President Darrin Kelly was sworn into the presidency of the Allegheny-Fayette Central Labor Council at the December 2017 meeting, and he has hit the ground running in his first year. Two weeks later he was hearing from candidates for a special election in Pennsylvania’s then 18th congressional district. After decades of incredible leadership from now President Emeritus Jack Shea, the ACLC began a new chapter with IAFF Local 1 Brother and Navy veteran Kelly.
“It is an honor and a pleasure to serve the 100,000 union members of this central labor council. We are one of the most active CLCs in the country, and our strength comes from our members. The power of this organization comes from the ground up, not the top down. It’s all about our members”, stated President Darrin Kelly.
Engaging and mobilizing those members was one of the first feats of leadership Kelly embarked on. The ACLC found itself in the middle of a nationally followed congressional race, seen as a referendum on politics in general and the Labor Movement’s viability and future specifically. “The election of Conor Lamb showed that we can’t take anything for granted, and no one else can take us and our movement for granted”.
“Everyone pushed so hard. Our union volunteers gave not just their time, but their passion. It was a true masterpiece and a testament to what we can do when we work hard”, said Kelly. “We proved that we can flip a district, even when you’re not supposed to”.
The PA-18 special election and now Congressman Conor Lamb focused on the issues that impact workers and their families. The issues that form the foundation of the Labor Movement. It was a race that turned on the economic importance of workers’ rights and the need to bring workers to the table.
Since the March victory, the ACLC and President Kelly have turned their eyes to the November elections and the future of Labor in western Pennsylvania. “With all the history of our city, we are seeing a renaissance and a renewal of our community and our economy. We, as the Labor Movement, need to stay on the cutting edge. We will not be left behind,” said Kelly. “How many cities are there in this country that can lose so much of their industry, of their identity, and come back like we have?” And the Labor movement is determined to play a big role in that revival.
Just two weeks ago, Kelly attended the Future of Work Commission panel in Pittsburgh, attended by AFL-CIO President Trumka. When looking to the future of work and the Labor movement the question of automation is always at the tip of the conversation. “We need to be part of the dialogue. We are in the business of people. We don’t survive without our brother-sisterhood. It is our job to make sure working families are represented,” reminded President Kelly.
Another of his proudest achievements in his first year is the formation of the first CLC Union Veteran’s Council in the Commonwealth, chaired by army veteran Craig Romanovich. “As a veteran, this is very personal to me. This is a chance to tell the story of the great work our veterans are doing here, and to do whatever we can to help them”, reflected Kelly. “We are energizing our membership, and that energy is leading to growth”. Since last October, 16 new locals have joined the Council.
On reflecting on his first year as president, Darrin Kelly gave homage to the mentorship and counsel he received from president emeritus Shea. “Jack was not just a perfect mentor. He had me make decisions during the transition and gave me space to do that. He gave me guidance when I needed it, but he also let me find out for myself”. In his first year, President Kelly has shown remarkable leadership. The Pennsylvania AFL-CIO is looking forward to what comes next from the ACLC.