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Longtime leader of AFL-CIO Richard Trumka passes away at 72

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka addresses the Economic Club of Washington on April 23, 2019.
Mandel Ngan
/
AFP via Getty Images
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka addresses the Economic Club of Washington on April 23, 2019.

The leader of one of the nation’s largest labor organizations has died. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka died Thursday, Aug 5 at age 72.

Trumka got his start as an organizer for coal workers. He’d been with the AFL-CIO for 30 years and led the organization for 12 years, starting in 2009 during the height of the Great Recession. The labor organization represents 12 million workers across the country.

Among tributes to Trumka, United Auto Workers President Ray Curry called Trumka “a tireless fighter of workers’ rights and human rights.” and Michigan Congressman Andy Levin called Trumka a “lion” of the labor movement.

University of California, Berkeley Professor Emeritus Harley Shaiken is an expert on organized labor. He says Trumka’s presence will be missed just as labor is poised for a big moment, with trillions of dollars in federal money set to be approved by Congress.

“President Biden has got two critical bills that will be up that is the infrastructure bill of great importance to labor and of great importance to the president politically, as well as the reconciliation bill,” Shaiken said. “It's going to be tough because this is critical for labor and it's critical for the Biden administration going forward. Labor is a pivotal part of the Democratic coalition.”

AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler will take over in the interim.