AFSCME was founded during the Great Depression on a simple idea – that a professional civil service is essential to a strong democracy. The business of the people should be carried out by individuals dedicated to serving their communities, not those who have close connections to politicians. This idea has sustained AFSCME through nearly nine decades, as it has grown from a fledgling organization of a few thousand people to one of the most potent forces in the labor movement. 

Public service isn’t just a job: it’s a calling. And the work of people in public service deserves respect. That’s why we stand together in AFSCME to advocate for fairness in the workplace, safety on the job, fair wages, good benefits, a secure retirement, and excellence in public services.

AFSCME has approximately 3,400 local unions and 58 councils and affiliates in 46 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Every local writes its own constitution, designs its own structure, elects its own officers and sets its own dues.

The International Union, based in Washington, D.C., coordinates the union’s actions on major national issues such as privatization, fair taxes and health care. The International also provides resources to councils and local unions for organizing, bargaining, political action and education, and administers members-only benefits. Every two years, delegates to AFSCME’s International Convention decide on the union’s basic policies. Every four years they elect the International Union’s President, Secretary-Treasurer and 35 regional vice presidents.

About AFSCME District Council 36

AFSCME District Council 36 was chartered by AFSCME International’s President Jerry Wurf and Executive Board in 1969. Today, the Council serves more than 60 Locals and nearly 25,000 employees, from MTA supervisors to child support attorneys, from Sec. 8 eligibility workers to psychiatric social workers, from sanitation workers to librarians to civil engineers.

The early years of the Council’s history, in the pre-collective bargaining law days, was character- ized by the struggle to win fair contracts from local government employers who had no obligation to sign binding agreements. The first Executive Director was Henry Fiering, a former organizer with the Congress of Industrial Organizations.

One of the enormous labor achievements during this time was the passage of the state’s Meyers-Milias-Brown Act in 1968 — granting local public employees the lawful right to negotiate a fair return on their labor. In the ‘70s and ‘80s, thanks to the MMBA, membership in public sector unions — and job actions and strikes — skyrocketed.

The ‘80s brought a different sort of bargaining fight to many tables, as social policy had joined econom- ic policy as subjects of worker concern. In 1985, Los Angeles City clerical workers and librarians signed the first pay equity agreement in history with the City of Los Angeles, standardizing parity for fe- male-dominated classifications. The years to come would see similar groundbreaking agreements signed by Council 36 Locals, involving family leave, domestic partner benefits and domestic violence prevention.

In the coming years, Council 36 would grow its political action program, engaging in successful local and state campaigns throughout the region. In 1998, then-Executive Director Carol Wheeler coordinated volunteer efforts to help preserve labor-oriented majorities in the State Senate and Assembly, turn around an anti-worker majority in the California Congressional delegation, and elect a Governor who would respond to the needs of working people.

Council 36 also was instrumental in defeating an anti-worker “paycheck deception” measure, Prop. 226, in 1998 that would have handicapped unions statewide. 

Today, Council 36 is viewed as a political powerhouse that together with AFSCME’s Sacramento office continually sponsors state laws to expand worker rights. The Council regularly supports AFSCME-friendly candidates in cities, counties and other jurisdictions employing our members. 

As always, Council 36 advocates, and if necessary, agitates, for workers’ rights and freedoms.  As economic gaps between the haves and have-nots reach extremes in America, we are committed to sustaining the middle class and promoting equitability, opportunity and prosperity both in the workplace and in our communities.