Steven A. Tolman
Cushing-Gavin Award Recipient
Labor Award, 2023
In October 1972, Steven A. Tolman went to work on the railroad, and five years later, he was elected to his first union office, Local Chairman of the Brotherhood of Railway and Airline Clerks. After 23 years working for Amtrak and remaining active in the Transportation Communications Union/ International Association of Machinists, Steven’s leadership took a new turn in 1994 when he was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives. Four years later, in 1998, he was elected to the Massachusetts Senate, serving seven terms. Senator Tolman was one of the Legislature’s leading voices – some would say firebrand — for working families. He was Assistant Majority Leader when he resigned to become President of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO in 2011.
While serving in elected office, Steve worked tirelessly to expose and address the tragedy of addictive pain medication and the opiate epidemic, and was an outspoken advocate for accessible health care, quality public education, enhanced workers’ rights, and the preservation of vital safety net programs for those in need.
Under his leadership, the Massachusetts AFL-CIO has been a part of ground breaking victories in electoral politics as well as advancing a policy agenda – such as raising the minimum wage, passing the strongest state-earned sick-time law in the country, and establishing a domestic workers bill of rights – in the fight for the rights of all workers, those organized and those not yet organized.
Steven holds a B.A. in Labor Studies and Law from UMass Boston and is a 1980 graduate of the Harvard Trade Union Program.