IAFF Welcomes Important First as North America’s Labor Movement Elects New Leadership

September 1 • 2021

The IAFF is welcoming an important milestone in North America’s labor movement. For the first time, women hold the top union leadership positions in both the United States and Canada.

The milestone was achieved recently when Liz Shuler was elected to lead the AFL-CIO following the sudden August 5 passing of President Richard Trumka. President Shuler, who comes from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), leads an organization that fights for workers’ rights and represents 12.5 million workers in 56 unions across the United States

Originally from Oregon, Shuler has a long history of labor activism and leadership that most recently included 12 years as the AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer.

In June, Bea Bruske was elected president of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), the nation’s top-tier labour organization. The CLC represents 3 million Canadian workers in 53 national and international unions and their affiliates, including the IAFF and its 192 Canadian locals and 27,950 Canadian members.

Bruske, a Winnipeg, Manitoba, native, leads a slate of CLC principal officers that also includes Secretary-Treasurer Lily Chang and Executive Vice Presidents Siobhán Vipond and Larry Rousseau. She rose through the ranks of UFCW Local 832 from activist to negotiator to local secretary-treasurer and a vice president of the UFCW Canada National Council.

General President Edward Kelly says the rise of sisters Liz and Bea is another testament to the fact that true leadership cannot be suppressed by how you are born, who you love or who you worship.

“I was proud to stand in support of President Shuler at her election by the Executive Council and I welcome and congratulate President Bruske and I look forward to the labour movement continuing to move forward under their leadership,” Kelly says. “Presidents Shuler and Bruske clearly rose to the highest elected offices in labor the old-fashioned way, they earned it!”

The IAFF has seats on the AFL-CIO Executive Council and the CLC Canadian Council and is an active participant in important worker rights, political action and social justice initiatives in both countries.

13th District Vice President Fred LeBlanc says, “President Bruske ran a solid campaign and I’m confident the Canadian labour movement is in good hands with Bea,” he says. “I’m proud that General President Kelly is having the IAFF note this moment in labour history with two sisters leading North America’s workers for the first time this Labour Day.”