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Philadelphia is our nation’s birthplace – and the birthplace of the U.S. labor movement

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By AFSCME Staff

Philadelphia, the site of AFSCME’s 45th International Convention, is the birthplace of our country – the city where Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were signed. But did you also know that Philadelphia is where unionism took root in America?

In 1794, shoemakers formed the country’s first union – The Federal Society of Journeyman Cordwainers.

It’s also a city with a stirring and powerful AFSCME legacy.

In 1938, Philadelphia sanitation workers, led by a sanitation truck driver named Bill McEntee, struck for better pay and better working conditions. That year, they affiliated with AFSCME, the union that McEntee’s son, Gerald, would eventually lead for more than three decades.

Today, Philadelphia’s District Council 33, District Council 47, National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees District 1199C, and Council 13 carry that proud banner of agitation and activism.

Philadelphia is a city of fight and grit, calloused hands and big hearts. It’s an ideal setting for our first in-person convention in four years.

Our agenda this week will be bold and broad. We will recommit to growing our union through internal and external organizing, gear up for building power though the pivotal midterm election battles and at the workplace. We will continue our work to ensure we are living our values and lift up the stories of AFSCME members whose commitment to public service is unparalleled, especially during a pandemic.

Come prepared to also learn about new tools, acquire new skills and hone our activism. We will gather – all together – to share laughs with old union friends, to make new friends, to forge new partnerships and strengthen the bonds of solidarity.

Welcome home, AFSCME family.

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