INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The state's labor movement needs to
revitalize itself at the community level and get more labor-friendly
candidates elected to office, the new president of the Indiana State
AFL-CIO said Wednesday.
Brett Voorhies, president of the Central Indiana Labor Council since 2011
and a political coordinator for the United Steelworkers, was elected by
delegates Tuesday during AFL-CIO's state convention in Terre Haute,
defeating incumbent Nancy Guyott. He takes over a federation of 800 local
unions with 300,000 members across Indiana.
Voorhies said after his election he wants to find new ways to strengthen
the AFL-CIO and "grow the voice of working people across this state."
"Right now I feel we're stagnant, we're status quo," he told The
Associated Press in a telephone interview. "There wasn't a whole lot being
done as far as services to our members."
Voorhies said he was approached by others in the federation to run for
president, but not necessarily out of dissatisfaction with Guyott, who in
2009 became the first woman elected state AFL-CIO president.
"She did a fabulous job doing policy and legislative work. We have to do a
lot more than that," Voorhies said. Besides a strong presence in the
statehouse, the AFL-CIO should be active in communities and in service
work, he said, along with educating members and others on legislation
The AFL-CIO organized protests during the 2011 and 2012 legislative
sessions in an unsuccessful effort to stop passage of a state
"right-to-work" law that bans the collection of mandatory fees for union
That defeat did not lead to his election, Voorhies said.
"It was an uphill battle from the start. The only thing I would have done
different is I maybe would have started a little earlier rather than
trying to win a battle in the hallways of the statehouse," he said.
Since then, the battle over right-to-work has shifted to the courts.
Indiana is appealing a Lake County ruling last September declaring the law
unconstitutional. That case was brought by suburban Chicago-based Local
150 of the International Union of Operating Engineers, which also is
fighting the law in federal courts.
While awaiting court rulings, "we have to go out there and mobilize our
members" to build union strength, he said. That includes recruiting
worker-friendly candidates for the General Assembly.
"It's going to take time, it's going to take a lot of patience," Voorhies
A request for an interview with Guyott was left with a union spokesman.