MaryBe McMillan becomes the first woman to lead the North Carolina labor movement after being unanimously elected president of the North Carolina State AFL-CIO during the 60th annual convention that wrapped up today.
McMillan has served as secretary-treasurer of the state federation since 2005. She has spearheaded the cause of getting national and international unions to invest in and organize the South. Before beginning her career in the labor movement, she worked with housekeepers trying to organize at North Carolina State University and, after receiving her Ph.D in sociology, did public policy research for several progressive nonprofits. In 2004, she took a job at the AFL-CIO's Union Community Fund, where she met North Carolina State AFL-CIO President James Andrews—beginning a 12-year partnership fighting for working families in North Carolina.
"James has mentored and inspired countless labor leaders and activists in North Carolina and beyond," said McMillan. "For over 40 years, he has fought tirelessly to make our state a better place for working people. Our labor movement is much stronger because of James’ leadership, and so many of us are better leaders because of his example. I know that I am."
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper awarded Andrews the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the state’s highest honor, for his more than four decades of service to the labor movement.
McMillan knows challenges lie ahead, but she is ready to lead with the support of the most diverse board in history that includes two members from the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) and the first LGBTQ member.
"I look forward to working with our affiliates to build the movement we all want—one that is constantly growing, that is both big enough and bold enough to set the agenda and drive our politics, that is unafraid to hold our politicians and our own leaders accountable—a movement with the power to change this state and this nation."
The 60th annual convention featured workshops on storytelling, internal and community organizing, and strategic planning for the future of North Carolina’s labor movement. It also highlighted the debut of a North Carolina labor history exhibit from the Knights of Labor in the 19th century to the Duke Faculty union in 2016.
"I am proud to call the new president of the North Carolina State AFL-CIO my friend," said AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre. "MaryBe is a champion of working people in North Carolina, and we will stand with her in the fight to ensure we all have the freedom to join together and negotiate. We will march with her to end discrimination at the polls in North Carolina and across America. And we will organize and mobilize across the state and the South."
For highlights from the convention, including photos and video, check out the hashtag #ncafl60.