AFGE Mourns Passing of Staffer and Activist Fred McDuff

Categories: The Insider

It is with great sadness that we share with our AFGE family the passing of Legislative and Political Organizer (LPO) Fred McDuff.  

Fred was a staunch advocate for federal and D.C. government employees and spent nineteen years as an AFGE staffer educating government workers on the importance of legislative and political engagement. His work took him throughout AFGE’s District 9, covering Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma, as he hosted workshops, political action recruitment events, and participated in rallies and demonstrations.  

“Fred will truly be missed. He was the epitome of a true unionist,” said AFGE National President Everett Kelley. “As I reflect back on the life of Fred I am reminded of a passage of scripture from 2 Samuel 3:38 that states, ’And the king said unto his servants, Know ye not that there is a prince and a great man fallen this day in Israel?’ I truly believe these words to be appropriate for the occasion. 

“These words are sad and with a Solomon-like task, for the words are final words ... They are final words for a true humanitarian and faithful activist. They are final words for one that displayed such a humble spirit. So, there is a sense of sadness, but there is also a sense of gladness involved. For these words, like the words of so many, are a testimony to a man and a ministry that blessed this nation, this community and this federation.” 

Before becoming an AFGE staffer, Fred worked for years as a federal employee at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma. As a Department of Defense (DoD) employee Fred became active with his union, AFGE, and was a strong voice for DoD workers.  

As part of the leadership team at Tinker AFB Local 916, Fred believed firmly in the power of a collective voice. As former Political Mobilization Director Bob Nicklas developed the AFGE Legislative Political Organizer program, he knew that Stop Wasting America's Money on Privatization (SWAMP) Campaign Coordinator Fred McDuff was to be part of AFGE’s first team of LPOs. 

“I would like to take a moment to dedicate a few words to my friend because I am very grateful for the great example he gave us all,” said AFGE District 9 National Vice President Shawn Petty. “Fred was not only a co-worker, but he was a good friend. I remember him being my chief steward for Local 916. He was the person that took a chance on me and told me that I could go far in AFGE.  

“Without him, I wouldn’t be where I am now. I have never heard him say something unpleasant about anyone. He was a person who knew how to appreciate every moment of life. I remember him for his optimism and positive energy which radiates through all of us. His wife Shannon continues to say he finished his mission. I know he left calm because he did achieve his mission. Goodbye to my dear friend, Fred, until that day when we meet again.” 

As the AFGE District 9 LPO, Fred built an activist program with the leaders and members of the district that has cultivated long standing relationships with lawmakers that have supported legislation for federal and D.C. government workers, no matter their political party. He led political campaigns in multiple states including outside of District 9 that drove election victories for working people. 

“I first met Fred as he was graciously volunteering to sell PAC raffle tickets at AFGE's 2000 National Convention,” said AFGE Field Mobilization Director Amy Lloyd. “It's difficult to sum up all that LPO McDuff did for the leaders and members of AFGE from his time at Tinker and Local 916 to his almost 20 years with AFGE as a great member of our legislative and political staff.  

“But it's not difficult to say that no matter who you were, when you met Fred McDuff, you became an instant friend and were from that point on greeted and thought of as his brother or sister for whom he would battle to advocate for and stand with always. Fred will forever be missed but will always be a large part of the fabric of AFGE's Legislative and Political program.”  

In addition to his role of supporting and advocating for government workers, Fred also served as a union steward for the Office and Professional Employees International Union Local 2, a bargaining unit covering more than 100 AFGE staffers. As a union steward, Fred was eager to represent the perspective of field employees within the federation and was ready to fulfill another term as a steward, following a term he served a few years prior. 

“Fred was a tireless fighter for his coworkers here at AFGE. As a shop steward he protected the rights of his coworkers, and as a contract negotiator he fought for fairness, equality, and equity,” said OPEIU Local 2/AFGE Chief Shop Steward Matt Sowards.  

“Fred was also my friend and someone I routinely turned to for advice and counsel. Whenever I couldn’t find a solution to a problem, Fred was always there to provide guidance and a nudge in the right direction. I learned so much from him about being a unionist, and I’m going to miss him terribly. AFGE and OPEIU Local 2 lost a giant, but we will be forever grateful for his contributions, his dedication, and his friendship.” 

Reflections from colleagues and activists 

“Shannon (who would later become Fred’s wife) and I were together the first time we met Fred at an AFGE 9th District Training in Tulsa. I jokingly told her he clearly planned to murder us because there was no way someone we’d just met, with all that hair, would be that nice to us. Well, the joke was sure on me. Fred was one of the nicest, laid back, non-judgmental people I have ever met – despite our ongoing rivalry between the University of Oklahoma and Kansas State University! I was lucky to call him my friend, but I also learned from him through the years to come. If I needed guidance with representation, unfair labor practices or just an opinion on a workplace issue, former Chief Steward McDuff always had my back. The selfless assistance he gave Local 1336 with our countless political endeavors can never be measured as he taught and mentored so many of our officers and stewards on legislative matters. Coworker or friend, he will leave an unfillable void in my life because I’m pretty sure the mold was broken when he was made.” – Amy O’Rourke 

“I love and respect Fred who was a humanitarian; he deeply cared about and for people. He had a beautiful sense of humor and could find the best characteristics in everyone. In the midst of discord and debate, Fred possessed a talent for being the voice of reason. He could quiet the noise of conflict by proposing a reasonable, clear, and humble alternative perspective. His gift was in uncomplicating matters.” - Yolanda Pickstock 

“As a unionist, Fred was always incredibly dedicated to his craft. He was impeccable with his word as a teacher, leader, and mentor for so many new officers across the federation. I was lucky to meet Fred early in my career and gained great knowledge from his guidance. “- Kimberly Bump  

“Working with Fred was a joy. The first time I met him and the rest of the LPOs, was at the National Convention in 2015. It was overwhelming but he stood out as someone people listened to. He made me feel welcome and offered advice. But I have learned over the years that is who he was, always. Whether we were working or hanging out after work. He had a way to make us all feel at ease when he was around. To say Fred will be missed is an understatement. Our department will be forever changed not having him here.” - Shannon Faulk  

“Fred was a great person, friend, and unionist. Since my first days at AFGE he was always willing to help me grow in my position and as a person. He was always the calm voice when things got stressful, but he was also the first one to crack a joke to lighten the mood. I was proud a to nominate him as a shop steward for OPEIU Local 2, only a few weeks ago. I’m going to miss him and his thoughtful advice.” - Justin Perpich 

“Fred was the epitome of ‘never let them see you sweat.’ I admired his calm under pressure and innate ability to resolve conflict in the most natural way. He always had our back. After having come aboard AFGE, Fred was one of the first LPOs I teamed with in his district to co-present for a training with locals in the Oklahoma City area. It was my first experience working with Fred and enabled me to get to know him early on. At every work event, be it in DC or during conventions, he always worked hard during work hours and worked just as hard during off time. Forever to Fred!” - Anthony Livingston 

“As a member of AFGE I knew of Fred, but I didn't get to know him well until I began working for AFGE six years ago. We worked closely together conducting trainings in our respective Districts, we worked meetings and conferences together. Fred was my mentor. He always had a word of hope, a word of calm for tough situations, a way of offering a wry smile when things did not go well. Fred did not make perfect the enemy of the good; he knew tomorrow would bring a new opportunity to be there for members, workers, and coworkers. Fred was an optimist but never naive and that is an irreplaceable attribute in our work. I'll miss him the rest of my life.” - David Sheagley 

“Fred was always a kind, friendly, thoughtful, and generous mentor and friend to me. He was a passionate advocate. He worked hard to raise up the voices of disenfranchised workers. I had the honor of working with him in his dedicated fight for better health and safety conditions at the Goodfellow Federal Center. I learned so much from him. I will miss him very much.” - Fiona Kohrman 

“Fred was a magnificent human being and an excellent coworker. He will always be in my heart, and he will always be missed. Fred always had a sense of calmness and integrity that was unmatched. Again, he was a magnificent person and he always cared for everyone he touched.” - Kevin Liddell 

“Fred was devoted to his brothers and sisters at AFGE to the very end. I contacted him during the second week of May to help with some legislative outreach. He didn’t tell me how sick he was; he wrote back and said “On it!” Then we joked back and forth a little.” - Julie Tippens 

Fred will be deeply missed by his AFGE family. We extend our deepest condolences to his family and friends and know that his memory will be a blessing to all those that knew him. 

A celebration of life will take place at the Omni Hotel in Oklahoma City, OK on July 17, 2021 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. 

“I always say that union work is God's work, we do ministry aiding and assisting our fellow man. Helping those who could not do for themselves. This is ministry in the real sense of the word. So, as we celebrate the life of Fred McDuff let us focus on how we continue the work that he started,” said Kelley. 

May Fred rest in love, peace, and solidarity.  

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