Born in the depths of the Great Depression, AFGE formed in 1932 at one of the most uncertain periods in our nation’s history. Elected officials had crippled the civil service, wage cuts and furloughs were on the rise, and promotions and leave privileges were hard to come by. Back then, federal employees lacked many of the basic rights they enjoy today; like health insurance, overtime pay, and weekends without work.
Over the next two decades, new chapters began to pop up across the country, bringing with it greater leverage to represent their members. In 1945, after years of pay freezes, AFGE secured a near-16 percent pay increase with the passage of the Federal Pay Act – the largest single pay increase before or since. In the 1950s, AFGE fought for and won the introduction of within-grade pay increases, transportation allowances for transferred workers, and payment for accrued annual leave, overtime, and night and holiday work.
But even up to the 1960s, AFGE didn’t have true bargaining rights. After years of work, President Kennedy in 1962 proclaimed that “the right of Federal employees to deal collectively with the Federal departments and agencies in which they are employed should be protected” in Executive Order 10988, which established for the first time the right of federal employees to exercise their voice in the workplace.
In the half-century since winning real bargaining rights, AFGE has extended the dignity of a union contract to more than 670,000 government employees in thousands of federal and DC government facilities across the country. Today, AFGE stands as one of the largest and most influential forces for worker, civil, and human rights in the world.
Our union began with a simple belief—that together, government employees from all across America can build a better workplace and country. AFGE’s story is America’s story, and the next chapter will be written by all of us.