AFL-CIO National Convention: Join, Fight, Win Together


Delegates to the 2017 National AFL-CIO Convention in St. Louis unanimously reelected the federation’s top three officers: President Richard Trumka, Secretray-Treasurer Liz Shuler, and Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre to another four-year term. Additionally, New Jersey State AFL-CIO President Charles Wowkanech was elected as one of 55 vice presidents to serve on the national Executive Council for a four-year term. As one of only two state federation presidents to serve on the board, which consists predominantly of union international presidents, this election is both an honor and a testament to the unparalleled work of the New Jersey state labor movement.

The New Jersey State AFL-CIO, which was represented at the convention by President Charles Wowkanech and Secretary-Treasurer Laurel Brennan, proudly cast their votes for the Trumka, Shuler, Gebre leadership team, which has epitomized the vision, steadiness, and drive required to build a stronger, more inclusive labor movement that uplifts working families.

The New Jersey State AFL-CIO was also grateful for the opportunity to showcase various programs for which it is a national leader, including running union members for public office, technological innovation, and immigrant empowerment. Of course, the credit for this success belongs to the many union leaders and volunteers across our state who have dedicated their time and diligent support to building up our labor outreach efforts.


President Charles Wowkanech delivered a floor speech highlighting the New Jersey State AFL-CIO Labor Candidates Program, which has achieved an unprecedented 919 election victories to date. He also introduced Resolution #10 “Encouraging Union Members to Run for Local Public Office” which was adopted with unanimous support. To put a face to the program, we were proud to be joined by our brother and labor elected official, Keith Kazmark (AFT 2360), who serves as the Mayor of Woodland Park. A follow up workshop on the labor candidates program was among the most well-attending at the convention.

When it comes to new technology, the New Jersey State AFL-CIO has pinoeered new systems including the MiniVAN smartphone app and computerized VIP sign-in. Joined by a full complement of staff, the New Jersey State AFL-CIO played a key faciliting role during Monday’s “Day of Action” that included cavassing and phone banks to repeal Missouri’s Right to Work law. In addition, our We Are One NJ resource centers, dedicated to assisting New Jersey’s more than 500,000 legal permanent residents become American citizens, was a featured workshop presented by the New Jersey State AFL-CIO.

Despite the challenges facing the nation, working families will continue to lead the way forward. The message of this convention reminds us that when we join together, fight for justice, we will win. The New Jersey State AFL-CIO has adhered to this strategy since its founding. With committed and dynamic leaders, the ongoing support of national and local unions, and the solidarity of our members, there is nothing we can’t achieve together.

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