Press Release

New AFL-CIO Senior Staff Team to Meet the Moment for Working People

A new senior staff team will work together to ensure any worker who wants a union in their workplace can have one, and to build an economy and a democracy that works for all of us. 

Today, AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler announced key senior staff hires who will implement a bold and ambitious workers’ agenda, meeting this moment and building on the momentum of historic worker organizing. The AFL-CIO senior staff team will execute on Shuler and AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Fred Redmond’s goals to grow union membership and good union jobs in infrastructure, clean energy, emerging technology and public sectors, and build an equitable, strong democracy and economy in every community.  Together, they will direct a 365-day-a-year messaging and mobilization strategy, ensuring the voices of all working people are heard at the worksite, in the U.S. Capitol, statehouses and at the ballot box.

The new hires announced today are: Jennifer Rodriguez, Director of Political and Field Mobilization; Ray Zaccaro, Strategic Adviser to the President and Director of Public Affairs; and Clayola Brown, Senior Adviser for Strategic Partnerships and Racial Justice. They collectively bring decades of political, mobilization, civil rights and public affairs experience to the AFL-CIO. 

Additional recent appointments include Cindy Estrada, Strategic Adviser to the President for the Center for Transformational Organizing, and Samantha Smith, Strategic Adviser to the President for Clean Energy Jobs. 

“We are thrilled to have Jennifer, Ray, Clayola, Cindy and Sam bring their decades of experience to the AFL-CIO to ensure any worker who wants a union on the job can have one, build a state and local mobilization powerhouse, fight for more good union jobs, and strengthen our democracy,” said AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler.  

Director of Political and Field Mobilization—Jennifer Rodriguez

Jennifer is a veteran of organizing and mobilizing for working families. Jennifer was the Campaigns Director for the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) for 15 years, and before that worked in the Texas Legislature and was a reporter in south central Texas. She began working for the AFL-CIO during the 2022 election cycle, as we launched our program focused on organizing. She will lead a program that meets the moment and is committed to the needs of unions around the table and the work of the state and local labor bodies who are crucial to amplifying united worker power. Her steadfast leadership demonstrated through Labor 2022 is assured to continue bringing real capacity building power at all levels of our movement. 

Strategic Adviser to the President and Director of Public Affairs—Ray Zaccaro

Ray brings more than 20 years of experience as a top communications and political strategist, including most recently as a key adviser to Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon. Ray has served in senior advisory roles for multiple members of Congress, nonprofit organizations, corporations and numerous political campaigns, and frequently contributes commentary and media analysis.

Ray will lead the Public Affairs and Communications team and serve as a top strategic adviser to President Shuler. He will be joining Steve Smith who was recently named the AFL-CIO Deputy Director of Public Affairs for Political and Organizing. Steve brings two decades of high-level communications experience in the labor movement to this role, including 14 years as Communications Director of the California Labor Federation, as well as having previously worked at the AFL-CIO. 

Senior Adviser for Strategic Partnerships & Racial Justice—Clayola Brown

Clayola will be transitioning into a new role where she will be directly advising the officers across all of the AFL-CIO’s primary bodies of work: organizing, politics and advocacy. She will facilitate relationship building with the civil rights community, further deepening engagement through the lens of organizing and racial justice. In addition to her service to the AFL-CIO, Clayola is National President of the A. Philip Randolph Institute. She has a distinguished history of organizing and serving working people with the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union and Workers United, and has held appointments to the National Commission for Employment Policy, the New York State Workforce Investment Board and the Labor Advisory Committee for Trade Negotiations and Trade Policy.

Strategic Adviser to the President for the Center for Transformational Organizing—Cindy Estrada

Cindy is well known to the labor movement as a longtime vice president of the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW), member of the board of IndustriALL Global Union and member of the AFL-CIO Executive Council. First and foremost, she is known for her 26 years as an organizer with the UAW, having held every position from lead organizer in successful organizing campaigns on the ground to vice president of organizing overseeing complex strategic organizing and contract campaigns.

Strategic Adviser to the President for Clean Energy Jobs—Samantha Smith 

Samantha brings deep experience through her work on climate and energy issues. She most recently served as director of the Just Transition Centre (JTC) at the International Trade Union Confederation and was previously in senior roles at Equinor and World Wildlife Fund. At the JTC, Samantha was responsible for building a program of work on clean economy jobs with energy, manufacturing, transport and construction unions around the world. 

Contact: Liz Vlock, 202-637-5018