American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) grew out of the Wisconsin State Employees Association (WSEA) which was formed in 1932 by a small group of white-collar and professional state employees who feared of losing their jobs to nepotism by local politicians.

In 1933 WSEA was granted a charter by the American Federation of Labor. WSEA was now on the American labor movement's map and Arnold Zander, a state personnel examiner, became the group's driving force. Zander began promoting the idea of a national union of state, county, and municipal employees and by 1935, state employee associations had emerged in several states.

At the May, 1935 AFL convention, Zander's national union—by then called the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees—was made a "department" of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE). However, this arrangement did not satisfy Zander and other AFSCME leaders who wanted full independence. Sixteen months later, in September, 1936, AFGE officers recommended a separate AFL charter for AFSCME. That charter was granted and Zander was chosen as AFSCME's first International President.

AFSCME's most memorable victory was probably that of the Memphis Sanitation Worker's strike. The workers, mostly African-American, were striking for union recognition, dues deduction, wage increases, a four-step grievance procedure ending in arbitration, and end to racial discrimination in promotions and job assignments. It was during this 65 day strike that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.

AFSCME currently represents over 1.3 million members, the majority of which are public service and health care workers.

AFSCME is affiliated with the AFL-CIO

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