An interview with Danny Donohue

No doubt you’re wondering, “Who the heck is Danny Donohue?” Donohue isn’t an elected official, nor is he a candidate for elected office, but he is a candidate for AFSCME International president.

As many of you know, I’m a proud member of AFSCME (Council 24, to be exact), and I’ve taken a great interest in this week’s elections in Los Angeles to choose the next president of AFSCME International. Donohue is running against Lee Saunders, who currently serves as secretary-treasurer of AFSCME, and the race to become the next president of AFSCME International has really become a race of the establishment (Saunders) vs. the change candidate (Donohue).

Last week Friday I had an opportunity to chat with Donohue about his decision to run for president of AFSCME International, as well as his thoughts on how he’d move AFSCME forward and grow the union, which has seen its membership decline, especially here in Wisconsin in the aftermath of Gov. Scott Walker’s assault on public employee collective bargaining rights.

“We have to do things a different way,” Donohue responded when asked why he decided to run, adding that AFSCME has traditionally been a strong organization because of its grassroots operation. Donohue noted he wants to focus on rebuilding AFSCME from the bottom up, saying, “We’ve become a top-down operation. We have to do things a different way.” He also noted that while the country has changed dramatically over the past five years, AFSCME has not adapted as well.

When prompted to talk about how he’d move AFSCME forward if elected, Donohue started by mentioning that he’d review the resources the union currently has and how it spends its money, in order to ensure resources are being allocated efficiently. Donohue cited the union’s decision to spend $1 million on ads attacking Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in Florida as an example of the union allocating its resources unwisely, and he noted that AFSCME members in Florida have questioned why their union leadership only visits their state in election years. “We need to be invested in our members’ lives every day,” Donohue said, adding that the members of AFSCME are neighbors, friends, and people who live down the block from the general public, a fact that needs to be reinforced. Donohue also made a point to mention that he feels union leadership needs to listen more to its members, instead of telling members what to do.

Asked what he brings to the table that his opponent, Lee Saunders, doesn’t, Donohue was quick to point to his experience as a rank-and-file member of AFSCME, having come up through the ranks of AFSCME in New York state. “I know what it’s like to be one paycheck from being laid off,” Donohue said, adding that he’d bring a rank-and-file member’s mentality to his position as president, specifically when it comes to how the union’s money is being spent. “I want more transparency from International,” Donohue said to emphasize his point.

When asked how he would respond to criticisms that he did not come to Wisconsin to stand with our public employees in the aftermath of Act 10, Donohue said that he made a point to ask what was needed here in Wisconsin – and he was told we needed money and people. “They didn’t want another person to give a speech,” Donohue said, adding that in response to requests he wrote a check and sent about 20 of his members and staff to carry their banner and help the effort. Donohue added that he didn’t want to come to Wisconsin just for the photo op, saying he responded to what he was told was needed – nothing more and nothing less.

Here’s more about Danny Donohue, from his One AFSCME website.

Though I’m obviously not in Los Angeles to cast a vote in favor of Danny Donohue for AFSCME International president, I’ll be pulling for him to prevail once all the votes are cast.

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