Strength in Solidarity: AFSCME Council 31’s 21st Biennial Convention
Gathering under the theme “Strength in Solidarity,” some 1,000 delegates, alternates and guests from across the state met in Springfield on October 17-19 for Council 31’s 21st biennial convention, setting our path over the next two years.
More than 450 delegates elected by their local unions voted on policies that will guide our union’s work and vision, adopting resolutions that pledged to continue the fight for fairness on a number of fronts by: continuing to build the AFSCME Strong program, defending members’ right to a voice in the workplace and safety on the job, passing the Fair Tax initiative, protecting retirement security and more. Click here to see all resolutions adopted by the biennial convention.
Two rounds of workshops helped equip delegates and guests with the knowledge and tools necessary to wage successful contract campaigns, prepare for the 2020 elections and defeat anti-union assaults. Special guest speakers invigorated the crowd with messages of unity and power.
AFSCME International President Lee Saunders said: “What unites us is our shared core values of public service and the common good. We will not let anyone tear us apart!”
Patrick Devaney, president of the Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois, inspired the delegation with a rallying pledge of solidarity between unions to achieve justice in the workplace and dignity in retirement.
AFSCME Council 31 members gave retiring Illinois AFL-CIO President Michael Carrigan a special presentation of thanks for standing with us when it mattered most and being an unwavering champion for AFSCME members in their fight against Bruce Rauner. In turn, he thanked them for their determination.
“No one organization could have done it alone, we did it together,” Carrigan said. “I can’t say enough about AFSCME and what you all did. Everywhere I looked I saw green. The labor movement is a fight that sends you home tired, but it’s a fight worth fighting for.”
Strengthening our union
Solidarity enabled us to emerge from four years of Bruce Rauner’s assaults more united than ever. Now AFSCME members look to build our union even stronger. In her convention address, AFSCME Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch stressed the power of standing together as one.
“The last four years strengthened our bond of solidarity. This convention is for celebrating how far we’ve come and preparing ourselves for the battles ahead,” Lynch said. “Solidarity isn't just a word. It's who we are and what we do!”
And Deputy Director Mike Newman said: “The thing I’m most proud of is simply being part of this great union and all that we have accomplished together. We’ve proven strength in solidarity. Our union never backs down and our union will never quit.”
AFSCME members making a difference
Several outstanding AFSCME members were recognized for their achievements and contributions at work and in their communities.
- In Memoriam: Public Service Award to fallen Deputy Troy Chisum of Local 3433.
- Steward of the Year:
- Roxane Boutte, Local 3692
- Jake Merritt, Local 2073
- Public Service Award:
- Louis Parker, Local 3738
- Jane Fitzgerald-Gloria Arseneau Award:
- Kathy Lane, Local 448
- Russell Thomas, Local 988
Carrying the fight forward
Convention delegates also adopted an amendment to the AFSCME Council 31 constitution providing for a temporary rebate from local unions to Council 31 to strengthen our union’s ability to continue building the AFSCME Strong program; allow Council 31 to continue providing members high quality contract negotiations and enforcement, legal advocacy, and legislative, policy and communications support; continue to mount the kind of comprehensive campaigns that enabled the union to beat back efforts to drastically slash public pensions, weaken bargaining rights and privatize public services; and respond to attacks from the Illinois Policy Institute and similar groups in the wake of the Janus decision.
AFSCME Council 31 members left the convention reinvigorated, ready to return to their local unions with a renewed focus on encouraging every member to get involved in the union and ready to carry the fight for justice forward in Illinois.