Local Labor leaders praise election of Liz Shuler to lead the AFL-CIO

First woman to lead Federation in its history


AFL-CIO PRESIDENT Liz Shuler is the first woman to hold the office in the history of the Federation. – AFL-CIO photo

St. Louis-area Labor leaders say they’re looking forward to working with newly-elected AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler.

Shuler, who has served as AFL-CIO secretary treasurer since 2009, is the first woman to hold the office in the history of the federation, which consists of 56 unions and 12.5 million members.

“I am honored and humbled to serve in this position and I stand on the shoulders of so many women who have come before me,” Shuler said last week in an interview on Good Morning America.

Shuler is no stranger in the St. Louis Labor Movement. She worked alongside Labor leaders, allies and union members to defeat so-called “right-to-work” at the ballot box in 2018.

Congrats to President Shuler,” Missouri AFL-CIO President Jake Hummel said of her historic election. “The AFL-CIO is in good hands, and the Missouri AFL-CIO supports you 100 percent.”

Pat White, president of the St. Louis Labor Council, said Shuler has always been a champion for working men and women. He noted that she came out of the trenches of the IBEW and worked hard and tirelessly to get in the position of secretary treasurer of the AFL-CIO.

“She’s a great friend of St. Louis and spent many days here during our fight against ‘right-to-work,’” White said. “She’s also a strong advocate for getting women more involved in union leadership. We look forward to her leadership and couldn’t be happier to have her at the helm.”

John Stiffler, executive secretary treasurer of the St. Louis Building & Construction Trades Council, agreed with White and said he looks forward to working with Shuler and her new team.

“It is great to have our first female leader of the AFL-CIO – who grew up in a union household and knows all of our issues – lead working families across our country,” Stiffler said.

Shuler is also a familiar face with local tradeswomen. In 2019, she visited St. Louis to help launch Lean In Circles for Union Tradeswomen, a new program to support and empower women in the trades, and in 2016, she served as a moderator at the first Women in the Breakroom roundtable discussion hosted by the Missouri AFL-CIO.

Beth Barton, president of Missouri Women in Trades, said Shuler has been a dedicated advocate for all working women and men for years. She said she has been personally amazed to see Shuler’s passion and dedication at the North American Building Trades Unions’ Tradeswomen Build Nations conferences over the years.

“We are thrilled to see this development,” Barton said. “She really works hard to reach people on the streets as much as people in boardrooms and at the executive level. It is wonderful and heartening to see someone in a high position of power who truly cares about us and who uplifts all workers. I’m excited to see the energy and support for workers Liz will bring.”

Kim Cook Bell, president of the St. Louis chapter of the Coalition of Labor Union Women, said she was pleased to have Shuler lead the federation.

“Her rise to lead us as the new president of the AFL-CIO symbolizes all we have been working toward in our CLUW Chapter,” Cook Bell said.

The AFL-CIO Executive Council elected United Steelworkers International Vice President Fred Redmond to succeed Shuler as secretary-treasurer, making him the first African American to hold the No. 2 office.

Tefere Gebre will continue as executive vice president, rounding out the most diverse team of officers ever to lead the AFL-CIO. Gebre, from the Teamsters and later AFSCME, is a naturalized citizen and Ethiopian refugee.

The election of Shuler and Redmond comes after the unexpected and untimely 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 of dedication to America’s unions and working people.

Lew Moye, emeritus president of the St. Louis chapter of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists said he was excited and happy about the diversity of the new AFL-CIO leadership team.

“Liz Schuler, Fred Redmond and Tefere Gebre are the real deal for working families,” Moye said. “This is a significant history-making accomplishment for diversity in the Labor Movement. We owe a great deal of gratitude to Richard Trumka for this new AFL-CIO leadership. It was and is his vision, and we now see the growth from the diversity seeds he planted in words and action for the AFL-CIO.”

Keith Robinson, president of the A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI) St. Louis Chapter said he was pleased to see such a diverse team.

“It’s great to have Liz Shuler as the first female at the helm of a typically white-male organization,” he said. “It’s also encouraging to see National APRI Chairman Fred Redmond elected as secretary-treasurer. And, of course, Tefere Gebre continues to so an excellent job of promoting inclusion throughout organized Labor. I’m hopeful that this new leadership will bring a commitment to policy changes that are reflective of the diversity now seen at the head of the organization.”

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.

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