Rising Up: First-Time Convention Delegates Speak Out

Members rise up during the AFSCME Convention in Boston.

More than 1,000 of the delegates to the 43rd AFSCME Convention in Boston last week were attending for the very first time. DC 37’s delegation included four new local unions and dozens of first-time delegates, including a new local president. This new generation of union activists is among the thousands of AFSCME members who have pledged to #RiseUp for working families and public services.

Andrew Barfield—Local 1321

Andrew Barfield, Local 1321

What I like about the convention is that you get to meet people from different parts of the country who share the same goals of trying to bring equality to the workplace. I think this is positive and inspiring. It’s really opened up my eyes to what the national level is doing, because I never knew anything about it. I didn’t know that everybody comes together in this capacity and all the issues they’re addressing. It’s not just what’s going on in a particular state or county or just at a work site. This is a collective, and I realize that a lot of us share the same issues across the board.  Everyone comes together to share answers and solutions. You find guidance and you learn that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.  I really think that’s a positive.

Erica DeLuca—Local 374

I’ve been a chapter secretary for the past year and a half. Before that, I was involved in the union by going to meetings, but we had a round of elections so I decided to run. So this is my first convention, which has been really exciting. I feel like it’s far more democratic than I had imagined it would be. When you’re not involved you don’t really know what goes on at these things, so you don’t really realize that there’s people from every single local in AFSCME, that are all voting and anyone gets to submit resolutions or amendments.

Erica DeLuca and Leonard
Paul, Local 374

Leonard Paul—Local 374 President

I truly enjoy the camaraderie and the fellowship, meeting folks from all parts of the country, but also I’m enjoying the work.  I’ve learned so much. The workshop about communicating with my members one-on-one was most important. Most of the time as a local president I deal with members as a group. At the workshop, I learned how to communicate one-on-one, and what I need to say to each member to get our message across.

James Gourdet—Local 768

James Gourdet, Local 768

This is the experience of a lifetime. I have to say that I’m truly blessed to be able to be here and learn from our leaders. Having completed the workshops this year, this gives me the incentive to go back to my work location and try to organize my members.

There are a lot of us there, however some of us are timid and we do not participate in union activities, and for my job right now, I’m emboldened to share my knowledge with them in order for them to take the torch, and be active in the union.


James Whooley—Local 154

James Whooley, Local 154

I think the most impressive moment was listening to the Memphis Strikers speak and hearing their stories from 50 years ago, when they went on strike and Dr. King was assassinated. Just listening to their experiences and learning from them was remarkable.


Daysha Padia—Local 768

Daysha Padia, Local 768

The classes I attended during the convention were very informative because I am doing a labor relations certificate course and the classes I attended here were an extension of that class. I will take from what I learned from other unionists from across the country to be better able to help our members here.

Interviews and photos by Mike Lee

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