Washington — Richard Trumka, the head of the AFL-CIO labor union and a powerful force in Democratic politics, died unexpectedly Thursday at the age of 72.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced Trumka’s death in an emotional speech on the Senate floor, saying the country has “just lost a giant.”
“The working people of America have lost a fierce warrior at a time when we needed him most,” the Democratic leader said. “He had in his veins, in every atom of his body, the heart, the thoughts, the needs of the working people of America.”
President Biden, a longtime ally, called Trumka a close friend before an event at the White House.
Further details about the circumstances of Trumka’s death were not immediately available. Liz Shuler, the secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO, said Trumka “devoted his life to working people” and showed “unparalleled leadership as the voice of America’s labor movement.”
Trumka led the 12.5 million members of the AFL-CIO since 2009, when he was elected president. He grew up in the mining town of Nemacolin, Pennsylvania, in a family of coal miners before attending Penn State University and Villanova University law school.