Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO labor organization and a close ally of the Biden administration, has died.
Trumka had served as president of the AFL-CIO for more than a decade. The AFL-CIO represents more than 12.5 million workers.
Politico first reported Trumka’s death. Trumka reportedly died of a heart attack either on Wednesday evening or Thursday morning.
The AFL-CIO confirmed Trumka’s death in a statement on 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 wrote.
The AFL-CIO said it mourns the passing of Trumka and commits to “honoring his legacy with action.”
“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 AFL-CIO wrote.
AFL-CIO staff were informed of Trumka’s death on Thursday morning, according to Politico.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) fought back tears as he announced Trumka’s death and paid tribute to the late AFL-CIO president in floor remarks on Thursday.
“The working people of America have lost a fierce warrior,” Schumer said.
An emotional Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer tearfully announces the death of AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka on Senate floor:
“It’s just horrible news … we have just lost a giant, and we need him so.” pic.twitter.com/Jnz2LiDMxe
— The Recount (@therecount) August 5, 2021
President Biden also expressed his condolences upon learning of Trumka’s passing before an event in the State Dining Room. Biden reportedly said that Trumka was a “close personal friend.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said that Congress and the country are “shocked and heartbroken” by Trumka’s passing 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,” Pelosi said.
“Richard Trumka’s life was a testament to the power of organizing and mobilizing for progress, and his leadership leaves a legacy of inspired advocacy for workers,” Pelosi continued.
A third-generation coal miner, Trumka rose to prominence in the labor movement through during his three terms as president of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA).
Trumka was also known as a key ally of Democrats in Washington, and had worked closely with every Democratic White House for three decades. This year, Trumka had pushed for the passage of the the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act — a bill that aims at becoming the biggest expansion in protections for organized labor in more than a generation and parts of which are set to be included in Senate Democrats’ $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill. Trumka has also lent his voice to other components of the administration’s infrastructure push.
Trumka was a key player in fighting for labor rights during Democratic and Republican administrations. His participation in rewriting the North American Free Trade Agreement during the Trump administration ultimately prompted Democrats to sign onto the pact.
A day before his passing, Trumka expressed solidarity to the striking coal mining workers in Alabama who are members of the UMWA.
“Just yesterday, Rich was lending his support to the striking miners in Alabama,” Schumer said.
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