Burnham succeeds McCarthy as President of Minnesota AFL-CIO | Working Day Minnesota

2021-12-16 07:48:29 By : Ms. Jane Song

Workday Minnesota (https://workdayminnesota.org/burnham-to-succeed-mccarthy-as-minnesota-afl-cio-president/)

The Minnesota AFL-CIO General Committee today elected Burnie Burnham as the next chairman of the State Federation of Labor. The former Duluth teacher who is currently vice president of the Minnesota Department of Education will succeed Bill McCarthy, who plans to retire on February 1 after working in the state's highest union office for more than six years.

The Minnesota AFL-CIO represents more than 300,000 union members across the state. The federation supports the efforts of more than 1,000 affiliated unions to establish workers' power through contracts and organizational activities and political processes.

As a Pacific Islander, Birdham was the first color to be elected in the AFL-CIO executive office in Minnesota, and the second to elect the president. The voting results are unanimous.

Burnham became an active member of the Duluth Teachers Union after he started teaching at an elementary level 22 years ago. She has served as a steward and member of the union's racial equality team, as well as a member of the labor management committee in the region.

"I am a woman of color who entered the teaching industry in an unconventional way," Burnham said. "I don't know if I will be accepted, but my new union family embraced me."

The members of the DFT elected Burnham's vice president in 2010 and 2010. She successfully served as Vice President of Minnesota Education in 2018.

When running for the state’s AFL-CIO president, Burnham pointed to her experience in working with other unions to promote political activism and promote racial justice as a priority area of ​​the labor movement.

"It is an honor and honor to be selected for this position," she said. "I am committed to continuing the labor movement to fight for a country in which everyone can get a fair return for their work, every child can pursue their dreams, and every family struggling today can get them. Things that are needed, such as barrier-free healthcare, modern roads and bridges, safe housing and world-class schools."

Burnham is the co-chair of the Minnesota AFL-CIO Race and Economic Justice Committee, which played an important role in the work of the Union during McCarthy’s tenure.

In an interview last week, McCarthy called the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in May 2020 as a turning point. "We can't stand by and do nothing," McCarthy said.

Within a month, McCarthy issued a statement calling on the chairman of the Minneapolis Police Union to resign and confirming that the Minnesota AFL-CIO is committed to "dismantling the oppressive system within and outside the labor movement."

"These are thorny issues, and we must stick to it," McCarthy said. "And I know we have failed along the way. We made mistakes. But if we are not committed to social and racial justice issues, we cannot be an effective labor movement in any way."

McCarthy’s achievements also include overseeing political plans that thwarted waves of attacks on union rights at the state level. In Wisconsin and other Midwestern states, anti-union lawmakers are passing work rights and abolishing current wages, while pro-union lawmakers in Minnesota are passing the nation’s most powerful wage theft protection law.

After the COVID-19 pandemic, Minnesota labor unions are also better able to advocate for emergency protection. Under McCarthy’s leadership, Minnesota’s AFL-CIO urged Waltz to issue an executive order to protect workers who talk about unsafe conditions and fight for expanded unemployment and workers’ compensation in the Capitol.

"Thank God for Governor Waltz," McCarthy said. "I think this is someone who really understands what the workers are going through, especially our frontline workers. We asked him to do certain things and make administrative orders to support the workers-he agreed."

McCarthy also pointed out that the expansion of the Minnesota Training Partnership, the non-profit organization of the federation, was the focus of his presidency. The organization uses grant funds to support the Minnesota Union and its apprenticeship program to help businessmen, window cleaners, manufacturing workers, and others prepare for the job of maintaining their families.

McCarthy said: "The more we support our affiliates, the better they can develop their own unions."

As a long-term member of UNITE HERE Local 17, the hotel industry workers union, McCarthy first ran for the union office 36 years ago when he was a bartender at Cleo's Lounge on the 50th floor of the IDS Building in Minneapolis.

From there, McCarthy's rise in the labor force began. After taking a job as business agent, McCarthy successfully ran for president of Local 17, a title he held for 15 years before being elected president of the Minneapolis Central Labor Council (now known as the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation) in 2002. He was seated He served as state president in 2015.

"I think I have left the organization in a good place," he said. "We have a strong team and one of the best teams I have ever worked with. No matter who holds the leadership position, there will be a chance to make it better."

Members of the General Committee voted to appoint McCarthy as chairman emeritus in recognition of his career in serving the labor movement in Minnesota.

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