Richard L. Trumka, 1949-2021

tags: AFL-CIO, labor history, Richard Trumka

Lane Windham is Associate Director at Georgetown University's Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor.

Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO President, died on August 5, 2021 at the age of 72 after a lifetime of service dedicated to America’s working families.  He worked to guide the labor movement amidst rapid changes with his signature emphasis on capital stewardship, organizing rights, global solidarity, and working-class political power.  He brought a sharp wit, persuasive style, and a stubborn commitment to workers’ rights to all that he did, including his recent 2020 address to the LAWCHA’s annual meeting.

As a labor leader, Trumka straddled two eras. He had one foot firmly planted in the industrial-based twentieth century labor movement.  A third-generation miner, Trumka came of age during the 1960s and 1970s when labor’s influence was most robust. He rose through the ranks of the United Mineworkers of America union (UMWA) and worked in the coal mines while in college.  He was elected president of the UMWA in 1982, at age 33, and soon earned a reputation for militancy, especially in his bold leadership of the Pittston strike in 1989-90.

Yet Trumka also understood that the labor movement must step forward to build power for working people in the twenty-first century.  Alongside John Sweeney and Linda Chavez-Thompson, he sought to reform the labor movement through the “New Voice” insurgent slate, and was elected in 1995 on a platform that emphasized new organizing, diversity, and innovative strategies for growth.  As Secretary-Treasurer of the AFL-CIO, Trumka led the movement’s efforts to bring worker rights to the capital markets, and to hold out-of-control corporate power in check. He helped champion the AFL-CIO’s revision of its immigration policy, calling for a path to citizenship for undocumented workers.

Read entire article at Labor and Working Class History Association

comments powered by Disqus