The Stand

‘Example for what a labor leader should be’

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Longtime WFSE/AFSCME leader Greg Devereux, who oversaw union’s growth, retires

 

By JUSTIN LEE
Special to The Stand

OLYMPIA (Feb. 10, 2020) — Executive Director and AFSCME International Vice President Greg Devereux retired in January after nearly 40 years in the labor movement. His leadership made the Washington Federation of State Employees (WFSE), Council 28 one of the strongest AFSCME councils in the nation and a progressive force for working people in Washington state.

Devereux began his career with WFSE in 1993 as the deputy director, and in 1994 he was selected to serve as the union’s fourth executive director. Prior to that, he worked at AFSCME’s Public Policy Department and ran corporate campaigns at the AFL-CIO.

During his tenure, WFSE more than doubled in size and strength. Many of the union’s accomplishments over the years were due to his skill as a negotiator and his vast knowledge of public policy.

The passage of legislation in 2002 granting full scope collective bargaining to state employees is a case in point. His persistent lobbying alongside staff and member activists was critical and set the stage for an expansion of those rights to countless others.

Friends, colleagues and WFSE members recently gathered for Devereux’s retirement celebration.

Jeff Johnson, the former President of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, was in attendance.

“The thing that impressed me the most is that you set the example for what a labor leader should be,” Johnson said. “You have a broad vision of social justice both for [WFSE] members, as well as all workers… You’ve fought for the dignity, the respect, and quality care for [individuals with disabilities] — as well as fighting for workers like Julianne Moore who passionately care for those who have significant barriers.”

Four WFSE Executive Directors: Newly selected ED Leanne Kunze, Greg Devereux, Gary Moore, and George Masten.

Throughout his career with WFSE, Devereux stood for the preservation of quality health care and defined benefit pension plans. He foresaw corporate-driven legal maneuvers designed to strip away workers’ rights and helped develop the AFSCME Strong Program in collaboration with WFSE and international union staff. The program is now a national model for organizing in the 21st century.

Devereux also served on the Public Employees Benefits Board for 25 years where he was instrumental in establishing domestic partner benefits and moving up the coverage timetable for transgender workers.

He served on the Washington State Labor Council Executive Board, the Budget and Policy Center Board, and the Board of the Ruckelshaus Center.

“Thanks to you, I’m still a state employee after 35 years because I have a job I love,” said Julianne Moore, an orthotics/prosthetics technician at Yakima Valley School and a WFSE member-activist. “I get paid well and have enough to survive on. I have a health and retirement plan. Think about what you’ve done over these years for all the workers in this state, not just us state employees. You’ve raised the bar for all workers.”

Devereux will serve out the remainder of his term as an AFSCME international vice president and continue to be an advocate for working people. He intends to speak up for affordable housing and the expansion of health care coverage for public service workers employed in the private sector.


Justin Lee is the Communications Director of the Washington Federation of State Employees, AFSCME Council 28. This article originally appeared at the WFSE website and is posted here with the author’s permission.

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