November 12–13, 2015  •  San Francisco, CA

Reinventing the labor union

Andrew Stern (Columbia University), Liz Shuler (AFL-CIO)
2:15pm–2:35pm Friday, 11/13/2015
Location: grand ballroom Level:
Average rating: *****
(5.00, 2 ratings)

Liz Shuler, Secretary-Treasurer / CFO, AFL-CIO; Andy Stern, former President SEIU.
The labor union as we knew it in the 20th century is fading away, yet the challenges of giving workers a voice in decision making, ensuring that unscrupulous employers don’t take advantage of them, and training them for the jobs of the future remains. We’ll sit down to discuss the future of organized labor with Liz Shuler, the Chief Financial Officer of the AFL/CIO, the largest and most powerful of the traditional labor unions, and Andy Stern, former president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and now a senior fellow at Columbia University. They will give us their perspective on why unions still matter, what unions are doing to reinvent themselves for the 21st century, and what non-traditional approaches might be required in the Next Economy.

Photo of Andrew Stern

Andrew Stern

Columbia University

Andrew Stern is the president emeritus of the 2.2-million-member Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which grew by more than 1.2 million workers during his tenure. Called a “courageous, visionary leader who charted a bold new course for American unionism,” Andy has been featured on 60 Minutes and CNN and on the covers of the New York Times Magazine, Fortune, and Businessweek. He serves on the boards of the Open Society Foundations and the Broad Center and was a presidential appointee on the Simpson-Bowles Commission. Andy is currently a senior fellow at Columbia University. His first book, A Country That Works, was published in 2005; his new book, Raising the Floor: How a Universal Basic Income Can Renew Our Economy and Restore the American Dream, calls for America to debate and take bold action in the face of the massive potential of job disruption.

Photo of Liz Shuler

Liz Shuler


I first met Liz during our work together on the Markle Rework America initiative. She has been one of my guides to the world of labor unions, a world of which, like many in high tech, I have had my doubts. We have explored together what role unions might need to play in the 21st century labor economy, and what they need to do to make themselves relevant to the modern world of work. Liz is one of the people who understands that just like companies, and whole industries, labor unions must be reinvented.

— Tim O’Reilly


Elizabeth Shuler is the current secretary-treasurer/chief financial officer of the AFL-CIO, one of three top-level officers for the federation and the first-ever woman elected to the position. Coming from Portland, Oregon, Ms. Shuler has been at the forefront of such progressive labor initiatives as green jobs programs and the fight for workers’ rights for many years, starting as a political activist and an organizer at the local union level. Prior to her election as secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO, Ms. Shuler worked her way up through the ranks of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), from Local Union 125 in Portland to the executive leadership at the international headquarters in Washington, D.C. Today, as chief financial officer of the federation, Ms. Shuler chairs the AFL-CIO Executive Council Committee on Finance, oversees the federation’s internal operations, and leads the federation’s young worker and women’s initiatives and its repositioning efforts. Secretary-Treasurer Shuler also represents the AFL-CIO on various boards and committees, such as the AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust and the Women’s Committee of the International Trade Union Confederation.

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Douglas Rowlett
12/22/2016 8:55am PST