In 1932, civil service employees came together to stand up for basic workplace rights, forming the American Federation of Government Employees. Our union began at a precarious time for America’s working people, including government workers. Politicians were actively seeking to dismantle the nation’s civil service, workers at the time faced wage cuts, increased furloughs, and career opportunities had become increasingly rare. Rights we now take for granted, such as health insurance, overtime, and weekends were virtually nonexistent.
AFGE continued to grow and thrive across the nation in the following two decades. More and more chapters were formed in locations around the country, and with those chapters came more victories for our members. The Federal Pay Act of 1945, passed thanks to the tireless efforts of AFGE members, raised pay by almost 16 percent, the highest single pay increase for federal workers in modern history. Workplace victories continued into the 1950s, with AFGE members fighting for and winning within-grade pay increases, transportation allowances for transferred workers, and payment for accrued annual leave, overtime, and night and holiday work.
Despite these wins, AFGE members still lacked full bargaining rights, greatly hindering their voice in the workplace. That all changed in 1962. After decades of AFGE activism, President John F. Kennedy signed Executive Order 10988, proclaiming that “the right of federal employees to deal collectively with the federal departments and agencies in which they are employed should be protected.” For the first time in American history, federal employees now had the right to collectively bargain and advocate for themselves.
Since winning real bargaining rights, AFGE continues to extend the dignity and power of a union contract to the more than 750,000 government employees in the thousands of federal and DC government facilities nationwide. AFGE proudly stands on the forefront of the fight for workers’ rights and human rights throughout the United States and the world.
We believe that when government employees stand together, we can build a more just workplace and a government that works for the people we serve. We work for America.