AFL-CIO Elects First Woman President
The AFL-CIO Executive Council announced late last week the election of its new president and leadership team. Liz Shuler has been elected as the first woman to hold the office of President in the history of the labor federation.
“I am humbled, honored and ready to guide this federation forward,” Shuler said after her election. “I believe in my bones the labor movement is the single greatest organized force for progress. 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.”
The Council also elected United Steelworkers International Vice President Fred Redmond to succeed Shuler as Secretary-Treasurer, the first Black American to hold the number two office, while Tefere Gebre will continue as Executive Vice President.
“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 said. “This is the right team at the right time to help bring about the economic and social justice America is hungry for.”
The election of Shuler and Redmond comes after the unexpected passing of Richard Trumka, who served as AFL-CIO president from 2009 until his death on Aug. 5, capping a more than 50-year career.
The terms of the three executive officers run through June 2022, when delegates to the AFL-CIO Convention in Philadelphia will elect leaders for new four-year terms.
In 1993, Shuler was hired as an organizer at Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 125 where she worked with a broad-based coalition of labor, community and environmental activists. In 1998, Ed Hill, then-secretary-treasurer of the IBEW, assigned Shuler to California where she mobilized IBEW members to help defeat Prop. 226, the so-called paycheck protection initiative that threatened to silence union members in the political process.
Shortly after, John J. Barry, then president of the IBEW at that time, hired her as an international representative in the union’s Political/Legislative Affairs Department in Washington, D.C. In 2004, she was promoted to assistant to the international president, where she served Hill, who had succeeded to the position of president.
In 2009, she joined Trumka, becoming the first woman elected to the position of secretary-treasurer at an AFL-CIO convention and the youngest woman ever on the federation’s Executive Council.
According to the AFL-CIO, in addition to her stewardship of the federation’s finances, Shuler led the AFL-CIO’s initiatives on the future of work, retirement security, the clean energy economy, public safety reform, workforce development, and empowering women and young workers.
Redmond has been a USW member since 1973, when he worked at Reynolds Metals Co. in Chicago. He became active in his local union almost immediately, serving as shop steward and eventually vice president. He served three terms as local president.
Redmond served the USW in various staff and leadership roles, assisting local unions, developing and conducting training programs, and bargaining contracts. As international vice president for human affairs, Redmond oversaw the Civil and Human Rights Department, as well as the union’s shipbuilding, health care and public sector bargaining, and worked with USW allies across the country.
Redmond has a long history of leadership on various boards, including the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists and the A. Philip Randolph Institute. In 2021, Redmond was elected president of the Trade Union Confederation of the Americas.