First woman AFL-CIO president to discuss workers’ rights

Liz Shuler, president of the AFL-CIO, will be on campus Friday, Oct. 21, to talk about the state of labor unions and employee rights in an evolving economic landscape.

A 1992 graduate of the UO School of Journalism and Communication, Shuler made history in August 2021 when she was elected the first woman president of the AFL-CIO, a national federation of 57 unions representing 12.5 million people across all sectors of the U.S. economy. She also will be formally inducted into the school’s Hall of Achievement on Oct. 20.

Shuler will deliver her talk, “Baristas, Amazon Workers, Teachers and Electricians Unite: Building Unions and Workers’ Rights for the Future,” at Global Scholars Hall on the UO campus from 1:30-2:30 p.m. Oct. 21. 

“I look forward to a conversation with the University of Oregon community on how America's unions can build on this organizing momentum and use it to bring voice and power to working people everywhere,” Shuler said.

“All over the country people are recognizing the power of unions,” she added. “They’re seeing how we fight for a better workplace, a better life, for union members and for everyone. And the momentum around union organizing is contagious, spreading everywhere from nurses in Austin, Texas to sheet metal workers in Alaska, from architects to athletes. At the AFL-CIO we’re working to capture that momentum and use it to build the labor movement of the future.”

For Shuler, workers’ rights have been a lifetime passion. As an 11-year-old growing up in Gladstone, she successfully negotiated equal hourly wages for neighborhood babysitters. Since graduating from the University of Oregon, she has spent her entire career in the labor movement, spanning from the grassroots, local level to work on the national stage for both the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the AFL-CIO.

“Anyone who cares about the workers who fuel our economy should consider attending Liz Shuler’s talk on Friday,” said Juan-Carlos Molleda, Edwin L. Artzt Dean and professor in the School of Journalism and Communication. “As the top officer for the largest labor federation in the country, she is the preeminent source on this incredibly important topic for society. We are so proud to count her as one of our alumni and one of our most recent Hall of Achievement inductees.”

As president of AFL-CIO, Shuler’s leadership focuses on organizing and the future of work, the clean energy economy, workforce development and empowering women and young workers. She said she is particularly passionate about reducing inequality, closing pay gaps for women and people of color, and investing in youth and workforce training.

According to Shuler, her education at the School of Journalism and Communication prepared her well for her position.

“My journalism degree taught me to question everything, to look for every angle,” she said. “And I bring that same approach to my work in the labor movement, because the two have so many common threads. They ask people the big questions and take on the biggest issues in our society. And they give working people a place to speak out against those in power. The lessons I learned at University of Oregon have informed every step of my career.”  

—By Andra Brichacek Roe, School of Journalism and Communication