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Bill McCarthy elected next Minnesota AFL-CIO president
State federation president Shar Knutson
to retire in October


From the Minneapolis Labor Review
July 24, 2015

SAINT PAUL — The general board of the Minnesota AFL-CIO voted July 14 to elect Bill McCarthy as the next president of the state labor federation and its 300,000 members.

Shar Knutson, Minnesota AFL-CIO president since 2009, announced June 22 that she planned to retire October 9.

McCarthy has served as the elected president of the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation, AFL-CIO since 2002.

“The labor movement is at a critical moment,” McCarthy said. “While court decisions are changing the traditional union organizing model, workers everywhere are standing up for better wages, benefits, and treatment on the job. I’m excited and honored to partner with working people to lead and grow Minnesota’s labor movement through this time of change.”

MRLF president since 2002, Bill McCarthy will be sworn in as Minnesota AFL-CIO president October 13, 2015.

His rise to the top leadership position of the Minnesota AFL-CIO comes 30 years after he first became a union member, joining UNITE HERE Local 17 in 1985 while working as a part-time bartender.


McCarthy’s rise to the top leadership position of the Minnesota AFL-CIO comes 30 years after he first became a union member, joining what is now UNITE HERE Local 17 in 1985 while working as a part-time bartender.

He became a Local 17 business agent, then was elected president of the local in 1998.

At Local 17, McCarthy helped lead support for the Holiday Inn Express workers, undocumented workers fired in 1999 for union organizing. Local 17 successfully fought their deportation and played a key role in convincing the national AFL-CIO to change its stance to champion the rights of immigrant workers.

As Local 17 president, McCarthy led hundreds of Minneapolis hotel workers in their landmark 2000 strike.

During McCarthy’s time as MRLF president, the organization stepped up its organizing in Minneapolis area suburbs and has successfully helped labor-endorsed candidates win close elections for state legislature and also has helped to pass school district levy referenda.

These wins grew from McCarthy’s work with MRLF affiliates to increase the federation’s capacity, growing from a staff of two with no permanent organizing staff to a staff of three full-time organizers led by a full-time campaigns manager.

The national AFL-CIO showed its confidence in McCarthy’s leadership by awarding the MRLF several “Solidarity Grants” to support its work.

McCarthy has served on numerous community boards, including Greater Twin Cities United Way. In 2012, McCarthy was awarded the United Way of America’s Joseph A. Beirne Community Service Award.

McCarthy also serves as a board member of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, charged by the legislature with building and operating the new Minnesota Vikings football stadium. In that capacity, he has worked to ensure that the construction and operation of the stadium will be performed by by union workers covered by collective bargaining agreements.

McCarthy grew up in Bloomington, Minnesota and attended Jefferson High School. After high school, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and served in Vietnam.

Following military service, McCarthy attended the University of Minnesota and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Urban Studies.

McCarthy will be sworn in as Minnesota AFL-CIO president October 13.

“I’m proud that I came to the MRLF from UNITE HERE Local 17, one of our most diverse unions, representing hard-working hotel housekeepers and restaurant workers,” McCarthy said. “For these workers — for all workers — I will continue to advocate for dignity and justice as your next Minnesota AFL-CIO president.”

Shar Knutson: First woman to lead Minnesota AFL-CIO as president

Elected in 2009, Shar Knutson became the first woman to serve as president of the Minnesota AFL-CIO.

“Growing up in a union family and working a union job as a single parent showed me how much of an impact the labor movement has in improving peoples’ lives,” Knuston said. “It has been a humbling experience to lead a movement that was there for me and my family.”

Before leading the Minnesota AFL-CIO, Knutson served as president of the Saint Paul Regional Labor Federation, AFL-CIO for ten years, and previously served as the Saint Paul federation’s political director. An AFSCME member, Knutson had worked in Saint Paul city government.

Interim president for MRLF


According to the MRLF constitution, the MRLF executive vice president will become interim MRLF president when McCarthy resigns this fall.

Nominations for a regularly scheduled MRLF election will take place in December 2015.

In January 2016, MRLF delegates will elect a new MRLF president to a four-year term.

— Labor Review and Workday Minnesota reporting


Related commentary by Bill McCarthy:
Proud to advocate for all of Minnesota’s workers



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