1919 - - - - - 1981
President, the American Federation of State,
County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME),
1964 - 1981
As president of AFSCME, Jerry Wurf was responsible for the union's growth from 240,000 to one million members. He also helped pioneer landmark public-sector collective bargaining laws in many states.
Served as Executive Director of AFSCME District Council 37 in New York City, 1959 to 1964.
Joined AFSCME in 1947 after working as an organizer for the Food Checkers and Cashiers Union
Civil Right leader: A founder of the Congress of Racial Equality, and co-architect with A. Philip Randolph of the Strategy for the Cities followed by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in his civil rights campaigns in the South.
Peace advocate: A strong voice for peace heard in the labor movement, as well as on the Council on Foreign Relations and Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy.
Jerry Wurf was called "Labor's last angry man." Anger walked with him like an old companion- -anger against hypocrisy, unfairness and injustice.
His heroes were Eugene Debs and Norman Thomas. Debs' vision of America gave Wurf his passionate belief that labor is the nation's best hope for achieving progressive social and economic change.
Wurf gave passion to the struggle to win basic rights for the nation's 14 million public workers. He asked, "If there is dignity in all work, why isn't there dignity for all workers?" He answered by telling public workers, "Collective bargaining, not collective begging!"
Wurf built AFSCME into one of the nation's largest, most powerful and progressive unions. Along the way he changed forever the American public's attitudes towards public workers.