Afscme Local Leaders Under Attack For Opposing Concessions And The War
by William Johnson; February 28, 2005
ZNet | Labor
THREE LEADERS of AFSCME District Council 1707 in New York City have been forced out of
their union offices in what one of the leaders, DC 1707 President Brenda Stokely, has
called "an attempt to silence rank-and-file voices in the union." In addition to Stokely
(who was removed in January 2005), DC 1707 Executive Director Raglan George, Jr. fired
staff organizer Gloria Jackson and Research Director Chuck Mohan.in December 2004.
All three have filed charges challenging their dismissals, saying they violated the
union's constitution and past practice; all three believe that their removals were
politically motivated. Stokely, an elected officer, was removed by George at a hastily
called executive board meeting, on charges that, according to Stokely, are not in
accordance with the union's constitution or past practice.
George's office did not respond to calls for comment.
Stokely, Jackson, and Mohan were all outspoken critics of the recent contract George
negotiated for DC 1707 daycare workers, which imposed a two-tier wage structure and failed
to get retroactive pay for the four-plus years these daycare workers were without a
"The first time I got in trouble [with George] was when I asked him about not getting
the retroactive pay," said Jackson, "but I'm supposed to represent the members, and they
were asking me about it. The members aren't happy with this contract, and they aren't
happy with [George's] leadership."
Stokely, Jackson, and Mohan are all active in the DC 1707 Members First Coalition, a
reform group pushing for increased rank and file control over the union. George was
furious with them for distributing flyers that were critical of the daycare contract.
"He always thought we were trying to undermine him," said Mohan. "But if a member asks
me what I think about the contract, I'm going to tell them. And this wasn't a good
Though the contract was eventually ratified, Stokely noted that the vote count was
questionable. "[George] asked everyone in the hall who loved the contract to stand up.
Half the people who stood up were standing up to ask questions about the contract, and a
bunch more stood up to leave because they were so frustrated, but they said that was a
standing vote and it had passed."
According to Stokely, Jackson, and Mohan, opposition to the contract is not the only
political issue at play here. "We've been very strong against the war in Iraq," said
Jackson, "and we were big supporters of the Million Worker March."
Stokely noted that while she, Jackson, and Mohan have advocated for the union to endorse
progressive causes, "we voted as a union to support the Million Worker March.the members
have voted multiple times to support antiwar activities. Many of our members have sons and
daughters and friends over in Iraq, so this is something they feel very strongly about."
Mohan added that while George has given "lip service" to progressive causes, DC 1707's
political activities made George and other AFSCME leaders uncomfortable. The Million
Worker March, which took place last fall as unions were focusing all of their resources on
John Kerry's presidential campaign, was particularly unpopular with many top union
leaders. Mohan said that it's likely that George, who is also an Intervational Vice
President, has been pressured to silence some of the union's more outspoken leaders.
Stokely noted that when she was elected president in 2002 (running on the same slate as
George), the members voted them in to clean up DC 1707, whose leadership had a history of
corruption. "The previous leadership had been indicted for embezzling," explained Stokely.
"We had to follow through on our campaign promises to get rid of corruption." However,
Stokely observed that, "from the day he was sworn in," George became more concerned with
issues like "raising his salary" than with representing the members.
George's term is up this year, and with officer election campaigns due to get started in
March, Stokely, Jackson, and Mohan each said they believe they were removed in part
because George saw them as threats in the upcoming elections.
With the daycare contract, these and other staff firings, and frustrations with George's
"dictatorial" style, Jackson said she believes that the DC 1707 Members First Coalition
will be able to challenge George's hold on the union.
[William Johnson is co-editor of Labor Notes magazine (www.labornotes.org); a version
of this article first appeared in the March 2005 issue of Labor Notes.]
[To send letters of support to Stokely, Jackson, and Mohan, write to: DC 1707 Members
First Coalition, P.O. Box 328, New York, N.Y. 10159-0328. To protest their removal, call
the DC 1707 office at 212-219-0022]