Richard Trumka Wins Another Term as AFL-CIO President

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Richard Trumka, right, said his goal was for labor unions to emerge with a unified political agenda..


Richard Trumka Wins Another Term as AFL-CIO President

Union aiming for a unified strategy at a time when labor is split over its approach to President Trump


ST. LOUIS—AFL-CIO members on Sunday evening selected Richard Trumka as president of the nation’s largest labor federation, retaining a position he has held since 2009.

Mr. Trumka said his goal was for labor unions to emerge with a unified political agenda at a time when the labor movement is split over what approach to take to President Donald Trump.

Following the election, crafting a “Workers’ Bill of Rights” will be a primary focus of the event, Mr. Trumka said. The aim is to give politicians a clear view on union priorities, including the need for better wages and rethought trade agreements. It would establish a litmus test to determine if the AFL-CIO will support candidates in the 2018 and 2020 elections, regardless of party.

“People that support that Workers’ Bill of Rights will get our support,” Mr. Trumka told reporters Sunday. “Those that don’t—we’re sorry. We’re going to use our resources and our power to help people get elected that support the needs of workers.”

The idea behind the bill of rights is to establish the AFL-CIO as politically independent, despite its traditional support of Democrats. Voters from union households cast ballots for the 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, at the lowest rate since the 1980 election, according to exit polls. Many of those voters supported Mr. Trump, a Republican.

Mr. Trumka accused Mr. Trump of breaking promises to workers. The union leader pointed to little movement in Washington to increase spending on infrastructure, a Trump plan that drew support from construction and manufacturing unions.

“He’s left working people in the lurch,” Mr. Trumka said of the president. Voters are receiving a “sobering education between the hype and promise and the reality.” Mr. Trumka said the administration’s policy moves, including on health care and worker-safety standards, have weakened support for the president among union members.

That is a change in tone from earlier this year, when Mr. Trumka said there was room for unions to work with the Trump administration.

A White House spokesman said last week that Mr. Trump had fought to bring jobs back to the U.S. and renegotiate bad trade deals, and was committed to ensuring that American workers are prepared to thrive in a modern economy.

Mr. Trumka, 68 years old, has been in the federation’s top leadership for more than two decades, elected secretary-treasurer in 1995. He rose to prominence among union leaders in the late 1980s, leading the United Mine Workers of America in a strike against Pittston Coal Co.

The federation’s No. 2 and No. 3 officials were also re-elected to the same posts. None faced a challenging during the formal nominating process Sunday evening, giving the incumbents a win without facing a balloted vote.

Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler, 47, has held the role since 2009. She was previously a high-ranking official at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

Tefere Gebre, 49, has served as the AFL-CIO’s executive vice president since 2013. He was previously executive director of the Orange County Labor Federation in California.