What I Do
Deborah Cannada, Librarian - West Side Elementary School, Charleston, WV.
Richard Trumka is president of the 12.5 million-member American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), the largest organization of labor unions in the country. An outspoken advocate for social and economic justice, Trumka is the nation’s clearest voice on the critical need to raise workers’ wages in this slow and painful economic recovery. He heads the labor movement’s efforts to create an economy based on broadly shared prosperity and to hold government and employers accountable to working families.
Elected president of the federation in 2009, Trumka shapes the economy in two primary ways—by leading the mobilization of masses of working people through a nationwide network of state and local labor federations, and by working one on one with government executives, legislators and business leaders. The goal is adopting progressive, pro-worker laws and policies at every level to improve life for working families.
Trumka, who served as AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer from 1995 to 2009, has devoted his career to improving workers’ lives through a strong collective voice on the job. His leadership is focused on union organizing and collective bargaining, as well as the federation’s advocacy for labor law reform in Congress. Trumka also spearheads initiatives to help workers’ organizations partner or affiliate with the AFL-CIO, modeled after a 2006 partnership agreement with the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON). In 2011 the federation affiliated the National Taxi Workers Alliance and entered partnerships with the National Guestworker Alliance and the National Domestic Workers Alliance. Meanwhile, the AFL-CIO’s community affiliate Working America continues to expand, growing to more than 3.2 million members. Since 2003, Working America has organized in neighborhoods across the country, reaching people who do not belong to unions but who share union values.
Elizabeth Shuler is the current secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO, one of three top-level officers for the federation. The first ever woman elected to the position in 2009, Shuler also holds the distinction of being the youngest officer ever to sit on the federation's Executive Council. Coming from Portland, Oregon, Shuler has been at the forefront of progressive labor initiatives like green job programs and the fight for workers' rights for many years, starting as an organizer at her local union.
Prior to her election as secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO, Shuler was part of the Executive Leadership team of the Electrical Workers (IBEW). At the IBEW, she was in charge of 11 major departments and an adviser for the International President. As chief financial officer of the federation, Shuler oversees six administrative departments and is leading the federation's young worker outreach initiative as well as its repositioning efforts. Secretary-Treasurer Shuler also represents the AFL-CIO on various boards and committees including the Women's Committee at the International Trade Union Confederation.
Tefere Gebre, born in Gondar, Ethiopia, was a political refugee and he immigrated to the United States as a teenager. He graduated in 1987 from Belmont High School in downtown Los Angeles. A standout track and field athlete, he attended Cal Poly Pomona on an athletic scholarship. While in college, Tefere worked his first union job as a night shift loader at UPS and member of Teamsters Local 396. Since, Tefere has devoted his entire life to the values of hard work and a voice at the workplace.
Tefere contributed tremendous change in redefining the growing labor movement in Orange County, Calif. As Executive Director, Tefere doubled the political capacity of the labor movement in Orange County. In 2008 and every year thereafter, the federation was honored by the state federation’s strategic planning committee as one of the highest performing labor councils and singled out as an "agent for change" by the California Labor Federation. In less than a year as Executive Director, Tefere increased the federation's membership by more than 15,000 new members, established a communications division, expanded the political operations and grown the program staff.
Through Tefere's leadership, the federation built strong coalitions with faith and civil rights organizations throughout the county to advocate and support policies that improve the lives of all workers.