It was a pleasure to have been able to attend a lunch gathering on Feb 15 with Bill Lucy, long time Secretary-Treasurer of AFSCME International, founder of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, and an under-recognized figure in the 1968 Memphis sanitation workers’ strike which became a pivotal event of the American civil rights movement.
Oregon AFSCME has a special relationship with Bill Lucy; we have named our Portland office building after him and we have created a scholarship in his honor.
Having had the opportunity to hear Bill speak at conventions and other large gatherings, which is a fantastic experience, I believe that spending time with Bill in smaller, more intimate settings is the best way to experience and learn from him. The lunch conversation with Bill on Feb. 15, organized by Local 88, which represents Multnomah County, was that kind of smaller setting and a memorable experience.
Bill and his history are a constant reminder of AFSCME’s history fighting for the dignity of all workers, especially those lowest on the economic ladder, and for a more just society overall. Not only was Bill a central figure in the American civil rights movement and labor movement, but Bill and his work at AFSCME was instrumental in bringing an end to Apartheid South Africa.
Those of us who could join Bill for lunch got to hear about that history. But more than that, we got to hear about our place, individually and collectively, in helping AFSCME continue that work today. Despite many meaningful victories, inequality persists. And public services unions are uniquely positioned to work on issues of inequality. Our AFSCME members provide services every day that help make our communities better, safer, and more livable for those most in need. Our AFSCME members believe that the work we do to make our communities better is one of the best uses of our time and our talents. AFSCME is the extension of that collective desire for a more livable, and just, and equitable society.
Lastly, I can’t give enough credit to the dedicated leaders at Local 88 that put on such a wonderful event.
President, Oregon AFSCME