Lee SaundersAmerican Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) President Lee Saunders inspired delegates at CUPE national convention with a fiery speech about the labour movement’s durability in the face of ongoing and relentless attacks against it.

Saunders challenged CUPE members to stand together against attacks on working people and to protect past victories, saying that we are in the fight of our lives.

“Currently before the U.S. court is the Friedrichs case. This case attacks our very existence,” said Saunders. “What the case does is essentially say that you don’t have to pay dues to the union, yet you will still receive the same level of benefits that are derived from union representation. What they (the employer and municipal governments) want to do is to take power and our resources away from the union. The top one per cent in our country and in Canada want more power and they want more wealth at the expense of work­ing families who are playing by the rules every single day, who are trying to put food on the table, who are trying to send their kids to school, and are trying to do the right thing. The playing field is not level and it’s up to the trade union movement, our allies, our coalition partners to come together and say ‘no more, enough is enough.”

Saunders told delegates that we need to examine ourselves, keep what is working and change what we’re doing wrong. AFSCME locals have committed to holding face-to-face conversations with 80 per cent of their members before their next convention. “We’ve found not only that members are glad to hear from their union, but also that they want to be part of the fight,” said Saunders.