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The AFL-CIO Executive Council today elected Liz Shuler, a visionary leader and longtime trade unionist, to serve as president of the federation of 56 unions and 12.5 million members. Shuler is the first woman to hold the office in the history of the labor federation. The Executive Council also elected United Steelworkers (USW) International Vice President Fred Redmond to succeed Shuler as secretary-treasurer, the first African American to hold the number two office. Tefere Gebre will continue as executive vice president, rounding out the most diverse team of officers ever to lead the AFL-CIO.

NYT: How did you get your start in the labor movement?

Liz Shuler: I came up through the IBEW [International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers]. My father was a union member and worked for PGE [an Oregon utility]. Clerical workers were not in a union, and my mother and I were organizing them. PGE was a study in the difference a union can make: Power linemen were respected and made good wages, and nonunion clerical workers were not listened to and didn’t have a voice.

Workers at companies like Kellogg’s, Nabisco and John Deere have hit the picket lines in recent weeks hoping to get a better deal from their employers. A new survey suggests the public by and large supports them.

The AFL-CIO labor federation commissioned the progressive pollster Data for Progress to take the public’s temperature on the strikes that have made headlines this summer and fall. The online survey of nearly 1,300 likely voters asked if they “approve or disapprove of employees going on strike in support of better wages, benefits, and working conditions.”

Marcial Reyes could have just quit his job. Frustrated with chronic understaffing at the Kaiser Permanente hospital where he works in Southern California, he knows he has options in a region desperate for nurses.

Instead, he voted to go on strike.

And many of them are either hitting the picket lines or quitting their jobs as a result.

The changing dynamics of the US labor market, which has put employees rather than employers in the driver's seat in a way not seen for decades, is allowing unions to flex their muscle.

Twenty years ago today, on a Sunday afternoon in Brookwood, Alabama, 32 coal miners descended 2,000 feet below the ground into the Jim Walter Resources Blue Creek No. 5 Mine for a routine maintenance check.

Flying into Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport recently, I spotted the ramp workers on the tarmac, busily unloading bags and doing safety checks on the plane in 115 degree heat. Most passengers were anxious to deplane, ready to head to baggage claim, not giving a second thought to the work happening all around them to make their journey happen.

AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler discussed the economy and jobs with the Christian Science Monitor. She also reflected on becoming the first woman to lead the union. The organization’s previous president, Richard Trumka, passed away in August 2021. Other topics discussed included workers' rights legislation and the upcoming midterm elections. 

Watch the segment on C-SPAN.

The executive council of the AFL-CIO held a special meeting last week to name their next leader, following the death of the labor federation’s longtime president, Richard Trumka. For the first time in the organization’s history, they chose a woman. Liz Shuler, 51, had served as the federation’s second-in-command under Trumka since they were elected together in 2009. Despite the sad and unusual circumstances of the succession ― Trumka died on Aug.