AFL-CIO President, Richard Trumka, Passes Unexpectedly

Longtime AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka died from a reported heart attack Aug. 5. He was 72.

“The working people of America have lost a fierce warrior at a time when we needed him most,” Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, said in an emotional tribute on the Senate floor.

Trumka began his career in organized labor in the 1970s as a staff attorney for the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA). He later rose to president of the UMWA, serving from 1982 to 1995. During Trumka’s tenure with UMWA, he presided over major strikes against the Pittston Coal Company and Peabody Coal as well as a boycott of U.S. Shell regarding its business dealings in South Africa. In 1995, Trumka became secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO, the largest U.S. federation of labor unions, representing more than 12 million workers. In 2009, Mr. Trumka was elected president of the AFL-CIO, where he resided until his passing. Trumka was known for his passionate pro-labor stance and his attacks on corporate America.

Under the A.F.L.-C.I.O. constitution, the federation’s secretary-treasurer, Liz Shuler, will take over as president until its executive council can meet to elect a successor. The federation’s next presidential election was scheduled to take place this year but was delayed until next year because of the pandemic.