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AFSCME is a democratic union comprised of a diverse group of people who share a common commitment to public service. For us, serving the public is not just a job, it’s a calling. An important part of our mission is to advocate for the vital services that keep our families safe and make our communities strong. We also advocate for prosperity and opportunity for all of America’s working families. We not only stand for fairness at the bargaining table — we fight for fairness in our communities and in the halls of government.

Behavioral health professionals make up an important piece of AFSCME’s strength across the country. From social workers to addiction and mental health counselors, AFSCME members work in our nation’s hospitals, clinics and out-patient services. We can be found at small private practice facilities to large non-profit networks. With more than 50,000 behavioral health professionals and growing, we are coming together as a movement, lifting our voices and the voices of our clients to drive meaningful change.

Our democratic principles are enshrined in the AFSCME International Constitution

Our Leadership

President Lee Saunders

Lee Saunders is the president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO, with 1.4 million members in communities across the nation, serving in hundreds of different occupations – from nurses to corrections officers, child care providers to sanitation workers. He was elected at the union’s 40th International Convention in June 2012.

Saunders, the first African American to serve as AFSCME's president, was previously elected secretary-treasurer at the union’s 39th International Convention in July 2010.

Saunders grew up in a union household in Cleveland, Ohio. This inspired him to join the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association (OCSEA) when he began working for the Ohio Bureau of Employment Services in 1975. His father was a bus driver and a member of the Amalgamated Transit Union. His mother was a community organizer and, after raising two sons, returned to college and became a community college professor and a member of the American Association of University Professors.

Saunders began his career with AFSCME in 1978 as a labor economist. He has served in the capacities of assistant director of Research and Collective Bargaining Services, director of Community Action and deputy director of Organizing and Field Services. Saunders also served as executive assistant to the president of AFSCME and was responsible for managing what is acknowledged to be one of the most effective political and legislative operations in the history of the American labor movement. AFSCME’s fundraising clout, member mobilization and lobbying expertise are unmatched in the ranks of the AFL-CIO and beyond.

Under Saunders' leadership, the union has launched a program called AFSCME Strong that builds power through internal and external organizing, and recognizes the individual contributions AFSCME members make to serving and strengthening their communities. The program is credited with growth in AFSCME membership despite current challenges faced by the labor movement as a whole.

He has served as administrator of a number of AFSCME councils and large local unions across the country.

For nearly four years, he served as administrator of AFSCME District Council 37, New York City’s largest public employee union, representing 125,000 members. In that capacity, he was successful in restoring the fiscal health, integrity and good name of the council and its 56 affiliated local unions.

Saunders serves as a vice president of the AFL-CIO Executive Council, which guides the daily work of the labor federation; he also serves as chair of its Political Committee. He is an at-large member of the Democratic National Committee, president of Working America and treasurer of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. He also serves as a board member of Priorities USA and the Democracy Alliance.

He received a Master of Arts degree from Ohio State University in 1974, a year after earning his Bachelor of Arts degree from Ohio University.

Saunders and his wife Lynne live in Washington, DC, and have two sons, Lee, Jr. and Ryan.

Secretary-Treasurer Elissa McBride

Elissa McBride is secretary-treasurer of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO. She was re-elected by delegates to AFSCME International’s Biennial Convention in 2018.

McBride joined the labor movement as a member of the United Auto Workers District 65 in 1989. In 1991, she was recruited to the AFL-CIO Organizing Institute, a new initiative to expand the ranks of union organizers and grow the labor movement. During her years as an organizer, she worked with factory workers to form unions and win first contracts in North Carolina, Texas, Ohio, Vermont and Rhode Island. One-on-one communication, workplace power and direct action were critical to those victories and remain central to her philosophy of trade unionism.

Those early successes led McBride to become the New England organizing director for the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers, and later to direct the AFL-CIO Organizing Institute training program. At the AFL-CIO, she trained hundreds of community activists and organizers to build power in their workplaces by reaching workers one on one and moving them to take collective action.

McBride joined AFSCME as the director of the Education and Leadership Training Department in 2001. In this position, she prepared union members, leaders and staff to lead the labor movement into the future and become more effective champions for equality, justice and dignity on the job.

She led the creation of AFSCME’s Leadership Academy, which includes programs to help AFSCME leaders build strong local unions through strategic planning and team building; to inform members about how the union works through online classes; and to equip senior staff and elected officers to lead the union in challenging times.

Since becoming secretary-treasurer, she has spearheaded the development of the Secretary-Treasurer Online Resource Center to support the work of local secretary-treasurers. She has also traveled around the country to meet with AFSCME Strong activists and encourage their member-to-member organizing efforts. McBride is a member of the AFL-CIO Executive Council, and serves on its Civil Rights, Immigration and Working Women committees. She also serves on the board of directors of the National Employment Law Project and Jobs with Justice. She is a member of AFSCME Local 1072 (Council 3).

McBride lives in Silver Spring, Maryland, and has two children, Isaiah and Rosie.