New AFL-CIO leader eyeing tech sector for organizing

Liz Shuler, the new leader of the nation’s largest federation of labor unions, the AFL-CIO, said in an interview published Sunday that she is eyeing the tech sector for organizing efforts amid shifts in the U.S. workforce.

Shuler spoke to Axios along with Fred Redmond, AFL-CIO’s first Black secretary-treasurer, ahead of her confirmation as president at the group’s constitutional convention. She has been running the organization since longtime leader Richard Trumka’s death last summer.

The two mentioned the recent union votes at Amazon and Starbucks, but declined to say which tech companies were in their sights.

“It’s our moment to write the next chapter of the labor movement,” she added. “We are looking to seize on this moment to show that the labor movement is wide open — that we are open to transformational change.” 

Both leaders said targeting workers in the tech field was part of broader efforts to build more diversity within the labor movement.

“The emerging workforce is people of color, is young people, is women, particularly women of color,” Shuler told Axios. “This is not your granddaddy’s labor movement.”

The labor movement has seen a resurgence as the economy recovers from the pandemic, with workers emboldened by a tight labor market. President Biden has also promised to be “the most pro-union president in American history.”

Responding to polls last year showing that Americans’ opinion of labor unions is at a 60-year high, Schuler said the data “should send a clear message to Congress that union jobs are vital as we re-emerge from this pandemic with a stronger economy that is built upon the principles of fairness and equality.”

The AFL-CIO has been a leading voice in the push for the PRO Act, a pro-labor package that would strengthen the ability for unions to organize and collectively bargain.

However, despite support from Biden and many Democrats, the bill has made little progress in the Senate.

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