October 15, 2015

Standing Strong, United & Determined: 19th Biennial AFSCME Council 31 Convention

Strong United Determined

Gathering under the theme “Strong, United, Determined,” AFSCME members from across the state met in Springfield on October 15-17 for Council 31’s 19th biennial convention. They prioritized policies that will guide our union’s work and vision as we face unprecedented challenges over the next two years.

More than 400 delegates elected by their local unions voted on policies that charted a path forward for our union, including resolutions that: pledged an unflinching defense of collective bargaining rights now under attack; stressed the importance of quality services for individuals with disabilities; focused attention on the importance of outreach to our communities; affirmed the need to continue to advocate for retirement security; renewed the commitment to oppose privatization of public services; called for improved safety in correctional facilities; and much more. Twenty workshops were offered to equip delegates and guests with the knowledge and tools necessary to fight for social, economic and workplace justice.

AFSCME Illinois Convention 2015
Click here to view a convention photo slideshow.

Illinois is ground zero in the fight for workers’ rights

In her convention address, AFSCME Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch stressed the critical fight against Rauner’s anti-worker agenda. “The governor is trying to force the changes he wants by harming the most vulnerable among us—the poor, the elderly, the disabled.  People are being hurt every single day because of his personal obsession with destroying unions. It’s up to us to stop him,” she said. “And we can. The labor movement is unified like never before. We have the support of our communities. And we won’t back down.”

Special guest speakers shared inspiration, support and rallying cries for action. AFSCME International President Lee Saunders focused on the importance of Illinois as ground zero in the fight for workers’ rights. “With every action Governor Rauner takes, he disrespects the history of working families and unions,” he said. “In a time when too much wealth is in too few hands, he wants to jeopardize your ability to take care of your families.”

President Saunders assured the crowd that Illinois public service workers are not alone: “1.6 million AFSCME members across the country are standing with you! We draw on your spirit and determination as you fight for ALL of us.”

AFSCME Council 31 presented Illinois AFL-CIO President Michael Carrigan with a special recognition award for his unwavering support of AFSCME members and his role in We Are One Illinois, the union coalition that overturned pension cuts. “What we learned is that no single organization can fight the enemies of labor today,” he said. “We have to stick together and we have to fight together.”

“Collective bargaining rights are human rights!” proclaimed Illinois Federation of Teachers President Dan Montgomery. “We are with you in this fight. Thank you for serving the people of Illinois and working to make all of our lives better.”

And Illinois State Representative Carol Ammons emphasized that the middle class is under assault and working families have to fight back: “We cannot depend on corporate kindness. Everything we have is because someone fought for it, bled for it, and even died for it.”

AFSCME members making a difference

Four outstanding AFSCME members were recognized for their achievements and contributions at work and in their communities. Kathy Kissiar, an employee of Wexford Health Services and a member of AFSCME Local 494 at the Pontiac Correctional Center, was named 2015 AFSCME Council 31 Steward of Year for her dedication to informing and engaging her fellow members. Timothy Olaosebikan, an employee of the Ray Graham Association and a member of AFSCME Local 3492, and Darryn Hayes, a correctional officer at the Illinois Department of Corrections Stateville Correctional Center, were recognized for their exceptional commitment as AFSCME Council 31’s 2015 Public Service Award winners. And the 2015 Jane Fitzgerald Award winner was Catherine Gitchoff of AFSCME Local 799 for her dedication to social and economic justice.

Ready to carry forward the fight for fairness

Participants left the convention reinvigorated and ready to return to their local unions with a renewed focus on encouraging every member to get involved in the union and a renewed determination to resist the unrelenting attacks that the corporate elite and their allies continue to unleash on working families in our country.

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