AFGE Mourns Passing of NSPS Fighter Byron Charlton from COVID-19

Categories: The Insider

With a heavy heart, we regret to inform you about the passing of Byron Charlton, a very good friend of AFGE who advocated on behalf of federal workers on Capitol Hill for 20 years as an AFL-CIO legislative representative.  

Byron passed away from COVID-19 on Dec. 27, 2020. He was well known among AFGE DEFCON leaders and a number of AFGE staffers as the chair of the United Defense Workers Coalition, a group of DoD unions that fought the notorious National Security Personnel System (NSPS) in 2002.  

“I remember Byron Charlton because I was the chair of the NEC DEFCON Committee during that fight of NSPS,” said AFGE National Vice President for District 6 Arnold Scott. “He was truly an asset during that fight and a great individual. We will truly miss him.” 

“He was instrumental in keeping the coalition together, which is never an easy task,” said recently retired AFGE Chief-of-Staff Brian DeWyngaert. “At times there were 40 or more people in the room from all different unions. He had no ego. He offered a calm voice and common-sense logic. He was trusted by everyone. It was a daily fight for many years, and he was there fighting every day. He and I spoke almost daily in the first two years of that battle and weekly for the next 5-6 years until we buried NSPS in Congress in 2010. We were successful in keeping collective bargaining, the grievance procedure, due process and the GS pay system. Byron played a large role in that success.” 

“Byron Charlton was the consummate unionist. Through LMR work, UDWC, and DEFCON, I had the privilege of working alongside him,” said AFGE Field Services and Education Director David Cann. “He was welcoming and inclusive, working hard to make sure every union had a voice, was included in our joint effort, and had a chance to advocate for their members. As others have mentioned, he was extraordinarily humble and used his power as a leader to build consensus and solidarity amongst participating unions. But he was a good storyteller, and in his stories of organizing- from the south and abroad- revealed a fearless organizer and a lion of a man. He refused to be deterred from his work, even when jailed for building union power abroad. I’m glad to have known him.”  

Byron was a trade unionist at heart. He was a Steelworker and a union leader in Virginia. He helped lead the successful Newport News Shipyard organizing drive and was elected to serve as a union rep for the Steelworkers’ Local 8888. Byron later joined the AFL-CIO and traveled the world as assistant to the executive director of the African American Labor Center. 

“He was a warm and thoughtful colleague, someone who would pop into your office just to see how you were doing,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “He was a conscience of the federation on racial justice: outspoken, determined and fully devoted to bettering the lives of all working people. Byron died due to complications of COVID-19. As he rests, let us honor his memory by fighting to end this pandemic once and for all.”  

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