Lee Saunders is the president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO, which represents 1.6 million members. He was elected at the union’s 40th International Convention in June 2012. Saunders, the first African-American to serve as AFSCME's president, was previously elected secretary-treasurer at the union’s 39th International Convention in July 2010.
Saunders grew up in a union household in Cleveland, Ohio. This inspired him to join the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association when he began working for the Ohio Bureau of Employment Services in 1975. Saunders, who began his career with AFSCME in 1978 as a labor economist, has served as administrator of a number of AFSCME councils and large local unions across the country, including four years as administrator of AFSCME District Council 37, New York City’s largest public-employee union.
Saunders received his master's degree from Ohio State University in 1974, a year after earning his bachelor's degree from Ohio University. In 2002, the College of New Rochelle awarded him an honorary doctorate degree in humane letters.