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In Memoriam: Vernon Watkins

AFSCME is mourning the loss of Vernon R. Watkins, a dedicated labor organizer, activist and inspirational force who had a major impact in the labor movement during a long and dedicated career fighting for working families with AFSCME. “It would not be exaggerating to say that Vern built AFSCME in California, and many of us are here specifically because of him and the organizing work he did.”
By Pablo Ros ·
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In Memoriam: Vernon Watkins
Vern Watkins

AFSCME is mourning the loss of Vernon R. Watkins, a dedicated labor organizer, activist and inspirational force who had a major impact in the labor movement during a long and dedicated career fighting for working families with AFSCME. Watkins died March 5. He was 76.

Alice Goff, president of AFSCME Local 3090, and Cheryl Parisi, executive director of AFSCME District Council 36, said Watkins will be “an enduring figure in the labor movement due to his profound contributions in a 35-year career with AFSCME.”

“It would not be exaggerating to say that Vern built AFSCME in California,” the two said in a joint statement, “and many of us are here specifically because of him and the organizing work he did.”

According to a 2013 profile in the Los Angeles Times, Watkins was inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech at the 1963 March on Washington, becoming an officer in the printer’s union in his native Detroit before moving to California and becoming an organizer for AFSCME.

Among Watkins’s achievements:

Watkins is survived by his wife, Marion; four children, Vernon Jr., Celeste, Michelle and Angelia; 10 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

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