Highly paid government union boss screams for ‘solidarity,’ stronger unions


By Jason Hart | Watchdog.org

American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees President Lee Saunders, who was paid $350,058 last year, demanded union solidarity and raged against Big Labor’s critics in a recent speech.

Saunders began his talk at an Ohio AFL-CIO convention in Cincinnati by asking, “Are you ready to rumble? Are you ready to fight?” Video is available on the Ohio AFL-CIO YouTube channel.

“You know, our solidarity and fierceness are critical in these difficult times,” Saunders said, adding, “It’s awfully tough out there.”

Based on AFSCME disclosures to the U.S. Department of Labor, Saunders was paid $1,317,166 from 2010-2013. Saunders received $249,134 from the government employee union in 2006, and has been paid more than $250,000 each year since. Public employees in many states are forced to pay Saunders as a condition of employment.

In that Sept. 16 speech, Saunders insinuated U.S. House Speaker John Boehner was to blame for the Sept. 1 death of Maria Fernandes, who was killed by gasoline fumes while napping in her car between shifts at Dunkin’ Donuts.

“We’ve always got to think about what happened here,” Saunders said of Fernandes’ death. “Somebody should be accountable to what happened to Maria Fernandes, and here’s who should be accountable: people like John Boehner, and the others who refuse to raise the minimum wage. Employers who make it necessary for working people to piece together a life any way they can, and the super-wealthy political donors who fund anti-worker campaigns.”

When it comes to “super-wealthy political donors,” AFSCME is second only to left-wing clearinghouse ActBlue in campaign contributions to politicians and political parties since 1989.

Saunders also suggested Fernandes’ death was a symptom of America’s “you’re on your own” economy, pointing at the rise in part-time employment without acknowledging the trend’s roots in Obamacare and other AFSCME-backed policies from the Obama White House.

Urging convention-goers to support the Ohio Democratic Party ticket, Saunders described Republican Gov. John Kasich as one of many politicians following “a recipe that’s poisonous for working families.”

“That recipe is simple, and it goes like this,” Saunders said. “Step one, attack unions and attack collective bargaining. Step two, cut budgets and shift the burden to working families.”

“Step three, ya sprinkle corporate tax cuts on top of all that mess, ya stir up this bitter brew, then watch as economic security evaporates, state and local government services deteriorate, and communities — not only in Ohio, but all across this country — collapse,” Saunders warned.

“There’s no denying that people like the Koch brothers are proponents of this recipe,” the government union boss added, after identifying Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, and Florida Gov. Rick Scott as other “politicians who are trying to tear down everything the labor movement has built.”

What AFSCME has built relies on electing politicians who will increase the union’s power by growing government. AFSCME headquarters raked in $179 million in per capita taxes, which AFSCME affiliates pay for with member dues, in 2013 alone.

“We have the heart — your labor movement, our labor movement — we have the heart, we have the passion, we have the people and we must kick ass on November 4 in the state of Ohio and across the country,” Saunders shouted.

“No matter who or what stands in our way, we will never give up the fight for workers’ rights, and we will never give up the fight for social justice,” Saunders said, bellowing that Big Labor must “keep fighting like hell, every single day!”

Saunders cited the 2011 smear campaign against government union reform legislation Senate Bill 5 as proof of what unions can accomplish by building a “broad coalition,” including “partners in our communities.”

AFSCME headquarters in Washington, D.C., poured millions into We Are Ohio, the “citizen-driven, community-based bipartisan coalition” created to repeal SB 5. Saunders implored Ohio AFL-CIO convention attendees to “use that moment to build a movement” and “build an infrastructure that constantly pushes back against the powers that be.”

“This is not rocket science,” Saunders concluded. “You know what this is about? It’s about organizing, organizing, organizing and organizing!”

“It’s about knocking on those doors! Making those phone calls! Talking to your coworkers!” Saunders screamed. “Looking somebody in the eye, and you tell them, you need to be union!”