The chief of one of the world’s largest unions has died. The AFL-CIO announced August 5 that its president, Richard Trumka, has died. The longtime labor leader was 72 years old.
“The labor movement, the AFL-CIO and the nation lost a legend today,” read a statement from the union group. “He was a relentless champion of workers’ rights, workplace safety, worker-centered trade, democracy and so much more,” it said.
Trumka became president of the now 12.5-million member labor federation in 2009 after serving as its secretary-treasurer for almost 15 years. A former coal miner, Trumka got his start in organized labor at 33 when he was elected president of the United Mine Workers of America and led a successful strike against Pittston Coal Company.
His rise, from son of a Pennsylvanian coal miner to leadership of the AFL-CIO, “was an inspiration to us all,” wrote UMWA President Cicel E. Roberts, who called him “an unequaled voice for workers around the world.” The UMWA is one of the 56 national and international groups currently represented by the AFL-CIO.
Several prominent elected Democrats paid homage to Trumka. In an announcement made from the Senate floor, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called Trumka a “fierce warrior” for working Americans. President Biden called him “a close friend.”
Jay Timmons, CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers, noted his occasional disagreements with the organizer but also called him a “patriot” who “never forgot who he represented.”
“We may have sparred at times on policy priorities,” said Timmons, “but one thing was always clear: whether we aligned on an issue or took differing views, he was fighting with conviction on behalf of American workers and for a stronger America.”