Until the late 1960s, public service employees in Pennsylvania worked under the “patronage” system – they were hired and fired at the will of their political employers. Gerald McEntee, who retired as AFSCME International President in 2012 after 31 years, was then a young AFSCME staff member in Philadelphia. McEntee dreamed of a better life for public employees, and he embarked upon the largest organizing drive in American labor history.
From a cramped, one-room office in Philadelphia, McEntee worked with a small staff including Pat Salvatore, Buck Martin, and Edward Keller, who would later become the Executive Director of Council 13 after McEntee was elected International AFSCME President in 1981. Together, the team led the drive to organize more than 75,000 of Pennsylvania’s public service employees.