As president and chief executive officer of AFSCME Florida Council 79, Jeanette D. Wynn is the state's highest-ranking African-American woman labor leader. President Wynn was born in Gadsden County in rural North Florida on June 21, 1948. She was married to Harry Wynn Jr. and has two children: Sonja and Cedric. She earned an associate of arts degree from Tallahassee Community College and studied social work at Florida A&M University.
In September 1970, she began work at Florida State Hospital in Chattahoochee as a recreational aide. Florida State Hospital is the state's largest public mental institution and treats many people found to be criminally insane by the courts. In 1982, she was promoted to rehabilitative specialist.
As a rehabilitative specialist, President Wynn was responsible for treating criminally ill residents and evaluating whether they were competent to stand trial. Working with criminally insane is very dangerous as evidenced when an AFSCME sister Pauline Kent, a Unit Treatment and Rehabilitation Specialist at Florida State Hospital in Chattahoochee, died in 1981 at the state hospital when she was strangled by a resident.
President Wynn was one of the first state employees to join AFSCME in 1976 after its certification as the collective bargaining agent for most of Florida's state employees. She was a member of Council 79's first executive board and was the first secretary/treasurer of Local 1963. In 1981, she was elected Local 1963's second president and served in that office until 1998. In 1983, she earned her first AFSCME Florida statewide office as Council 79 secretary/treasurer.
As Council 79 secretary/treasurer, President Wynn served until 1996, the same year she won a spot as International Vice President Caribbean. In 1998, President Wynn ascended to Council 79's highest office. President Wynn has distinguished herself in leading fights to help all working families, not just public servants. Drawing on her experiences in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, President Wynn played a crucial role in forging a coalition of African-American and Latino farm workers that led to the successful organizing drive in 1998 at Quincy Farms, a mushroom farm in Gadsden County that is one of the country's largest. The United Farm Workers later awarded President Wynn for her efforts in building this coalition.
President Wynn helped her native county again in 1999 when she and Local 1963 successfully fought off Gov. Jeb Bush's plan to house sexual predators at a facility across the street from an elementary school. It was Governor Bush's first defeat in office.
Building coalitions was at the heart of President Wynn's leadership in organizing the "Coalition of Conscience: A March on Tallahassee," on March 7, 2000. The protest of Gov. Jeb Bush's "One Florida" plan to eliminate affirmative action in state hiring, contracting and education brought more than 30,000 people to the state capital, the largest civil rights' march in Florida history.
Under the leadership of President Wynn, AFSCME Florida was the first to recognize the "chad" issue in the 2000 Presidential Election in Florida and alerted AFSCME International to the problems caused by the state's antiquated voting machines, many in minority and low-income neighborhoods.
President Wynn's leadership stands her in the forefront of the fight to protect Florida's public services and public employees from Governor Bush's plans to cut state government by 25 percent, privatize many vital services and abolish the civil service system that protects the public from political patronage.
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