Long-Term President of AFSCME labor union, Gerald W. McEntee, 87, Passed Away

Long-Term President of AFSCME labor union, Gerald W. McEntee, 87, Passed Away

Gerald W. McEntee, the longtime president of one of the country’s largest public employee labor unions American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), died on Sunday at his home in Naples, Florida. He was 87 when he died.

His death was confirmed by the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), which he led from 1981 to 2012.

McEntee was born in Philadelphia, he attended private instituted named parochial schools for education. He graduated from La Salle University with a degree in political science in 1956.

McEntee began his career as a labor leader by going to work as an organizer for his father’s union. He worked as a political strategist for the powerful municipal union for a couple of years. In 1973, he was elected as Executive Director of AFSCME Council in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and in 1974, he was elected as an International Vice President of AFSCME.

While he served as the union’s president, he helped the union grow from about 1 million active members to over 1.2 million at its peak, as well as led key fights against the privatization of government programs during his tenure.

Hostile to Unions

As Washington became increasingly hostile to unions, during that era of largely Republican rule, he was perhaps best known for the effort he made to increase the influence of the labor movement in electoral politics.

“He was an important figure in repositioning the union in politics,” said Joseph McCartin. “I think he’s calling card more than anything was that he began to use the union’s political power to exact things that in an earlier era the union might have turned to strikes to exact.”

After Mr. McEntee became president, the union began spending heavily on state legislative races, reckoning that legislators were important both for the funding of public services and for the once-per-decade redistricting that helps determine control of Congress.

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After that, during the 1992 presidential campaign, Mr. Gerald W. McEntee persuaded the international executive board of the union to endorse Bill Clinton, who was at that time the governor of Arkansas, and whom many union officials regarded as being less labor-friendly than rival Democratic candidates, such as Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa.

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