The AFL-CIO, the largest federation of labor unions in the country, announced Friday it has elected Liz Shuler as the first woman to serve as its president. Shuler succeeds Richard Trumka, who served as president of the federation from 2009 until he died unexpectedly earlier this month at age 72.

In a statement, Shuler said she was “humbled, honored and ready to guide” forward the AFL-CIO, which is composed of 56 unions and 12.5 million members.

“I believe in my bones the labor movement is the single greatest organized force for progress,” Shuler said. “This is a moment for us to lead societal transformations — to leverage our power to bring women and people of color from the margins to the center — at work, in our unions and in our economy, and to be the center of gravity for incubating new ideas that will unleash unprecedented union growth.”

Shuler was previously the AFL-CIO’s secretary-treasurer, the federation’s second-in-command. Fred Redmond, the former international vice president for United Steelworkers, was elected as the AFL-CIO’s first Black secretary-treasurer, the federation also announced Friday.

The election of Shuler and Redmond was praised by numerous Biden administration officials, Democratic lawmakers and other union leaders, including the presidents of AFSCME and the AFGE, the largest federal employee union.

The White House said Friday that President Biden called Shuler to congratulate her and “discussed the work (they) will partner on to create good-paying union jobs, increase union membership, and pay workers a living wage.” On Twitter, Biden said he knew Trumka — with whom he shared a close working relationship — “would be proud of the historic new team.”

Shuler will take the reins of the federation as labor and employment issues continue to occupy a top spot on Biden’s agenda. Trumka had been a crucial ally and public advocate in the larger discussions about strengthening the country’s labor laws, through legislation like the Pro Act, which remains a top Democratic priority.

Eli Rosenberg contributed to this report.

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