Lee Saunders has been sworn in as the International Secretary-Treasurer of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), AFL-CIO. The position makes him one of the highest-ranking African Americans in the American labor movement. Representing 1.6 million public service workers, AFSCME is one of the nation’s largest labor unions.

The Cleveland native said he will use his position to “stand up for the dignity of all work and all working people.”

“Throughout our history, this has been what we do. We come together in support of those whose names may never be known, but whose work safeguards neighborhoods and strengthens communities,” Saunders said in a statement.

Saunders has managed numerous political and legislative operations in the American labor movement.  He also supervised the largest grassroots mobilization effort in the union’s history to help pass President Obama’s health care reform initiative.