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October 2021

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In Good Hands

In August, I had the unique honor of nominating the first woman and the first IBEW member to head America's largest labor federation, the AFL-CIO.

I have known Liz Shuler for a long time as both an IBEW leader and a good friend. She grew up in an IBEW family, the daughter of a lineman out of Portland, Ore., Local 125, and at an early age, she decided to devote her life to our union. From helping organize her co-workers in her home state of Oregon to leading a grassroots campaign to beat back anti-union legislation in California, Liz brought an unyielding commitment to workers' power to the IBEW, which was noticed both inside and outside this union.

She brought that passion for working people to the national labor movement as AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer, a position she has served in since 2009.

Liz is not just a qualified and experienced leader and movement builder. As the first woman to serve as AFL-CIO president, she is the right choice in building a genuinely diverse and inclusive labor movement, which is certainly a priority of the IBEW. In fact, alongside Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre and newly elected Secretary-Treasurer Fred Redmond, the first African American to serve in that position, she is heading up the most diverse leadership team in AFL-CIO history.

Elected secretary-treasurer before turning 40, Liz understands the challenges facing young workers and union members. That is why she launched the AFL-CIO's Next Up Young Workers initiative to reach out to young workers and create spaces for young union members to take ownership of the labor movement and become leaders in their own right.

The AFL-CIO represents the full diversity of America's workforce. Its member unions speak on behalf of white-collar and blue-collar workers alike in all 50 states and territories, and Liz is a proven consensus builder when it comes to building unity around labor's top priorities.

As happy as I was to see her become president, it was also a somber occasion because she succeeded our dear, departed union brother Rich Trumka, who left us too soon.

But Liz served as an integral part of Rich's team for more than a decade, so every member of the AFL-CIO's executive council knew that the federation was in good hands despite our collective loss.

Rich's legacy is a stronger and more united labor movement, and I am more confident than ever that under Sister Shuler's steady and experienced leadership, we will continue to grow stronger and organize even more workers seeking the power of a union.

I look forward to working with Liz as we work together to take back labor's place at the table.


Also: Cooper: Looking Out for One Another Read Cooper's Column

Lonnie R. Stephenson

Lonnie R. Stephenson
International President