West Virginia AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Josh Sword has been appointed to fill the unexpired term of President Kenny Perdue, who is retiring at the end of this year.
Noting Sword’s extensive experience in the West Virginia labor movement and his dedicated service with the West Virginia AFL-CIO, the organization’s Executive Board decided in a unanimous vote Tuesday that Sword should take the helm, and that Joe Carter, a member of the Executive Board and longtime United Mine Workers of America leader, will serve as interim Secretary-Treasurer.
The WV AFL-CIO Executive Board includes 14 vice presidents that represent 575 local unions and 140,000 active and retired members of the AFL-CIO. The current presidential term expires in October 2017, when the WV AFL-CIO will hold its constitutional convention.
As Secretary-Treasurer, Sword has spent the past four years fighting alongside President Perdue, the board and other labor leaders on behalf of West Virginia working families, which have been under attack by the legislative majority for the past two years.
“I am continually impressed with Josh’s work ethic and drive in representing West Virginia workers and fighting for their rights to a fair wage, good benefits and a safe workplace,” Perdue said. “He has been an invaluable member of this organization and I have absolute confidence in his ability to serve as president.”
Sword came to the WV AFL-CIO from the state affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, where he worked for 13 years as political director and lobbyist. In his position as political director, he was a member of CWA local 2001. He also has served as the education employee representative on the Public Employee Insurance Agency Finance Board since 2008.
“It is my greatest professional honor to have been chosen by the Executive Board to be the next president of the West Virginia AFL-CIO,” Sword said. “Fighting for workers and their families is what I live for!”
He added, “The WV AFL-CIO’s 48-page constitution can be broken down to one goal: To make life better for workers and their families. And that’s going to be my motto as president.”
Joe Carter has been the UMWA’s International Vice President of District 17 in southern West Virginia for more than a decade. He has 40 years’ experience in the mining industry as an underground coal miner and UMWA representative, and is a fourth-generation coal miner.
Carter will be the first UMWA member to serve in one of the two top leadership positions of the WV AFL-CIO.
“I’m honored to be chosen for this post and look forward to working with Josh and the Executive Board to improve the lives of workers in the coming months,” Carter said.
When he takes office Jan. 1, Sword, 40, will be the fifth president of the WV AFL-CIO, which will turn 60 next year. Prior to President Perdue’s 12 years in the office, Jim Bowen served from 1997 to 2004; Joe Powell from 1974 to 1997; and Miles Stanley from 1957 to 1974.
While excited about his new post, Sword said he will miss working with Perdue.
“I wish Kenny the very best as he opens the next chapter of his life,” he said. “The only thing Kenny loves more than the labor movement is his family, and now he gets a chance to spend more time with them.
“I congratulate him on a job well done.”
Moving forward, Sword said the WV AFL-CIO will continue to stand up to the legislative attacks on workers, such as the legally contested “Right to Work” law and the repeal of Prevailing Wage.
“The best way to grow the economy is to develop a strong middle class, and you can’t have a strong middle class if workers don’t have good wages, solid benefits and a safe workplace,” he said. “That’s why the legislative leadership needs to flip the script and concentrate their efforts on raising pay, not lowering it; increasing benefit levels, not reducing them; and making workplaces safer, not less safe. If they do, we will support their efforts; However, if they don’t, we will be ready for battle again.
“It’s really that simple.”