86 Years of Fighting for Workers

Throughout our history, we have been champions of equality and justice in the workplace. Our government’s mission is to make America work for everyone, and 86 years after our founding, AFGE is proud to represent those who move America forward.

Our story is a story of perseverance and commitment.

When the union was chartered in 1932 at the height of the Great Depression, it was a tough time for workers. Up to 15 million people, about 20% of the population at the time, were unemployed. Over 9,000 banks either had closed or were closing their doors. Government employees were easy targets for austerity measures. Furloughs were the norm. Overtime pay was eliminated. Retirement-age employees were forced out of their jobs. If two members of the same family worked for the government, one family member had to be laid off before any other workers could lose their job during a reduction in force.

“It was about as inauspicious a time as could be imagined for a new organization to set out,” said former AFGE President James B. Burns.

But at the time when other unions hesitated to do anything at all, our union boldly called for restoration of pay for government employees – and we succeeded. Shortly after pay for government employees was restored, railroad employees received a pay increase. So did bakery workers and other workers. Observers noted that our union played a part in helping the economy recover as we set in motion demand for goods and products and put purchasing power to work.

That’s the spirit of our union.

We have weathered many storms, and we’ve always landed on our feet. But in order for us to continue to fight for justice and workplace protections, everyone needs to ask his or her co-workers to join our union. All of us need to help grow our union and build our legislative power. We need to strengthen every local, standardize training and education for our activists, and expand our messaging capacity.

Because when we stand united, we win.

We will show the administration that its executive orders seeking to destroy us will only make us stronger.

We are America’s workforce and America’s union – and we are not going anywhere.

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