The nation’s largest federation of labor unions on Friday announced it has elected Liz Shuler, a longtime labor advocate, as president of the organization.
Shuler will be the first female to hold the position since the AFL-CIO was founded in 1955.
Shuler served as the secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO since 2009, and was also the first woman to hold that position.
The 51-year-old will take over after the “unexpected and untimely passing” of Richard Trumka, the organization wrote in a statement. Trumka served as AFL-CIO president for over a decade, beginning in 2009 until his death at the age of 72 in early August.
“I am humbled, honored and ready to guide this federation forward,” Shuler wrote in part of 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,” she added.
The AFL-CIO made another first with the selection of Fred Redmond to succeed Shuler as secretary-treasurer of the organization, as he will become the first African American to hold the federation’s second highest office.
Redmond previously served as the international vice president for the United Steelworkers.
“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 wrote in part. “This is the right team at the right time to help bring about the economic and social justice America is hungry for.”
Both Shuler and Redmond, as well as newly-selected EVP Tefere Gebre, will serve until the next ACL-CIO convention in June 2022, when delegates will elect leaders to four-year-terms.
The AFL-CIO, which stands for the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, comprises 56 unions and over 12 million members nationwide. Member unions include the American Guild of Musical Artists, NFL Players Association, Transport Workers Union of America, the United Mine Workers of America and many more.
In March, the House passed a sweeping overhaul of federal labor law designed to invigorate unions by making it easier to organize and harder for state laws to inhibit unions. The “PRO Act” passed 225-206 on a largely party line vote but has virtually no chance to clear the 50-50 Senate, where rules allow Republican opposition to block any bill that has support from fewer than 60 senators.
Democrats push for the most significant labor law change since the Great Depression comes after a decades-long slide in union membership. In 1970, almost a third of the U.S. workforce was unionized. In 2020, that number was 10.8%.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.