Richard Trumka, head of the AFL-CIO trade union federation, has died at the age of 72

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka died Thursday at the age of 72.

Trumka had been president of the 12.5 million-member labor federation since 2009.

President Joe Biden, whose 2020 candidacy for the White House has been approved by the AFL-CIO, called Trumka a close friend after learning of the death of the labor leader.

“The labor movement, the AFL-CIO and the nation have lost a legend today,” said Tim Schlittner, the federation’s communications director, who is made up of 56 union affiliates and is the biggest force in politics. democratic.

“Rich Trumka has dedicated his life to workers, from his early days as president of the United Mine Workers Association to his unparalleled leadership as a voice of the American labor movement,” he said. said Schlittner.

“He was a relentless champion of workers’ rights, safety at work, trade centered on workers, democracy and much more. He was also a devoted father, grandfather, husband, brother, coach, colleague. and friend. Rich was loved and loved. “

Chuck Schumer, D-New York, head of the Senate majority, strangled tears as he spoke at Trumka’s Senate floor.

“Get up today with some sad and horrible news about the passing of a great friend Rich Trumpka who left us this morning,” Schumer said, before stopping to compose himself.

“America’s workers have lost a fierce warrior at a time when we need them most.”

Trumka grew up in Nemacolin, Pennsylvania, a coal mining town. As a student at the university and law school, Trumka worked as a coal miner, as her father and grandfather had done.

At the age of 33, he ran and won a reform ticket for the presidency of the United Mine Workers of America, becoming the youngest leader of that union in its history.

Trumka has most recently been a major force in Biden’s selection of Marty Walsh as secretary of the Department of Labor.

While Biden was assembling his Cabinet, Trumka’s lobby for the then mayor was crucial to cementing Biden’s choice to nominate Walsh for Rep.Andy Levin, the Michigan Democrat who was the preferred candidate of some of the unions affiliated with the AFL-CIO.

Trumka also influenced when Republicans occupied the White House.

In 2019, Trumka persuaded several skeptical members of the Democratic House, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., To pass President Donald Trump’s revised version of the North American Trade Agreement, known as the and USMCA.

Labor unions have long criticized NAFTA, saying it has sent tens of thousands of U.S. union manufacturing workers across the border to Mexico, where wages are lower and unions represent the industry, not workers in them.

Trumka later said that while the USMCA was far from perfect, it was a big step toward nullifying the damage caused by NAFTA. USMCA passed the House in December 2019, with 41 Democrats voting against.

John Fetterman, Lt.

“We have lost a larger figure in life who has spent a career fighting to defend the Way of Life Union,” Fetterman, a Democrat wrote in a tweet.

“It’s up to the rest of us to pick up the slack and never stop fighting. #UnionStrong.”

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has ordered flags in that state at half-staff to mark Trumka’s death.

“Families working in America and New Jersey have lost one of their strongest and most dedicated allies,” Murphy said in a statement. “Organized work has lost one of its most powerful voices.”

– Additional reports from CNBC Kevin Breuninger

This is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

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