2021 HONOREES

Secretary-Treasurer Elizabeth Shuler

Elizabeth H. Shuler is the AFL-CIO’s Secretary-Treasurer, its second ranking officer, the first woman elected to the position, and the youngest woman ever on the federation’s Executive Council. First elected in 2009, she is the federation’s chief financial officer and oversees its operations. 

Liz leads the AFL-CIO’s initiatives on the future of work, the clean energy economy, workforce development, and empowering women and young workers.  Liz is committed to busting myths about labor, leveraging the labor movement’s diversity for innovative approaches to social justice, and making the benefits of a union voice on the job available to working families everywhere.

THE DIFFERENCE A UNION MAKES
Shuler grew up in a union household—her father, Lance, was a power lineman and longtime member of IBEW Local 125 at Portland General Electric and her late mother, Joyce, worked as an estimator in the company’s service and design department. A summer job in the payroll department at PGE during college revealed for Shuler how the clerical workers, who were not in the union, didn’t have the same bargaining power or respect on the job as their unionized counterparts. In 1993, Shuler was hired at Local 125, where she was thrust into a full-fledged campaign to help the clerical workers organize. The organizers on staff at the local were all men, so Liz was assigned to house-calling, since most of the clerical employees were women. “Those were challenging times,” she recalls. “The company was holding captive-audience meetings and people were scared, so it was really tough to even get invited into their homes to talk.” That organizing experience showed Liz how important it was to build mobilizing capacity within the local union, particularly for women workers.

As most union representatives do, she wore many hats while working at the local: she traveled across the local’s multi-state jurisdiction conducting organizing training for the 5,000-member local’s 36 different bargaining units; developed a political action committee and member education; formed local networks to bolster the union’s legislative power at the state capital in Salem.

ORGANIZING THE NEXT GENERATION WORKFORCE
Shuler recognizes the labor movement’s future depends on its ability to reach out and engage young people in their unions and communities. Shuler led the launch of the AFL-CIO’s Next Up Young Workers Initiative to open up leadership opportunities and create a space for youth activism.

Today’s young workers are part of the largest generation to enter the workforce since the baby boomers and the most diverse and technologically savvy generation in America’s history. Although they suffer the nation’s highest unemployment—about twice the national average—and the fewest job opportunities in today’s economy, this generation of young people is engaged and ready to reverse economic and social injustice. AFL-CIO young worker councils across the country are bringing young workers together into a powerful progressive coalition with students, civil and human rights advocates, LGBTQ activists and many others.

Shuler’s efforts to broaden the union movement to engage young people and her work to improve the economy for all working people challenges assumptions about the “old fashioned” labor movement. Shuler looks at technological change as an opportunity to be relevant to the next generation workforce. Technology offers new opportunities and challenges to strengthen worker voice and new pathways for workers to learn skills and stay relevant in a changing economy. She knows that digital tools can help workers organize in new and powerful ways, and that the labor movement should be on the cutting edge of change.

Shuler also plays an active role in community and allied organizations, serving on the boards of the National Women’s Law Center; Institute for Women’s Policy Research; AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust; Alliance for Retired Americans; the Solidarity Center; and the Committee on Worker’s Capital and Women’s Committee of the International Trade Union Confederation.

Shuler lives with her husband, David Herbst, and their black Labrador Trader in Washington, D.C.

Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr.

On January 3, 2021, Frank Pallone, Jr. was sworn in for his 17th full term in the U.S. House of Representatives.  Pallone represents New Jersey's 6th Congressional District, which covers most of Middlesex County, as well as the Bayshore and oceanfront areas of Monmouth County.

Pallone is the Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has one of the broadest jurisdictions of any congressional committee.  He has served as Chairman since the beginning of the 116th Congress in 2019 and before that he served as the Committee’s Ranking Member in the 114th and 115th Congresses.  The Committee’s jurisdiction includes issues pertaining to health care, energy, environment, commerce, food and drug safety, consumer protection and communications technology.  Pallone has held a seat on the Committee since 1993.

During the 116th Congress, as the nation confronted the unprecedented public health crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting severe economic downturn, Pallone played a pivotal role in ensuring Congress provided the tools and resources needed to bring an end to this terrible pandemic.  He helped shepherd four bills through the House to combat the coronavirus that became law.  They included the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, the Coronavirus Aid Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, and an omnibus appropriations and COVID-19 relief package.

Pallone led the bipartisan effort to end surprise medical bills by holding patients harmless when they receive a surprise bill from an out-of-network health care provider.  He also authored the new bipartisan laws that will reduce and block robocalls and protect Americans from suspect foreign communications network equipment.  

Pallone also successfully pushed through the Committee and House critical legislation that was signed into law that will help combat climate change by phasing down the production and consumption of hydrofluorocarbons, mandating the repair of methane leaks, and furthering the march toward a clean energy future.        

During the 115th Congress, as Ranking Member, Pallone was one of the key leaders in the successful fight to prevent Republicans from repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  Pallone also led Democratic efforts to pass bipartisan legislation that expanded treatment for people fighting opioid use disorder and to reauthorize the Safe Drinking Water Act for the first time in 20 years.

In his first term as Ranking Member during the 114th Congress, Pallone led Democrats in passing key health care and environmental bills that were signed into law by President Obama, including the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA), the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, and the 21st Century Cures Act.

Prior to serving as the Ranking Member of the full Committee, Pallone served as the top Democrat on the Subcommittee on Health from 2007 to 2014.  As Chairman of the Health Subcommittee during the 111th Congress, Pallone played a key role in authoring and passing the ACA.  The landmark law extends health care coverage to millions of Americans, while driving down health care costs, and reining in abusive tactics used by insurance companies to deny medical treatment.

Pallone was born and raised in Long Branch, New Jersey, where he still resides. He is a graduate of Middlebury College, holds a master's degree in international relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and earned his law degree at Rutgers University.  Pallone married his wife Sarah in 1992. They have three children: Rose, Frank, and Celeste.