Former coal miner and campaigner for workers’ rights led a federation of labour unions representing 12.5 million US workers.
Richard Trumka, the president of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), has died at age 72, representatives for the United States-based group said on Thursday.
Local chapters of the labour group in Philadelphia and Ohio posted condolences on Twitter announcing his death. US lawmakers posted messages of condolences about Trumka.
Trumka died unexpectedly of a likely heart attack, one unnamed source told the Politico news organisation.
“It is with great sadness and a heavy heart that we have learned @AFLCIO President Richard Trumka has passed away. You have been a champion for workers and an incredible pillar in the fight for workers’ rights,” the Philadelphia AFL-CIO unit tweeted.
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
“We will continue your never-ending fight for social and economic justice for every working person,” the Ohio chapter also said on Twitter.
“The Congress and Country are shocked and heartbroken by the passing of an unsurpassed titan of labour,” House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.
“Personally and officially, I am greatly saddened by his passing, which is a great loss for the men and women of labor, and indeed, for all hard-working Americans,” Speaker Pelosi said.
President Joe Biden told reporters at the White House that Trumka was a close personal friend. A teary-eyed Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced news of Trumka’s passing on the Senate floor.
Trumka, a third-generation coal miner from Nemacolin, Pennsylvania, began working in the mines at age 19, and became president of the AFL-CIO, a federation of 55 unions representing 12.5 million workers, in 2009.
He presided over the AFL-CIO at a time of increasing challenges for the US labour movement.
Trumka had pushed US lawmakers to revise trade deals and make it easier for unions to organise new members and had secured new labour protections in revisions to the US-Mexico-Canada under the administration of former US President Donald Trump.