Business & Lobbying

AFL-CIO chief Richard Trumka dies at 72

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AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka has died at the age of 72, the labor organization said Thursday. 

“The labor movement, the AFL-CIO and the nation lost a legend today,” AFL-CIO Communications Director Tim Schlittner said in a statement.

“Standing on Rich’s shoulders, we will pour everything we have into building an economy, society and democracy that lifts up every working family and community.”

Trumka reportedly died of a heart attack.

A third-generation coal miner from Nemacolin, Pa., Trumka rose to prominence in 1982 when he became the youngest-ever president of the United Mine Workers of America. He was elected president of the AFL-CIO in 2009.

Tributes to Trumka immediately came from political figures, including President Biden, who called him a “good, close, personal friend” during a Thursday event. 

Trumka served as president of the influential labor group, which represents more than 12 million workers, for more than a decade.

“The working people of America have lost a fierce warrior, at a time when we needed him most,” Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in remarks on the Senate floor.

“Richard Trumka dedicated his life to the labor movement and the right to organize,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). said in a statement Thursday. “Richard’s leadership transcended a single movement, as he fought with principle and persistence to defend the dignity of every person.”

Lee Saunders, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, an AFL-CIO affiliate, praised Trumka as “one of the fiercest advocates for working people ever” in a statement.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said he was “heartbroken to learn of the death of my dear friend Richard Trumka.”

“Rich’s story is the American story  he was the son and grandson of Italian and Polish immigrants and began his career mining coal. He never forgot where he came from. He dedicated the rest of his career to fighting for America’s working men and women,” Manchin said in a statement.

“He was a fierce advocate for working people and a truly decent man. Most importantly, he was a devoted husband, father and grandfather.”

Labor unions on Thursday pledged to keep fighting for Trumka’s legislative priorities, including the PRO Act, a sweeping pro-union bill that passed the House in March but faces Republican opposition in the Senate.

“It is in that spirit that we vow to carry on his legacy, organizing and mobilizing workers,” Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO, said in a statement.

“There is important unfinished work to do. Rich vowed to lead the movement until the PRO Act is signed into law. We must recommit ourselves as a movement to doing what is needed to achieve his mission for working people: a fair chance to survive and thrive.”

Updated at 1:30 p.m.

Tags AFL-CIO Charles Schumer Joe Biden Joe Manchin Nancy Pelosi Richard Trumka

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