McCarthy to succeed Knutson as Minnesota AFL-CIO’s top officer

Bill McCarthy and Shar Knutson

Bill McCarthy and Shar Knutson

The Minnesota AFL-CIO General Board today elected Bill McCarthy to serve as the state labor federation’s next president. McCarthy, currently president of the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation, will take office Oct. 13.

McCarthy will succeed current Minnesota AFL-CIO President Shar Knutson, the first woman to serve as president of the 300,000-member labor federation. Knutson, who took office in 2009, will retire in October.

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

McCarthy was elected president of the Minneapolis RLF after rising through the ranks of Hotel and Restaurant Employees Local 17, now UNITE HERE Local 17. He served as both business representative and president of the local, and McCarthy took a leading role in supporting Holiday Inn Express workers’ landmark strike in 2000.

Under McCarthy’s leadership, the Minneapolis RLF has worked to advance policies ensuring all workers earn a living wage, receive health and retirement benefits, and are treated with dignity and respect. The Minneapolis RLF also has expanded its outreach to communities of color.

McCarthy serves on several non-profit and industry boards, including the Greater Twin Cities United Way, Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority and the Meet Minneapolis Convention + Visitors Association. He also chairs the board of Working Partnerships, Inc., a nonprofit McCarthy founded in 2006 to serve union members in need and their families.

McCarthy is a Minneapolis native, a Vietnam War veteran and a University of Minnesota alumnus.

Although Knutson will not retire until the fall, she called an early General Board election to provide time for an orderly transition process.

“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 St. Paul Regional Labor Federation for 10 years, after serving as the federation’s political director.

Prior to her career in the labor movement, Knutson worked for the City of St. Paul and as a policy analyst and assistant to St. Paul Mayor Jim Schiebel specializing in labor, health and immigration issues. Knutson is a longtime member of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

Under Knutson’s leadership, the Minnesota AFL-CIO increased political participation among union members and played a key role in several legislative victories. The federation helped lead the coalition that successfully raised Minnesota’s minimum wage, and it coordinated efforts to keep a Right to Work constitutional amendment off the 2012 ballot.

The Minnesota AFL-CIO also worked to open up new avenues for women and young workers to be involved in the labor movement under Knutson’s leadership, and the federation built an infrastructure to support affiliate unions in their organizing efforts.

“Workers in lower-wage jobs and traditionally non-union jobs are standing up and demanding a voice in the workplace and better standards,” Knutson added. “The future is bright for the Labor movement and I can’t wait to see what happens next.”

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