|Elizabeth H. "Liz" Shuler|
Liz Shuler, newly elected Secretary-Treasurer of the AFL-CIO, speaking at the AFL-CIO Quadrennial Convention in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on September 16, 2009. (Photo: Bill Burke/Page One)
Gladstone, Oregon, U.S.
|Occupation||Union organizer, Labor activist|
|Known for||Secretary-Treasurer, AFL-CIO|
Elizabeth H. "Liz" Shuler is an American labor activist and, since September 16, 2009, Secretary-Treasurer of the AFL-CIO. She is the first woman and (as of 2009) the youngest person to hold the position of Secretary-Treasurer. She is the highest-ranking woman in the labor federation's history. Her election also marks the first time that two of the three officer positions in the AFL-CIO were held by women.
Early life and IBEW career
Liz Shuler was born to Lance and Joyce Shuler in 1970. Her father was an electrical lineman for Portland General Electric (PGE), and her mother worked there as a secretary. Although her father was a union member, clerical workers at PG&E were not unionized. Shuler was raised in the town of Gladstone, Oregon, and attended public school in the city. She received her bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Oregon in 1992. While in college, she worked summers at PGE and was active in the state Democratic Party.
Shuler first became active in union work after college. Her first job was as a union organizer for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 125, working on a campaign to organizer clerical workers at PGE. She became a lobbyist for the IBEW in 1997, representing the union before the Oregon Legislature. One of her chief accomplishments for the union was the defeat of a bill (promoted by the Enron Corp.) to deregulate Oregon's electricity market. She also taught in the union's Construction Organizing Membership Education and Training (COMET) and Membership Education and Mobilization for Organizing (MEMO) union organizing programs. Shuler also served on the State of Oregon Management-Labor Advisory Committee on Workers' Compensation, and was appointed an IBEW delegate to the Northwest Oregon Central Labor Council. In 1998, she led the AFL-CIO's successful effort to defeat California Proposition 226, which would have denied dues check-off to public employees belonging to unions and required all union members in the state to annually give their assent before any portion of their dues could be used for political purposes.
After the California effort, Shuler was appointed an IBEW international representative and moved to Washington, D.C., where she worked in the IBEW's Political/Legislative Affairs Department. She was appointed executive assistant to IBEW President Edwin Hill in June 2004, making her the highest-ranking woman in the union's history. Shuler supervised and coordinated 11 of the IBEW's departments, including its education, research, political/legislative affairs, public relations, and workplace safety divisions.
On July 7, 2009, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka, then seeking election to the labor federation's presidency, chose Shuler as his running mate for Secretary-Treasurer. Gregory Junemann, president of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, also ran for the position. Shuler defeated Junemann for the position on September 16, 2009.
Shuler said she intends to spend much of her term reaching out to workers under the age of 35 and using new media to reach out to workers, their families, and union supporters. She also said she would work with the AFL-CIO's affiliates to balance the federation's budget, which was running a deficit and whose liabilities exceeded its assets by $2.3 million in 2008.
Trumka appointed Shuler head of the AFL-CIO's youth outreach efforts.
Shuler is active in the Women's Campaign Fund, a political action committee which supports pro-choice women running for election to political office, and a supporter of the International Women's Democracy Center. She has also been active in the Oregon and Washington chapters of Women in the Trades, organizations which promote opportunities for women in the blue-collar skilled trades.
- Greenhouse, Steven. "Promising a New Day, Again." New York Times. September 15, 2009.
- Mapes, Jeff. "Oregon Labor Leader Moves Into No. 2 Spot at AFL-CIO." The Oregonian. September 17, 2009.
- Belser, Ann. "AFL-CIO Aims to Bring Young People Into Unions." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. September 20, 2009.
- Hananel, Sam. "Older, Grayer AFL-CIO Making Greater Push to Pull in Younger Members." Associated Press. September 14, 2009.
- "Former Oregonian Runs for AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer." Northwest Labor Press. July 17, 2009.
- Greenhouse, Steven. "Woman to Seek High Labor Post." New York Times. July 8, 2009.
- Gruenberg, Mark. "Trumka Announces Candidacy for AFL-CIO Presidency." Workday Minnesota. July 13, 2009.
- Marcus, Ruth. "Union Fees Dispute Threatens Finance Reform." Washington Post. September 30, 1997; Bailey, Eric. "Union Foes Use State as Key Battleground." Los Angeles Times. March 22, 1998; Bailey, Eric and Shogan, Robert. "Defeat of Measure Energizes Labor." Los Angeles Times. June 4, 1998; Thurber, James A. and Nelson, Candice J. Campaign Warriors: The Role of Political Consultants in Elections. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2000. ISBN 0-8157-8453-8; Lannon, Albert Vetere. Fight or Be Slaves: The History of the Oakland-East Bay Labor Movement. Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 2000. ISBN 0-7618-1869-3; Sawyer, Jon. "California Proposition Targets Union Giving." St. Louis Post-Dispatch. June 1, 1998; Espe, Erik. "Chamber Opposes Proposition 226." Business Journal-San Jose. June 1, 1998; Bayer, Amy. "Election '98 California Primary: Union Victory on Proposition 226 Called 'Political Miracle'." San Diego Union Tribune. June 4, 1998.
- Arlene Holt Baker, the AFL-CIO's Executive Vice President who won re-election in 2009 and was Shuler's running mate, led the AFL-CIO's effort to defeat Prop. 226. See: Galvin, Kevin. "Labor Critical of Tycoon's Gift." Associated Press. May 20, 1998.
- Green, Elwin. "AFL-CIO Resolutions Give Boost to Inclusion." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. September 17, 2009.
- in June 2008, the AFL-CIO had $90.6 million in liabilities and $88.3 million in assets. See: "Unions in Debt." Wall Street Journal. June 11, 2009; Hananel, Sam. "Next Leader of AFL-CIO Could See Rise in Power." Associated Press. June 8, 2009.; Greenhouse, Steven. "Infighting Distracts Unions at Crucial Time." New York Times. July 8, 2009.