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, a United Steelworkers (USW) union official 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, had led the trade federation of 56 unions representing 12.5 million workers since 2009.
Shuler, who grew up in a union household, said she was determined to continue Trumka’s push to expand the power of organized labor and reduce the income gap between rich and poor while also increasing union membership, which has slid for decades.
"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," she said in a statement.
Shuler, 51, worked as an organizer at Local 125 of the Electrical Workers (IBEW) union at Portland General Electric, working with a coalition of 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 to serve on the federation’s executive council.
The AFL-CIO executive officers’ terms run through June 2022, when delegates to a convention in Philadelphia will elect leaders for new four-year terms.