Powerful Labor Leader, a Former Mine Worker, Is Dead

Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIO was 72
By Liz MacGahan,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 5, 2021 1:45 PM CDT
Richard Trumka, President of AFL-CIO, Dies at 72
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka speaks in Portland, Ore. in May 2015. Trumka, the powerful president of the AFL-CIO labor union, has died at age 72.   (AP Photo/Don Ryan)

The president of the AFL-CIO, Richard Trumka, has died. He was 72, and the cause of death was not immediately revealed. Trumka headed the powerful labor organization since 2009, when he moved up to the post from the next level down, secretary-treasurer, a job he’d had since 1995. Before that he’d been the president of the United Mine Workers of America, the New York Times reports. Trumka started his career as a coal miner, the third generation in his family to work that job, the Hill reports. When he was elected president of the United Mine Workers of America in 1982, he was only 33, and the youngest leader that organization had ever had, NPR reports.

The Pennsylvania native started working in the mines in 1968, then went to school, eventually earning a law degree. Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York announced the death of the man he called a "fierce warrior" on the Senate floor Thursday, and President Biden called him a “good, close, personal friend.” Joe Manchin, the Democratic senator from West Virginia, also weighed in. "Rich’s story is the American story—he was the son and grandson of Italian and Polish immigrants and began his career mining coal," said Manchin. "He never forgot where he came from. He dedicated the rest of his career to fighting for America’s working men and women.” (More Richard Trumka stories.)

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