By GRAHAM TRAINOR, Oregon AFL-CIO president
June 12, 2022 will be remembered as a significant, historic, and proud moment for the Oregon labor movement. This is one of the most exciting, inspirational, and opportune times in decades for the labor movement to realize transformational growth and open our doors to anyone who is dreaming of a better life and looking to make change on the job and in their communities.
June 12 was the day that a daughter of Oregon, a champion for workers everywhere, and our friend, Liz Shuler, was re-elected as AFL-CIO president at the 29th AFL-CIO Convention in Philadelphia to her first full term in office. She was unanimously elected alongside her partner and trailblazing leader in his own right, Secretary-Treasurer Fred Redmond with a clear, progressive and bold vision for our future. For the entire American labor movement, this historic leadership team marks many firsts. The first woman to hold the office of AFL-CIO president and the first Black man and person of color to hold the office of AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer. But for the Oregon labor movement, June 12, 2022, will always hold extra special meaning as well.
While Liz has risen to the highest office in the American labor movement and shattered a persistent glass ceiling, her journey and story starts right here in our own backyard. The Oregon AFL-CIO has long been proud to welcome Liz to our conventions and has appreciated her leadership and the AFL-CIO’s consistent support of our state federation. But long before that, Liz’s union story began at Oregon’s IBEW Local 125 where her father was a member and a lineman. As she often shares, she and her mother also worked at Portland General Electric as clerical workers, but without a union. This is where she saw first hand the union difference and the inequities within the same company. Instead of sitting back, Liz took action to do something about it. As an organizer, she began having conversations with her female coworkers about their working conditions and pay disparities, standing up for those who needed it most. This began Liz’s trailblazing history with the IBEW.
In her incredible election speech in Philadelphia, President Shuler yet again showed the nation and our movement why she is the right person to lead us into the future and harness the energy, the enthusiasm for organizing, and the historic moment we’re in the midst of for game-changing growth and wins. She announced a bold new program aimed at organizing more than a million new workers in the next decade. She challenged us to experiment, to try new things, to redouble our focus on organizing. She shared how her leadership style is different, more collaborative, more inclusive, and how our movement must embrace all types of leaders at every level of our unions. And she showcased the combination of talents that make her such an effective leader: a bridge builder who isn’t afraid to dive into the details and who sees the collective power of our entire movement and its potential for truly moving the dial on racial, economic, and gender justice in our country.
As a friend, as a collaborator, and as a fellow Oregonian, I am beyond proud and grateful for the leadership of our President, and the Oregon labor movement is so excited to support her vision through this defining moment. Because when we organize, we rise!
The Oregon AFL-CIO is a federation of labor unions.