LaborTalk for January 7, 2010

An Astounding Intelligence Report
From Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler

By Harry Kelber

The reason we have not heard a word from AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler for several months is because she decided to give herself an extended journey across the United States (at our expense) to find out what was on the minds of union members.

Shuler admits that since her election to the AFL-CIO’s No. 2 spot, she has spent “a lot of her time on the road.” Her itinerary included talking to union members in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, New York, Oregon and Georgia. And what did she find out? In her own words:

“Everywhere I go, no matter who I see, what do they want to talk about comes down to the same word we’ve been hearing on everyone’s lips. Jobs.”

What a startling discovery! Did Liz have to spend months away from her vital job in Washington to know that creating millions of decent jobs is the top priority need of American workers? Doesn’t this overpowering demand reach AFL-CIO national headquarters?

But what has the AFL-CIO actually done to replace the 10 million jobs that have vanished since the start of the recession in Dec. 2007? At each public appearance, Shuler recited, point by point, the five-point job-creating plan that AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka had presented at President Obama’s Job Summit that she said would create millions of jobs in a year. (The AFL-CIO is promoting Trumka’s five point catechism, but it hasn’t caught the serious attention of Congress,)

In her prepared speeches to labor audiences, Shuler also emphasized the economic plight of young people, who, she said, “were blocked by the jobless economy from moving into independent adulthood.” She had already pledged to commit a lot of time to organizing young workers.

Curiously, she had absolutely nothing to say about her official job as AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer. How could she spend months away from Washington, while completely neglecting her responsibilities in administering the Federation’s complex financial operations, for which we are paying her $238,975 a year and an annual pension of 60 percent of her top salary when she retires?

Is Shuler Fit to Be AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer?

Liz Shuler was hand-picked to be AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer by the Executive Council, even though she knew virtually nothing about what the Federation’s Constitution required of the secretary-treasurer. She was to be “in charge of and preserve all money, properties, securities and other evidences of investments, books, documents, files and checks of the Federation which shall at all times be subject to the inspection of the President and the Executive Council.”

Does that sound like a part-time job? What was happening in the secretary=treasurer’s office, while she was spending months traveling around the country to find out what was worrying union members? How much longer will she maintain her arrogant refusal to tell union members about the status of AFL-CIO’s financial assets?

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Shuler spent a large part of her labor career in Portland, Oregon as a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and had risen in the IBEW hierarchy to become executive assistant to the international union president, Edwin Hill, her boss, mentor and booster for the. No. 2 AFL-CIO job.

While Liz is obviously not equipped to be a competent secretary-treasurer. I believe she has the talent and commitment to become an excellent organizer, particularly among young workers.

Ideally, Shuler should resign and the AFL-CIO should hold a fair and competitive election to select the best qualified member as secretary-treasurer. Shuler could then be appointed as national organizer of young workers.—Harry Kelber

LaborTalk (30) will be posted here on Tuesday, January 12, 2010 and on our two web sites: and