The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees has announced it will no longer contribute their yearly $50,000-$60,000 to the United Negro College Fund. They’re angry the iconic group took a $25 million donation from philanthropic, conservatives Charles and David Koch.
AFSCME’s president, Lee Saunders, pontificated the fund’s decision to take Koch money is “not only deeply hostile to the rights and dignity of public employees, but also a profound betrayal of the ideals of the civil-rights movement.” UNCF President, Dr. Michael Lomax responded, “While I am saddened by (the) decision, it will not distract us from our mission of helping thousand’s of African-American students.”
So which of these two men have the best interests of young, scholarly, minority students at heart? Saunders rests his case only on the shaky assumption he can claim the civil rights high ground, and completely ignores the overwhelming dollar disparity between his union’s gift and that of the Koch’s. Lomax makes a much better balanced appeal.
Here are some details regarding the backgrounds of Saunders and Lomax that should cause readers to wonder just how is it the former should be preaching to the latter regarding civil-rights. We’ll follow that with a very short, simple dollars and sense breakdown of the differences between the two contributions.
Their personal history:
Mr. Saunders grew up in Cleveland Ohio. His dad was a bus driver and mom a community organizer who returned to college later in life and became a professor. Lee received a B. A. from Ohio University in 1973. The following year he earned an M. A. from Ohio State University. He began in AFSCME in 1978 as a labor economist. He rose through the ranks and, “was responsible for managing what is acknowledged to be one of the most effective political and legislative operations in the history of the American labor movement. AFSCME’s clout in fundraising and member mobilization, and its lobbying expertise are unmatched in the ranks of the AFL-CIO and beyond.”
Dr. Lomax graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Morehouse College (Dr. Martin Luther King’s alma mater) in 1968. He later received a Ph.D. in American and African-American literature from Emory University. Lomax taught lit at Morehouse, Spellman College, and the University of Georgia, while serving as an assistant to Maynard Jackson, Atlanta’s first African-American mayor. He served as president of Dillard University. It’s interesting to note that the majority of above mentioned schools touched by Michael are members of the United Negro College Fund. “Under his leadership, UNCF has raised $1.5 billion and helped more than 92,000 students earn college degrees and launch careers. Annually, UNCF’s work enables 60,000 students to go to college with UNCF scholarships and attend its 37 member historically black college and universities.”
The dollar disparity:
AFSCME has approximately 1.6 million members both working and retired. It donates somewhere between $50,000 and $60,000 a year to the UNCF. That comes to each member ponying up less than 4 cents a year to help worthy black kids go on to higher education. If you divide the Koch contribution by 2 each brother’s share is $12.5 million.
At the rate of $50,000 a year it would take the public-service employees union 500 years to reach the $25,000,000 the Koch’s gave this past spring. As a labor economist it would seem Lee Saunders should be able to see the advantage of Dr. Michael Lomax not having to wait the equivalent of 5 centuries to match a sum of money designed to help today’s African-American kids go on to institutions of higher learning. Lomax, in line with the highest “ideals” of Martin Luther King, is dedicated to offering those current and future scholarship recipients an opportunity for a productive life of “dignity”.
“A mind is a terrible thing to waste.” Congratulations to Dr. Lomax for doing the right thing on behalf the 10’s of thousands of young African-Americans about to benefit from Koch generosity.