Delegates to the AFL-CIO convention today elected Richard Trumka to succeed the retiring John Sweeney as the new president of the 11.5 million-member labor federation.
For the first time ever, two of the top three officers leading the AFL-CIO are now women. Elizabeth Shuler, a political and legislative activist for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, was elected to succeed Trumka as AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer.
Arlene Holt Baker, a union and grassroots organizer who started with AFSCME, was re-elected AFL-CIO Executive Vice President. She is the highest-ranking African-American woman in the labor movement.
Trumka takes the helm of the AFL-CIO as the labor movement is pushing hard for legislation to reform both the nation’s health care system and its labor laws.
“The hard work starts now that the election is over,” said USW International President Leo W. Gerard, who played an active role in the convention that is being held in Pittsburgh this week.
“The United Steelworkers stand behind Rich Trumka as he and his new leadership team fight to rebuild America, its middle class and the labor movement. As the new voice of America’s workers, we know he will join us in the important struggle to improve the lives of working families by creating the good, green jobs that we need to get our country growing again, and to make sure that those jobs are union jobs.
“We have a rare opportunity in history to reform labor laws and help millions of people win the security and benefits of union membership. And for the first time in many decades, we are close to fixing a broken health care system that has failed our country and its citizens young and old.
“We can’t stop now. Rich Trumka, Elizabeth Shuler and Arlene Holt-Baker will help lead the way as we expand our ranks and reach out to the unorganized, including a new generation of young workers and the women and minorities who have for too long been left behind,” Gerard said.
Trumka takes office determined to improve labor’s image and political activism and embrace a younger generation to the union movement
During his campaign, he urged America’s unions to come together to change a Wall Street-driven economy that has enriched investors at the expense of people who work for a living. He pledged to reach out to young people and connect unions to their needs and to their new workplaces.
Trumka is the son and grandson of Pennsylvania coal miners. He followed them into the mines to work at age 19, before earning a bachelor’s degree at Penn State and a law degree at Villanova.
In 1982, at 33, Trumka became the youngest president of the United Mine Workers. In 1995, he was elected AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer as part of Sweeney’s New Voice slate.