* Set the Wayback Machine to January 9, 2000…
Margaret Blackshere, a former kindergarten teacher from Downstate Illinois, was named president Saturday of the Illinois state AFL-CIO in the labor’s group first-ever contested election.
Her victory in a hotly contested election marks a small but significant change in the leadership of state labor groups across the U.S. Only one other state labor group, Florida’s, is led by a woman.
Blackshere, of Springfield, who has been secretary-treasurer of the state labor federation, won about 60 percent of the more than 400,000 votes cast by union members across the state. Balloting took place last month; results were announced Saturday afternoon.
Michael Carrigan, business manager for Decatur Local 146 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and a Decatur City Council member, was elected secretary-treasurer.
Their opponents were George Machino, president of the Madison County Central Labor Council, and Joe Costigan, Chicago-based political director for UNITE, the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees.
Usually, the secretary-treasurer would move up the ladder uncontested. That time was different and it was one bitter battle. Blackshere, the first ever woman president of the IL AFL-CIO, went on to serve two terms and reinvigorated the organization in the process.
* Ms. Blackshere passed away over the weekend. She started out as a school teacher and this is the notice the Illinois Federation of Teachers sent to its members…
The IFT is saddened to inform you of the passing of Margaret Blackshere.
A former president of the Madison Federation of Teachers Local 743 and IFT Vice-President, Margaret also served as IL AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer and was elected (the first female) president in 2000 serving two terms. Margaret was inducted into the Illinois Labor History Society’s Union Hall of Honor and in 2013 SIUE honored Margaret by inducting her into the Alumni Hall of Fame.
A Special Order of Business was presented to the 2007 IFT Convention recognizing Margaret Blackshere as the first recipient of the IFT Lifetime Labor Achievement award for her contributions to labor and the human rights movement.
* From her obituary…
Margaret was raised in North Venice, IL by her Mother Frances and Aunt Margie. She began her career in education as a kindergarten teacher in Madison, IL after obtaining her master’s degree in education at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville. While attending SIUE she served as a student trustee and after completing her studies she served as a trustee after being appointed by the governor. She immediately saw the need for Madison teachers to have union representation during their contract negotiations and instigated an organizing drive that led to the Madison teachers joining the Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT).
Margaret has served at all levels of the labor movement from president of her local union(763) to statewide vice president of the IFT. In 1993 she was elected secretary-treasurer of the Illinois AFL-CIO- the million-member umbrella organization for all labor unions in the state. She was later elected as president, serving two terms. She was the first woman to hold that position. Margaret retired as president in February of 2007 and was given president emeritus .
Margaret’s work to elect worker-friendly legislators and state-wide officials has given Labor a strong voice in Springfield and Washington. Her efforts on key state legislation like raising minimum wage, expanding health care, enacting card check for public employees, revamping unemployment insurance, and revising workers’ compensation laws, have been invaluable.
But Margaret’s greatest contribution to Illinois’ Labor movement may be her capacity to unify diverse groups and build coalitions, both with the Labor movement and between Labor, small business and community and faith-based groups. Margaret has forged critical alliances with the Illinois Manufacturers Association to create and save manufacturing jobs in our state and with The Transportation for Illinois Coalition- a group of labor and business groups working to secure state and federal funds for Illinois’ infrastructure. Within the Labor movement, Margaret worked tirelessly to keep Illinois affiliates united and working together in political and legislative efforts when several international unions left the AFL-CIO.
Away from her duties at the State Federation, Margaret has been involved in many organizations fighting for equality and social justice. She served on IWIL and a variety of boards, councils and coalitions including United Way of Illinois, American Red Cross in Illinois, Chicago Council of Foreign Relations, Unemployment Insurance Advisory Board, the Alliance of Retired Americans Executive Board, the Industrial Commission’s Self Insurer’s Advisory Board, the Chicago Metropolis 2020 Board, the Illinois Women’s Institute for Leadership, the Transportation for Illinois Coalition, the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago Advisory Council and the Board of Trustees of the Global Solidarity Center in Washington, D.C.
She has received awards such as the Labor Leader Award in 2000 from the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, the Israel Peace Medal in 2000 from the State of Israel, and the Protector of Working People Award in 2002 from the Illinois State Crime Commission: She was the Guest of Honor in 2003 for Chicago’s St Patrick’s Day Parade and in 1998 she was inducted into the Illinois Labor History Society’s Union Hall of Honor.
My condolences to her family and her many, many friends and allies.
…Adding… Tributes are coming in…
The following statement is from Chairman and Mrs. Madigan. Thank you.
Margaret Blackshere’s impact on the hard-working men and women of Illinois will be felt for generations to come. As the first woman to serve as president of the Illinois AFL-CIO, Margaret created a seat at the table for female workers and always fought for their best interests. She had a passion for building bridges and uniting people around common goals with a spark and an energy that was unmatched. We will miss Margaret and her fierce spirit. Her family and loved ones are in our thoughts and prayers.
IFT President Dan Montgomery issued a statement of condolences following the passing of Margaret Blackshere, union leader:
“I was saddened and humbled to learn of the passing of Margaret Blackshere and, on behalf of the Illinois Federation of Teachers, offer my deepest condolences to her family and friends. She got her start in the labor movement at IFT and made a difference at every level, growing from member to leader to vice president before she went on to make history as the first woman president of the Illinois AFL-CIO.
“From her start organizing teachers in Madison, Ill., to her leadership at the state and national levels, Margaret’s efforts to make our state and country better and fairer for everyone were inspirational and quite necessary. She was a tireless advocate for working people and a shining example of what a union leader can be. We at the IFT are proud to have known her and to continue the work she believed in.”
* State Fed…
The Illinois AFL-CIO mourns the passing of former President Margaret Blackshere. Margaret was a fearless leader for economic and social justice from the halls of the State Capitol to the picket lines and shop floors up and down our state. She will be deeply missed by our organization, the labor movement and working families throughout Illinois.
“Margaret was a strong and effective advocate for the Illinois labor movement. While our organizations battled on many occasions, she also had the ability to collaborate on key manufacturing and education issues important to our state. On behalf of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association, I would like to offer my sincere condolences to her family, friends, and colleagues in labor on her passing,” said Mark Denzler, president and CEO, Illinois Manufacturers’ Association
* Governor Pritzker…
Visitation will be held from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday at Cooney Funeral Home, 625 Busse Hwy in Park Ridge. The funeral is scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday at St. Juliana Roman Catholic Church, 7200 N Osceola Ave.