August 2009

AFL-CIO Leadership Ticket Includes
IBEW's Shuler
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AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka announced his candidacy to replace John Sweeney—who is retiring as president of the labor federation—at a rally in Washington, D.C. on July 9.

Trumka's team includes Arlene Holt Baker, the federation's current executive vice president and Liz Shuler, executive assistant to International President Edwin D. Hill, who is campaigning for secretary-treasurer.

Pledging to recruit millions of young workers into the labor movement, Trumka, in his firebrand style, said, "I'm running because I know, just like you, that even though it wasn't organized labor that created the God-awful mess our country's in, we are the people who can lead America out of it."

A third-generation coal miner and graduate of Pennsylvania State University and Villanova Law School, Trumka promised to listen and learn. "The best ideas and activism," he said, " bubble up from the grassroots, and are not handed down from the mountaintop."

President Hill introduced Shuler, who will be vying for votes against Gregory Junemann, president of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers at the AFL-CIO's 26th Constitutional Convention in Pittsburgh Sept. 13-17.
"When you think about what Liz has achieved in her relatively young career in the movement, it gives you a sense of the possibilities for success she can have in communicating to a new generation of workers," said President Hill.

Shuler, 39, who began working at the IBEW International Office as a legislative and political representative in 1998, stressed the need for using new information technologies to connect to workers. "Friend me," said Shuler, in a reference to the popular Internet tool Facebook. She recounted her first involvement in the labor movement as the daughter of a member of Portland, Ore., Local 125.

Working summers at the Portland General Electric utility during college, Shuler observed how her mother and other unorganized clerical workers needed the protection of a union like that enjoyed by her father, a lineman. She helped to organize the clerical workers and led the local union's efforts to stop utility deregulation in Oregon in the wake of the Enron scandal.

"I'm here today and running for Secretary-Treasurer because the times have changed, the labor movement has changed, and because Rich Trumka is committed to communicating those changes to a new generation of Americans," added Shuler.

"[Trumka, Shuler and Holt Baker] touched me," said Nieshia Harris, a second-year apprentice in Washington, D.C., Local 26, who attended the rally with several local members. Harris says she encourages all of her friends to check out the IBEW apprenticeship program.

"This ticket is a new beginning, a fresh start," said Jennifer Alvarez, legislative and political director of the National Association of Letter Carriers. "We are now better-positioned to go after the Employee Free Choice Act and health care reform," she said.

Holt Baker, one of seven children who rose from poverty in Dallas to become a leading political organizer for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, thanked retiring President John Sweeney for "the dignity and decency [that] have sustained us as few could have."

Recalling how her relatives in Texas—who were members of unions—always stayed ahead of those who were unorganized, Holt Baker said, "That's our cause. To make life better for our members and a new generation that deserves a better shake than this economy is giving them."

All three candidates addressed the essential need to build unity among working people. Speakers paid tribute to Trumka's courageous challenge to those who questioned Barack Obama's fitness for president during the 2008 presidential campaign on the basis of his race. A YouTube video of Trumka's speech on the danger that racial divisions portend for organized labor has been visited by 500,000 Internet users. For video coverage, go to

Liz Shuler, executive assistant to International President Edwin D. Hill, announces her candidacy for Secretary-Treasurer of the AFL-CIO.

Ricky Oakland, IBEW Director of CIR/Bylaws and Appeals, joins other IBEW members and leaders at a rally called to announce the Trumka, Shuler, Holt Baker ticket.