Kate Shaughnessy was born and raised on family farm in southern Minnesota. Since farming was not sustainable, her father worked as a truck driver while her mother ran the home. He was a proud Teamster and a union steward who hand collected dues and went to every union meeting, despite a 60-mile drive each way.
Kate grew up appreciating unions, but assuming they were men's clubs. After taking several history classes in college and working as a social worker, she embarked on an academic journey to study working class women and received her master's degree.
While studying at Sarah Lawrence College, Kate was recruited by the Organizing Institute and enjoyed 10+ years an organizer for low-wage workers, mostly in the hotel industries of New Haven, CT and the Twin Cities. Kate led a multi-union hotel strike in 2000, centering her work at the Minneapolis Hilton and developing immigrant leaders who carried the campaign to a victorious contract. Seeing the need for major immigration policy reform, Kate shifted her focus while mobilizing for the Immigrant Workers' Freedom Ride in 2003 (while also serving at the University of Minnesota Labor Education Service), New American Freedom Summer in 2004, and as Field Director for the Coalition for Comprehensive Immigration Reform until 2008.
Kate went back to exclusively working within labor unions as an educator with CWA and now with the AFL-CIO headquarters. In her current capacity, Kate staffs the AFL-CIO Committee on Working Women and develops programs to enhance leaders' vision and skills. Some examples include the latest versions of Common Sense Economics, Culture Change programming, and the Leadership Institute. Kate writes curriculum utilizing popular education techniques to empower workers to reflect, analyze, and lead. In her capacity as co-chair of the Women's Caucus of the United Association of Labor Educators, Kate ushered in a grant to expand and uplift the four regional summer schools for working women. These schools provide support and education for women to find their voice in the labor movement and develop their leadership skills. After 11 years in Washington, D.C., Kate recently returned to Minnesota with her two children and a spoiled dog.