Home>Articles>Wowkanech, Brennan hail election of first woman AFL-CIO president

New Jersey AFL-CIO President Charles Wowkanech with Elizabeth Shuler, the president of the AFL-CIO. (Photo: Charles Wowkanech).

Wowkanech, Brennan hail election of first woman AFL-CIO president

By David Wildstein, August 20 2021 11:58 am

Elizabeth Shuler, a 51-year-old labor leader from Oregon, became the first woman to serve as president of the AFL-CIO.

With the support of New Jersey union officials, Shuler was elected today to succeed Richard Trumka, who died on August 5.

Shuler’s post as Secretary-Treasurer – she was the first woman to hold that post — was filled by Fred Redmond, who becomes the first Black to hold the job.

“Liz Shuler is making history once again,” said New Jersey AFL-CIO President Charles Wowkanech. “Whether she was at the negotiating table or on the picket line, she has always displayed her lifelong commitment to excellence and activism. And her record of strong, progressive and compassionate leadership for every sector of labor promises stability for our movement and for every working family in America.”

Shuler started out as a union organizer for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 125 in Oregon, where her father was an electrical lineman and her mother as a secretary.  She later became the union’s lobbyist for the Oregon legislature.

She was Trumka’s running mate in a hotly-contested 2009 election

Redmond is the vice president of the United Steelworkers Union.

“He battled economic insecurity and protected voting rights in his position with the Steelworkers, and he is recognized as a titan in the civil rights movement,” Wowkanech said of Redmond.

Laurel Brennan, the Secretary-Treasurer of the New Jersey AFL-CIO and the first woman to hold that post, praised Shuler’s election.

“Liz Shuler’s election today brings a transformative perspective to the presidency,” said Brennan said. “She is committed to empowering union women, as she demonstrated time and time again through her support of our WILD (Women in Leadership Development) Conferences. And she is committed to diversity and equality, to young workers, and to eliminating the income inequality that threatens the American dream for far too many people.”

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