Rebekah Friend is the Secretary/Treasurer and Executive Director of Arizona AFL-CIO, the labor union federation in Arizona representing 185,000 union members through over 200 local union affiliates. For over 30 years, Friend has been a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and a committed advocate for working families.
Today, Friend is one of the only female executive directors to head a state labor union federation in the country. She became the first woman to be elected president of the Arizona AFL-CIO in 2002 and the state federation’s first female Secretary/Treasurer in 2007.
Throughout her career, Friend has played an integral role in developing legislation to improve the lives of working people in Arizona. Friend served as the first President of the Coalition for Labor Union Women in Maricopa County, lobbying state legislators on pay equity bills affecting female workers. Friend successfully chaired the Minimum Wage Coalition, which brought Proposition 202 to the ballot in 2006 and raised the minimum wage to $6.75, along with a cost-of-living adjustment every year. In 2007, she played an instrumental role in passing historic legislation that increased workers compensation benefits and added a yearly cost-of-living adjustment. She also led the charge for increases to unemployment insurance benefits in Arizona. Friend continues to lobby legislators to make Cesar Chavez Day an official state holiday to recognize Arizona's farm workers.
Friend became active in the labor movement as a member of IBEW Local 387 while working at the Arizona Public Service utility company in the 1970’s. After becoming a steward and running for union office, Friend became a consultant for local unions as far away as Australia, teaching union leaders strategic planning techniques. In 1998, IBEW Local 387 hired Friend as a business representative to fight the deregulation of the state’s utilities by lobbying the Arizona Corporation Commission.
Friend has received numerous awards of distinction for her public service. In 2002, Friend was presented a lifetime achievement award by the Arizona Democratic Party and inducted into the party’s Hall of Fame. In 2004, Friend was awarded the YWCA's Woman of the Year, their highest award for a civic leader. She has also received the Arizona Capitol Times Leader of the Year in Public Policy Award (2007), the Ballie Award for Electoral Impact (2007), and the Emerge Arizona Woman of the Year Award (2008).
Friend serves her community on numerous boards and commissions. She was appointed by former Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano to be a board member on the Governor’s Council on Workforce Policy. Rebekah serves on the Arizona Skill Standards Commission. She has also served on the Governor’s Prisoner Re-entry Task Force. She also serves as a board member for Labor’s Community Service Agency and as a member of the Arizona State University Downtown Phoenix Campus (DPC) Business and Community Advisory Committee. Rebekah was one of the three founding members of EMERGE Arizona and served as its Chair. Friend also donates her time at local food banks and as a mentor for young women.