The election was administered by the American Arbitration Association. Saunders becomes AFSCME’s first African-American president, while Reyes becomes the first woman secretary-treasurer.
“Both Laura and I are committed to our members and cherish this union,” said Saunders. “We had a vigorous and energetic campaign, but now the union will pull together to win victories for working families and our members all across this great country. We know that Wall Street and their allies are engaged in an all-out assault against our members and the services we provide. They know that AFSCME stands in the way of their efforts to destroy the middle class.
“We are united in our commitment to stand up for the men and women who care for America’s children, nurse the sick, plow our streets, collect the household trash and guard our prisons. Our members are a cross-section of America, not some elite group as our opponents try to claim. We are energized and ready for the battles ahead.”
President Gerald W. McEntee, who retired after 31 years as AFSCME president, said the delegates’ decision to elect Lee and Laura “strengthens our leadership and will enhance our ability to face the challenges that await us around the country.”
Saunders will be the fourth president of AFSCME since the union’s formation 75 years ago in Madison, Wis. Arnold Zander served as AFSCME’s first president from 1936, when the union was first chartered by the American Federation of Labor (AFL), until 1964. The union’s second president, Jerry Wurf, was elected at the 1964 AFSCME Convention. McEntee ascended to the union’s presidency following Wurf’s death in 1981.
Photo: Lee Saunders