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Richard Trumka, Union Leader and Major Democrat Supporter, Dies

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OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion


One of the most high-profile union leaders in the nation, and a friend to the Democrat Party, has died unexpectedly.

Richard Trumka, the AFL-CIO president, died on Thursday from an apparent heart attack at the age of 72, Fox News reported.

“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,” the AFL-CIO said.

Senate Majority Leader and New York Sen. Charles Schumer announced his passing to the Senate.

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“The working people of America have lost a fierce warrior at a time when we needed him the most,” Sen. Schumer said. “Just yesterday, Rich was lending his support to the striking miners in Alabama.”

The AFL-CIO described him as a “legend” and a “relentless champion of workers’ rights, workplace safety, worker-centered trade, democracy and so much more.”

Trumka, who grew up in Nemacolin, Pennsylvania, led one of the largest labor unions in the nation since 2009 when he was elected to the position. He attended Penn State and Villanova University law school.

An ally of President Biden and former President Barack Obama, Trumka worked with former President Donald Trump on crafting the U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement and eventually endorsed the rewrite of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

““He had in his veins, in every atom of his body, the heart, the thoughts, the needs of the working people of America. He was them. Rich Trumka was the working people of America. He never had any airs,” the Senate Majority Leader said.

The group he headed represents more than 12.5 million workers and Trumka had been a close ally of the Biden administration.

In June 2016 Trumka announced his union’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton for President of the United States.

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“Hillary Clinton is a proven leader who shares our values,” he said. “Throughout the campaign, she has demonstrated a strong commitment to the issues that matter to working people, and our members have taken notice. The activism of working people has already been a major force in this election and is now poised to elect Hillary Clinton and move America forward.”

“We are ready to fight hard to restore faith in America and improve the lives of all working people,” he said. “Hillary Clinton has proven herself as a champion of the labor movement and we will be the driving force to elect her President of the United States.”

In 2012 Trumka worked to help former President Obama gain votes among the white working class.

“We’re absolutely going to do good work on the ground, mobilizing workers. We will have 400,000 volunteers this cycle,” he said.

“We’ll be involved in 32 battleground states, up and down the ballot from Barack Obama, the House races, the Senate races, the statehouse, and senate races,” he said.

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““Will we get every one of them? No. But will we make a difference in our areas? Yes, we will. Voting for their own economic interests generally trumps any kind of clichés, hidden agendas or anything else. They vote in their own economic interest,” he said.

Democrats mourned his passing.

“What a loss. Whether you knew Richard Trumka or not, you likely benefited from his decades of leadership and labor organizing. Sending my deepest condolences to his family,” Hillary Clinton said.

Which is interesting because, in 2016, members of her staff were said to have found him “annoying.”

“Heartbreaking news. Richard was a tireless champion for working people and economic justice. My thoughts are with his family,” Julian Castro said.

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“AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka was a tireless champion for U.S. workers; he dedicated his life to ensuring more Americans could attain the American Dream. He’ll be sorely missed,” Rep. Eric Swalwell said.

“Rich Trumka was my dear friend and the toughest fighter for working people that I’ve ever known. His tireless work made our workers and our country stronger. Sending my love and prayers to his family and to his union brothers and sisters today,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren said.

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