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Shuler Champions New Tactics, Youth Engagement

September 21, 2011

The last time Liz Shuler attended an IBEW International Convention, she was a behind-the-scenes dynamo, helping ensure that the union’s 2006 meeting in Cleveland was a success.

So it was with emotion and gratitude, Shuler said, that she returned to the convention stage on Tuesday, Sept. 20 for the first time since her election as AFL-CIO Secretary Treasurer in 2009.

“I feel fortunate to have learned from the very best,” said Shuler, who began her IBEW tenure as a young political director in Oregon and later served as International President Edwin D. Hill’s executive assistant for five years:

There have been so many initiatives that President Hill has championed that have been a model for us at the AFL-CIO.

With vigor and humor, Shuler lacerated the right-wing ideologues and Wall Street traders who pitched the American economy into a tailspin, while highlighting the need to rebrand the labor movement in both Canada and the U.S. to ensure greater appeal among young workers and the general public. She said:

Unfortunately, the only public attention we get is when we strike. Of course, we’re always going to be out there fighting for our members, and the recent strike at Verizon is a positive example of that. But does that have to be the only thing we’re known for? Because the public rarely hears union members talking about the difference that a new contract makes for their children, or what paid sick leave and good health coverage means to a parent.

They don’t hear about our amazing training programs and apprenticeships that put young people on the road to middle-class jobs … We need to show the good that we do every day.

By spearheading the AFL-CIO’s Next Up effort to reach out to young workers, Shuler has become the public face of youth empowerment in the labor movement. The federation will host the second annual Next Up Young Workers Summit Sept. 29 - Oct. 2 in Minneapolis. Of the 700 workers aged 35 and under who will attend the conference, more than 100 participants are IBEW members, Shuler said:

This is yet another area where the IBEW is leading the way. This is historic. And we should all feel very proud to be a part of it.

 

 
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