AFGE mourns the passing of Fredna White, an illustrious union and civil rights leader and current chair of the AFGE National Human Rights Committee (HRC).
Fredna’s passing leaves a void in our union and in the hearts of those who love her. She was a champion of worker and civil rights at the VA, in her union and community. The labor and civil rights movements lost a fighter for worker and human rights.
Because of her commitment and dedication to the labor movement and the goals and mission of AFGE, the union designated Nov. 15, the day she passed, as Fredna S. White Day.
Fredna had been a staple at AFGE conventions, serving as chair of the AFGE National Convention on many occasions. As the chair of AFGE’s HRC, she worked to promote justice and fair treatment in the workplace. Her HRC family lovingly nicknamed her “Harriet Tubman.”
“I’ve known Fredna for many years before being elected to HRC. So many times when she was asked to tell about the [Women and Fair Practices Departments]/HRC, she would tell how she and Bennie Bridges, the two oldest members, got started,” HRC member Deborah Toussant explained how the nickname came to be.
“Many times I would tell Fredna ‘You need to write a book so the next generation would know the history of WFP.’ So one day while she was telling the youngins the history of WFP/HRC, I called her Harriet Tubman of AFGE WFP and Bennie Bridges Sojourner Truth of WFP/HRC, and the nickname stuck, and she would introduce herself Fredna S White aka Harriet because of Toussant.”
Fredna was the first female president of AFGE Local 1822 in Waco, Texas. Prior to her retirement from the federal government 24 years ago, she served as a Medical Administration Specialist at the Doris Miller VA Medical Center in Waco. She was the local’s current executive vice president and chief steward.
When she was local president, Fredna stressed the importance of being affiliated with the Central Texas Labor Council and made sure that the local had delegates to the CTLC.
“I’m proud to say that I was one who Fredna appointed as a delegate,” said Nancy Bryant, former steward and executive secretary of Local 1822. “Fredna was my mentor and my dear friend, and I already miss her so much.”
Fredna played a major role at the AFGE National Veterans Affairs Council (NVAC), serving as a district representative for the 10th District on and off since 1995. She served on several VA/NVAC committees, including Drug Testing Sub-Committee, Site Committee, and EEO Sub-Committee of Grievance and Arbitration. She also served as the Chair of the Constitution Committee and Elections at the National VA Council’s Triennial Convention since 2004. She was also a technical assistant during the 1982 contract negotiations and in 1997 assisted with the EEO portion during the Contract Negotiations.
“There will never be another Fredna White. Fredna was AFGE/NVAC all the way,” said NVAC President Alma Lee. “One of her sayings all the time when she saw me was she sang the words ‘Alma Lee and Me.’ I worked with Fredna for over 30 years. We worked on the Human Rights Committee together. She was a true unionist.”
Alma said Fredna never stopped learning, working, and sharing information. “She leaves an amazing legacy for all of us to remember.”
She was also the current Woman’s and Fair Practices Coordinator for AFGE District 10.
“She was a true leader in the labor movement from the early 1970s to present. Her death leaves a void in not just the 10th District leadership but the national union as well,” said Terry Lendo, AFGE HRC District 10 fair practices coordinator. “She was also what I would consider a personal friend. If ever I needed a consultation on parliamentary procedures, AFGE rules and regulations, or just how to deal with the rigors of being in a union leadership position, Fredna would be one of the first people I would consult. Those who knew her would have playful names for her such as Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Queen, even jokingly ‘1902/ because of how long she had been in the Labor struggle.”
“She was an inspiration to many young black women as she commanded respect; not because of what she said, but how she said it with grace, and regal demeanor,” he added.
Fredna graduated from G.W. Carver High School in Waco and attended college at Prairie View A&M University in Prairie View, Texas. In college, she focused on studying Mathematics and Political Science.
She was a sustaining member of Toliver Chapel Missionary Baptist Church in Waco. A member of the church choir, Fredna had a deep and abiding religious faith and enjoyed reading her bible.
Fredna was a member of the McLennan County Democratic Party and had served as a Precinct Chair. She always volunteered to work to elect Democratic candidates at the local, state, and national level. She was very involved in Souls to the Polls efforts during elections.
Fredna was affectionately known as The Silver Fox because of her polished presentations and her stylish way of dressing. She earned the nickname "1902" because of her long tenure with AFGE and because of her vast knowledge.
“She was proud of being considered "A walking encyclopedia," added her mentee, Bryant.