In the untimely death of its long-time leader, the AFL-CIO went right to work in picking a new union president and made history in the progress.
The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) executive council elected Liz Shuler to the president’s role.
Schuler said that she was honored by her election.
“I believe in my bones the labor movement is the single greatest organized force for progress,” Shuler stated. “This is a moment for us to lead societal transformations—to leverage our power to bring women and people of color from the margins to the center—at work, in our unions and in our economy, and to be the center of gravity for incubating new ideas that will unleash unprecedented union growth.”
Earlier this month, former AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka died of a heart attack while on a camping trip with his family at the age of 72. Trumka had served as union president since 2009.
With Shuler leaving her post, the executive council elected United Steelworkers (USW) International Vice President Fred Redmond to fill the secretary-treasurer position.
“I could not be more excited to get to work with President Shuler so we can build on the labor movement’s legacy of change, writing a new chapter that brings the promise of union membership to workers across this country,” Redmond stated. “This is the right team at the right time to help bring about the economic and social justice America is hungry for.”
Shuler has worked around organized labor for decades and comes from a family of laborers and union affiliation. Shuler’s father was a power lineman and member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 125 at Portland General Electric. Her mother worked in the union’s design department.
In 1993, she was hired as an organizer for Local 125 fighting against Enron Corp.’s attempt to deregulate electricity. In 1998, she mobilized IBEW members in California to defeat Prop. 226, known as the “payment protection” bill, that would’ve required unions to get permission from individual members before any of their dues were used for political purposes. From that time to now, Shuler has served in IBEW’s political/legislative affairs department––while still continuing her grassroots organizing––and as an assistant to the international president.
Shuler’s journey took her towards Trumka where she became the first woman secretary-treasurer in AFL-CIO history and the first to serve on the executive council.
Congrats poured in from other unions as well.
“Liz Shuler has been a great friend of registered nurses and our union,” stated National Nurses United Executive Director Bonnie Castillo, RN. “Her outspoken advocacy for the strongest possible infectious disease control protections over the past year in the face of the grave danger to our members and all Americans in this terrible once-in-a-century pandemic symbolizes what a strong champion she will be for workers, patients, and public health and safety overall.”
“There could not be a better tribute to the legacy of Rich Trumka than to be followed by Liz Shuler,” stated Castillo.
Unions under the umbrella of AFL-CIO praised Shuler’s election.
“We have worked closely with Liz as a state federation on several of the labor movement’s priority issues over the years as she served in her role as secretary-treasurer,” stated New York State AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento. “She is a proven leader with the experience and drive we need to move us forward.”
Tim Driscoll, president of the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers, said that Shuler’s life’s work makes her perfect for her new gig.
“Liz’s roots as a local IBEW organizer have informed her decision-making throughout her career and are central to the vision she brings to leading the federation,” stated Driscoll. Her vital stewardship of the AFL-CIO through.