Page 5 - Work Force September 2021
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CSEA mourns loss of AFL-CIO President Trumka
 CSEA is mourning the loss of AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, who unexpectedly passed away Aug. 5 at age 72.
Trumka, who had served as the federation’s president since 2009, was known as a legend in the labor movement. In his biography on the AFL-CIO’s website, Trumka was described as ‘outspoken advocate for social and economic justice.’
CSEA President Mary E. Sullivan gave condolences on behalf of the union.
“The Labor Movement has
lost a great advocate for working families. Rich worked his way up from the coal mines of Pennsylvania to become the leader of the international house of labor, never losing sight of where he came from,” Sullivan said. “He was a powerful and fearless leader of the United Mine Workers and through his efforts, safety in the mines was greatly improved. He would treat presidents and shop floor workers the same and fought tirelessly
to promote American labor and
improve the lives of working families throughout our country. His voice and passion will be sorely missed
in our movement, but his legacy
of empowerment will carry on. We extend our condolences to Rich’s family and friends. Rest In Peace, Brother Trumka.”
Known as a powerful speaker who could fire up crowds of union members, Trumka brought that energy to CSEA events he had attended over the years, including addressing the union’s 2001 convention, held in Buffalo weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks.
“As New Yorkers were going through one of the darkest periods of our history, [Trumka] inspired and fired up our members, who were working around the clock to respond to the September 11 attacks,” Sullivan said.
Trumka had also attended a
2002 event in Utica that included a Workers’ Memorial Day ceremony, meeting with Sullivan and other labor leaders. In 2009, Trumka joined CSEA Metropolitan Region activists in efforts to fight corporate greed
on Wall Street. That same year, he also addressed CSEA and AFSCME activists at the AFSCME Lobby Day in Albany.
In this 2009 file photo, CSEA Metropolitan Region members pose with Richard Trumka, who had recently been elected as the AFL-CIO President and was visiting New York City to attend a news conference on Wall Street. From left, CSEA members Betty Robinson, Health Research Inc. Local President Deb Hanna, Damaris Rodriguez, Lizette Smoak, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, CSEA members Suzy Lopez, and Division of Housing Local President Janet Ventrano-Torres. (Photo by David Galarza)
   CSEA President Mary E. Sullivan, left, meets with Richard Trumka at a 2002 Workers’ Memorial Day event in Utica.
September 2021
Trumka speaks at CSEA’s 2001 Annual Delegates Meeting in Buffalo.
A powerful national voice
A Pennsylvania native and third-generation coal miner, Trumka was elected president of the United Mine Workers of America at age 33.
As the youngest president in that union’s history, Trumka was key
to not only reforming the union’s operations but led a successful strike against the Pittston Coal Company after the employer tried to avoid paying into an industry health and pension fund.
In 1995, Trumka was elected AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer and held that post until he was elected the federation’s president in 2009.
“Rich Trumka devoted his life
to working people, from his early days as president of the United
Mine Workers of America to his unparalleled leadership as the voice of America’s labor movement,”
the AFL-CIO noted in a statement about Trumka’s passing. “He was
a relentless champion of workers’ rights, workplace safety, worker- centered trade, democracy and so much more. He was also a devoted father, grandfather, husband, brother, coach, colleague and friend. Rich was loved and beloved. Today, the 56 unions and 12.5 million members of the AFL-CIO mourn the passing of our fearless leader and commit to honoring his legacy with
action. Standing on Rich’s shoulders, we will pour everything we have
into building an economy, society and democracy that lifts up every working family and community.”
As the head of the AFL-CIO, Trumka was the nation’s leading voice on labor, speaking out to ensure working people had good jobs, fair wages and benefits, safe working conditions and a dignified retirement. He was also a vocal critic of corporate greed.
According to media reports, Trumka had recently been working closely with President Joe Biden’s administration on pushing for economic initiatives to help working people that included the infrastructure bill. Trumka had also been leading the push to pass the PRO Act.
Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer were among the many elected officials to express their condolences.
As this edition was going to press, Liz Schuler, who was serving as the federation’s secretary-treasurer, was elected by the AFL-CIO Executive Council to replace Trumka as president. She is the first woman
to serve as AFL-CIO President. (See page 6 for more.)
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