The Lead

AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka, a Pa. native, dies, age 72

By: - August 5, 2021 2:05 pm

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.

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.

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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Stephen Caruso
Stephen Caruso

Stephen Caruso is a former senior reporter with Pennsylvania Capital-Star. Before working with the Capital-Star he covered Pennsylvania state government for The PLS Reporter.