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Lee A. Saunders
Lee Saunders is the President of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO, which represents 1.6 million members. He was elected at the union’s 40th International Convention in June 2012.

Saunders was previously elected Secretary-Treasurer at the union’s 39th International Convention in July 2010.

Saunders grew up in a union household in Cleveland, Ohio. This inspired him to join the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association (OCSEA) when he began working for the Ohio Bureau of Employment Services in 1975. His father was a bus driver and a member of the Amalgamated Transit Union. His mother was a community organizer and, after raising two sons, returned to college and became a community college professor and a member of the American Association of University Professors.

Saunders began his career with AFSCME in 1978 as a labor economist. He has served in the capacities of Assistant Director of Research and Collective Bargaining Services, Director of Community Action and Deputy Director of Organizing and Field Services. Saunders also served as Executive Assistant to the President of AFSCME and was responsible for managing what is acknowledged to be one of the most effective political and legislative operations in the history of the American labor movement. AFSCME’s clout in fundraising and member mobilization, and its lobbying expertise are unmatched in the ranks of the AFL-CIO and beyond.

Building on ideas generated by local unions, Saunders has championed AFSCME’s Next Wave initiative to encourage and develop the next generation of union leadership. He has also developed and supported programs that foster diversity and promote increased member participation within the union.

He has served as administrator of a number of AFSCME councils and large local unions across the country. For nearly four years, he served as Administrator of AFSCME District Council 37, New York City’s largest public employee union, representing 125,000 members. In that capacity, he was successful in restoring the fiscal health, integrity and good name of the council and its 56 affiliated local unions.

Saunders serves as a Vice President of the AFL-CIO Executive Council, which guides the daily work of the labor federation. He is an at-large member of the Democratic National Committee, Treasurer of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and a member of the Executive Committee of the Congressional Black Caucus Institute’s 21st Century Committee. He also serves on the Board of the National Action Network.

He received a Master of Arts degree from Ohio State University in 1974, a year after earning his Bachelor of Arts degree from Ohio University. In 2002, the College of New Rochelle awarded him an honorary doctorate degree in Humane Letters.

Saunders and his wife Lynne live in Washington, DC, and have two sons, Lee, Jr. and Ryan.

Entries by Lee A. Saunders

Raises, Not Roses

(1) Comments | Posted January 28, 2016 | 11:40 PM

Pay equity strike, San Jose, CA

In July, 1981, AFSCME members in San Jose, California, chose to take a stand to make sure women could earn the same pay their male counterparts made for the same work.

Librarians. Clerical Workers. Janitors. More than...

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For the Future of Working Families: Vote Hillary Clinton

(177) Comments | Posted November 2, 2015 | 12:10 PM


Public service workers are following the presidential election closely. We care deeply about our communities, and we know all too well the terrible costs to working families when corporate-backed extremists take the reins of our government.

We see this election as one...

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Americans Already Know How to Fix This Economy

(17) Comments | Posted September 1, 2015 | 11:42 AM

It sometimes feels like the economic odds are insurmountable for the average American family. The recovery doesn't seem to be coming fast enough. The wealthiest few are getting richer while most Americans' wages are actually declining. How do we move...

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Here's to 80 Years of Social Security -- and at Least 80 More

(0) Comments | Posted August 14, 2015 | 12:04 PM

Franklin Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act 80 years ago this week, but if you read what his critics were saying about it at the time, you might think it was just yesterday. It was a job killer and an attack on...

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Union Dad: Economic Justice and a Rich Family Spirit

(12) Comments | Posted June 17, 2015 | 2:03 PM


When I was growing up in Cleveland, my dad, Emmett Saunders, Jr. was a bus driver and a proud member of the Amalgamated Transit Union, ATU. Although he passed away in 2009, the lessons he taught about what it means...
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Emergency Medical: Putting Public Safety First

(0) Comments | Posted May 19, 2015 | 12:51 PM

Sami Abed, a paramedic with 13-years' experience in Santa Cruz County, Calif., was on his way home on a United Airlines flight on April 3, Good Friday, when he and a doctor on the flight sprang into action to help an unconscious passenger. They got him oxygen and used a...

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The 'Inexcusable' Assault on Workers in Wisconsin

(149) Comments | Posted April 16, 2015 | 12:49 PM

Wisconsin -- where workers have a deep and rich history of fighting for a voice on the job -- is the latest state to enact a law intended to sap them of their power and strength. With Gov. Scott Walker's signature, the right-to-work scam is now the law...

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We Must Stand With Law Enforcement Officers

(1) Comments | Posted March 18, 2015 | 1:12 PM

The vast majority of police officers protect and serve their communities with honor, integrity and professionalism. As president of AFSCME, a union that represents more than 100,000 public safety employees, I will always speak out when all officers are attacked based on the actions of a few.

During the past...

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'Union Scholars' Can Open New Doors for Themselves, Workers

(1) Comments | Posted February 19, 2015 | 9:54 AM

There was a time when organizing meant knocking on doors, holding meetings at the local house of worship, passing out handbills and posting them on streetlights, and resorting to the old-fashioned telephone tree.

Social media has changed all that, especially for the millennials -- those born between 1982 and...

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We Have Cure for What Ails State of the Union

(0) Comments | Posted January 16, 2015 | 12:37 PM

When President Obama delivers the State of the Union address on Tuesday, he'll be able to bask in the glow of an economy that's much stronger than it was when he took office. We've finally emerged from the crash of 2008. We've had 58 consecutive months of job growth. Unemployment...

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Congress Should Respect Our Great Nation of Immigrants

(0) Comments | Posted November 26, 2014 | 2:32 PM

President Obama's willingness to act on immigration while Congress dithers and delays is admirable. Many pressing national issues will be addressed as a result. Our borders will be more secure. The exploitation of workers by unscrupulous employers will be curtailed. Families will no longer live under the constant threat of...

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We Demand a Shot at the American Dream

(0) Comments | Posted November 3, 2014 | 12:13 PM

It's been a rough four years for the women, men and children living on the margins in this country. Those margins have gotten a lot more pronounced and swallowed up a lot more folks in states run by extremist, right-wing governors.

Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than here...

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They Want Us to Stay Home on Nov. 4

(5) Comments | Posted October 21, 2014 | 5:24 PM

In recent weeks, a series of court rulings blocked implementation of discriminatory voter identification laws in Wisconsin, Arkansas and Texas. But on Saturday, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed a lower court and allowed Texas to move ahead in what U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called "a major step backward to...

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From Labor Day to Election Day, 'These People' Are Ready for Action

(1) Comments | Posted August 28, 2014 | 10:05 PM

This Labor Day weekend, millions of Americans will enjoy the final stretch of summer. Most won't think about the 1.6 million hardworking public service workers of AFSCME who are on duty 24/7. But evidence of what we do for our communities will be everywhere.


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New Koch, Same as the Old Koch

(21) Comments | Posted August 11, 2014 | 2:13 PM

Don't be fooled by the recent USA Today column in which Charles Koch, a man who made billions while trampling workers' rights, shares his supposed deep concern for working families, young people and the disadvantaged.

The column is all part of a larger, cynical public relations campaign...

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Why the Anti-Union Argument Loses Every Time

(66) Comments | Posted July 30, 2014 | 4:16 PM

Opponents of labor unions were rubbing their hands gleefully earlier this summer when Justice Samuel Alito and his band of right-wing brothers ruled that home care workers in Illinois didn't have to pay "fair share" fees to support a union's work on their behalf.

In Harris v. Quinn, the Supreme...

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A Principle Is a Terrible Thing to Waste

(5) Comments | Posted July 10, 2014 | 4:10 PM

Last month, United Negro College Fund President Michael Lomax announced that his organization has received a $25-million grant from the billionaire industrialist Koch brothers, who also fund efforts to suppress voters' rights and workers' rights. I sent the following letter to Lomax on July 8.

Dr. Michael Lomax President, United...

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States Must Find Way to Do Right by Home Care Workers

(1) Comments | Posted June 27, 2014 | 12:44 PM

When does justice delayed become justice denied? For the nation's 2 million home care workers, that time may be here. But states have the power to rectify the situation, and they should.

Home care workers are in communities all across America, providing help with fundamental daily activities such as dressing,...

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Where Are the "Disrupters" for Labor on College Campuses?

(3) Comments | Posted April 25, 2014 | 1:05 PM

Last week, Lee Saunders, president of the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees (AFSCME), delivered the 23rd annual Philip Murray Memorial Labor Lecture at Penn State's School of Labor and Employment Relations. The audience included students, faculty members, AFSCME members and members of other unions. This...

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Meet America's Highest Paid Government Workers

(40) Comments | Posted February 26, 2014 | 5:51 PM

As president of America's largest union of public service workers, I often hear from some politicians and pundits that government workers are overpaid. These folks might be surprised to learn that I agree with them when we're talking about individuals like Ron Packard. As America's highest paid teacher, Packard made...

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