AFL-CIO elects first woman president; first African-American for No. 2 job

FILE PHOTO: Secretary-Treasurer of American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) Liz Shuler speaks at the Lincoln Memorial during the ‘Get Your Knee Off Our Necks’ march in support of racial justice, in Washington, U.S., August 28, 2020. Olivier Douliery/Pool via REUTERS

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The AFL-CIO, the largest U.S. labor organization, on Friday elected Liz Shuler, a longtime trade unionist, to serve as the federation’s first woman president, succeeding Richard Trumka, who died unexpectedly earlier this month.

The AFL-CIO’s executive council also elected Fred Redmond, international vice president of the United Steelworkers (USW) union as secretary-treasurer, making him the first African- American to hold the organization’s No. 2 office.

Trumka, who died of a heart attack at 72 during a camping trip with his grandsons, had led the trade federation of 56 unions representing 12.5 million workers since 2009.

Shuler, who grew up in a union household, underscored her determination to continue Trumka’s push to expand the power of organized labor and reduce the income gap between rich and poor.

“”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,” she said in a statement.

Redmond said he would work with Shuler to expand union membership across the country. “This is the right team at the right time to help bring about the economic and social justice America is hungry for,” he said.

Shuler, 51, worked as an organizer at Local 125 of the Electrical Workers (IBEW) union at Portland General Electric, working with a coalition of labor, community and environmental activists to challenge energy giant Enron Corp when it tried to muscle electricity deregulation through the Oregon Legislature.

In 2009, she was elected as Trumka’s top deputy, the first woman elected to the position of secretary-treasurer, and the youngest woman ever on the federation’s executive council.

The terms of the AFL-CIO’s executive officers run through June 2022, when delegates to the AFL-CIO Convention in Philadelphia will elect leaders for new four-year terms.

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