AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, head of one of the largest U.S. labor organizations and longtime ally to Democrats, has died at age 72, representatives for the group said Thursday.
Trumka died while celebrating his grandson’s birthday, according to an email sent to labor unions.
“He was more than the head of the AFL-CIO, he was a good close personal friend,” President Joe Biden said Thursday at the White House before a meeting with Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander groups. “At least he was with people who adored him.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., announced Trumka’s death to the full Senate shortly after noon on Thursday.
“He had in his veins, in every atom of his body, the hearts, the thoughts, the needs of the working people of America,” Schumer said. “The working people of America have lost a fierce warrior at a time when we needed him most.”
Local chapters of the labor group in Philadelphia and Ohio posted condolences on Twitter announcing his death. Many U.S. lawmakers also posted messages of condolences about Trumka.
An official for the labor organization and another major union president speaking on the condition of anonymity also confirmed the death to Reuters. A union spokeswoman did not immediately comment.
Trumka died unexpectedly of a likely heart attack, one unnamed source told Politico.
"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 unit tweeted.
"We will continue your never-ending fight for social and economic justice for every working person," the Ohio chapter also said on Twitter.
Trumka was elected AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer in 1995 and held that post until 2009, when he was elected president, according to the 12.5 million member labor union. He was elected the youngest president of the United Mine Workers of America at age 33 in 1982.
Lee Saunders, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said Trumka was a champion for workers on issues including workplace safety, racial justice and retirement security.
“We’ve lost one of the nation’s fiercest, most effective advocates for working people ever,” Saunders said in a statement. “From his earliest days working in the coal mines of Pennsylvania, Rich has lived the values of the labor movement with the greatest passion and purpose. He has touched and improved so many lives.”
Under the AFL-CIO constitution, if the president dies, the secretary-treasurer is required to call a meeting of the union’s executive council to elect a successor to serve the remainder of his term.
This report contains material from Reuters and Bloomberg News.
© 2021 Newsmax. All rights reserved.