Richard Trumka. (Linh Do/Flickr)
Richard Trumka, president of the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations, died Thursday morning at age 72.
Trumka, a Pennsylvania native, was born in Nemacolin on the Monongahela River in 1949. He was a third-generation coal miner who went to law school and became president of the United Mine Workers of America before he was elected president of the AFL-CIO — which has 56 member unions with 12.5 million members — in 2009.
“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,” the federation said in a statement Thursday.
The labor movement, the AFL-CIO and the nation lost a legend today. Rich Trumka devoted his life to working people, from his early days as president of the United Mine Workers of America to his unparalleled leadership as the voice of America’s labor movement.
— AFL-CIO ✊ Pass the #PROAct (@AFLCIO) August 5, 2021
His death was first reported by Strikewave, an online outlet covering the labor movement. He reportedly died of a heart attack.
“Our family is devastated and heartbroken today,” Trumka’s cousin, state Rep. Pam Snyder, D-Greene, said in a statement. “Richard’s passing is not only a great loss for us, but it is a loss for every working person in this country. We’ve lost one of the most fierce and effective labor leaders our nation has ever seen.”
As president of the AFL-CIO, Trumka has been active in backing President Joe Biden’s agenda, including an ongoing infrastructure push as well as efforts to make it easier for workers to form a union.
Trumka was also known for keeping workers together during long, difficult strikes, such as a successful, nearly year long work stoppage against a coal company in northeastern Pennsylvania to restore workers’ health and retirement benefits.
Trumka had appeared as recently as yesterday via a video message to striking mineworkers in Alabama, according to labor reporter Kim Kelly.
Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO, has died of a massive heart attack. Just yesterday, he appeared via video to send solidarity to the striking UMWA miners of Alabama. Trumka got his start in the UMWA before ascending to leadership of the nation’s largest labor federation https://t.co/khI9hf1wGx
— Kim Kelly (@GrimKim) August 5, 2021
In a statement, Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Allegheny, said that Trumka’s “legacy and commitment to the labor movement in Pennsylvania and far beyond will never be forgotten.”
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