What I Do
Christy McGill, Art Teacher - Divide Elementary School, Lookout, WV.
On Sept.16, 2009, Richard L. Trumka was elected president of the AFL-CIO by acclamation at the federation’s 26th convention in Pittsburgh, Pa. His election, following 15 years of service as the AFL-CIO’s Secretary-Treasurer, capped Trumka’s rise to leadership of the nation’s largest labor federation from humble beginnings in the small coal mining communities of southwest Pennsylvania.
Twelve-year-old Richard Louis Trumka was sitting on the porch of his grandfather Attilio Bertugli’s house in Rices Landing, Pa., complaining bitterly to his grandpap about how badly Mine Workers were being treated. It was the 1960s, and the miners were on strike.
“What do you plan to do about it?” his grandfather asked.
“When I grow up, I could be a politician,” Rich replied. His grandpap feigned smacking him across the back of his head. Chastened, young Trumka offered a second opinion: “I could become a lawyer and stand up for workers’ rights.”
His grandfather, a long-time miner, allowed how that was a better idea, but added something that has stuck with Trumka ever since. “If you want to help workers,” his grandfather said, “you first need to help people.”
Rich Trumka not only grasped the wisdom of his grandfather’s counsel, it has been the encompassing vision of his leadership in the labor movement ever since: Unions must strive to uplift everybody in their pursuit of fair treatment for workers, as they did in building the world’s strongest middle class, and as they must once again by leveling the playing field and restoring job growth and prosperity for working people.
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.
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