WASHINGTON (AP) — Richard Trumka, the powerful president of the AFL-CIO labor union, has died, Democratic leaders said Thursday.
News of his death was announced by President Joe Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
“The working people of America have lost a fierce warrior at a time when we needed him most,” Schumer said from the Senate floor.
Biden called Trumka “a close friend” who was “more than the head of AFL-CIO.” He apologized for showing up late to a meeting with Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander civil rights leaders, saying he had just learned Trumka had died.
Further details of Trumka’s death were not immediately available. The AFL-CIO did not immediately return messages seeking comment.
Trumka oversaw a union with more than 12.5 million members, according to the AFL-CIO's website.
A longtime labor leader, Trumka was elected in 1982 at age 33 as the youngest president of the United Mine Workers of America.
There, he led a successful strike against the Pittston Coal Company, which tried to avoid paying into an industrywide health and pension fund, the union's website said.
Eulogies quickly poured out from Democrats in Congress.
“Richard Trumka dedicated his life to the labor movement and the right to organize," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement. “Richard’s leadership transcended a single movement, as he fought with principle and persistence to defend the dignity of every person.”
Brian Slodysko, The Associated Press