-pop business, a nonprofit dedicated to making the world a better place, or — like the 1.6 million members of AFSCME — in…


AFSCME’s members provide the vital services that make America happen. We advocate for prosperity and opportunity for all working families.

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