Fed unions commemorate Richard Trumka


Federal employee unions and people across organized labor met the news of the death of longtime American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) President Richard Trumka this week with sadness, along with praise for his lifetime of service to working people and their needs. 

The leadership of the largest federal employee union, the American Federation of Government Employees—an affiliate of the AFL-CIO— posted a powerful eulogy on their website. 

“Through every major fight our union has waged in recent decades, Richard Trumka was standing beside AFGE members, defiantly raising his fist in solidarity,” AFGE said. “During the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, he rallied all of labor to the steps of the White House to stand up for the 800,000 government workers who went weeks without a paycheck. And behind the scenes, he worked tirelessly to help us end a political standoff that was hurting working people.”

“Richard Trumka was a fearless and peerless leader of our movement,” AFGE continued. “He will be greatly missed, but his legacy will live forever in the hearts and minds of working people engaged in the struggle for dignity, fairness, and respect to which he dedicated his life.”

Another top federal employees’ union, the National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE) issued its own strong remembrance

“Today, the National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE) joins the labor community in mourning the loss of AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka … ,” the union said in a statement. “Rich Trumka will be long remembered for his fierce devotion to the working people of America.”

“His prowess and dedication to the labor movement will be difficult to replicate,” the union added. “Today, the labor community celebrates the life of one of the strongest labor leaders this country has ever seen. Tomorrow, we will fight in his honor to bring dignity to working families across America.” 

NFFE, in its statement, recalled one of Trumka’s most powerful speeches in his push for maintaining and bettering the lot of federal employees—words reminding feds they are part of a larger whole. It came during the 2019 government shutdown, the longest in federal government history. 

“We serve America,” Trumka had said. “We build the roads, bake the bread, and lift the loads. We stand tall. We don’t run and hide. We wake our country up every single day. We tuck her into bed at night. We are the American labor movement, and we will not be denied!”

Trumka indeed had been a friend to federal employees unions—and at a different union event, for AFGE in 2018—he praised feds and their key place in the history of organized labor, and the history of the United States. 

“We’ve fought for every victory,” Trumka had said, exhorting the crowd, which at the time was resisting an executive branch effort to weaken federal collective bargaining rights. “We stopped child labor. We brought you the weekend. We made health care more affordable and accessible. And we made the federal government a place where you can work hard, raise a family and get ahead.” 

Trumka was born to a family of Pennsylvania coal miners, and began his working life as a coal miner and organizer. He became a lawyer and served in the 1970s as counsel and, later, in the 1980s, president of the United Mineworkers of America (UMWA). He continued to serve as a labor leader, the last dozen years as head of the 12 million-plus strong AFL-CIO. He was 72. 

Reader comments

Mon, Aug 9, 2021

Unions DID bring America the middle class. There wasn't much of one before them. People forget. Richard Trumka is an old school part of that. RIP.

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