Alabama AFL-CIO will have a new president for the first time in years. Members elected a president and secretary-treasurer at their annual convention. Stewart Burkhalter, who served as president, had been in office for a long time. He has now retired. State AFL-CIO delegates elected Al Henley of Montgomery to succeed “Buck” as president. At the meeting, Bren Riley of Etowah County was elected secretary-treasurer. Bren is a full-time union employee in Gadsden and is former vice president of the United Steelworkers Local 12 at Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.
Al and I have been friends for over 20 years. He is a good man and will be an outstanding president. One of the union president’s primary jobs is to work with the Alabama Legislature and to promote organized labor’s agenda in government arenas. The secretary-treasurer is the organization’s business manager. Al became a member of the Communication Workers of America in 1972 when he worked for BellSouth. He served as secretary-treasurer for eight years.
Al’s challenge will now be to keep labor’s voice relevant in our state. Alabama union membership was about 15% in the early 1990s, but last year fell to 10.1%, or 183,000 members, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. About 54,000 were affiliated with the AFL-CIO. Al, as president, plans on using his position to call attention to work force issues. He had this to say:
Union membership has declined all over the country. We’ve lost a lot of political power, but we’ve still got a voice and we’ll use it. Working people have been disrespected and not appreciated. Alabama is a poor state made up of a large majority of good union and non-union workers. This gives us the opportunity to tell the truth when it relates to regular working folks.
I wish Al and Bren the very best as they take on tremendous challenges. They have their work cut out for them. Hopefully, they can bring about a new awareness of how important union membership can be for working men and women.
Source: Gadsden Times
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