Richard L. Trumka, a second-generation coal miner who became president of the AFL-CIO in 2009, died on Thursday. He was 72. Trumka served as a staff attorney for the United Mine Workers and later spent 13 years as president of that union. New Jersey officials and organizations issued the following statements on his passing:
NEW JERSEY AFL-CIO PRESIDENT CHARLES WOWKANECH AND SECRETARY-TREASURER LAUREL BRENNAN
“Rich Trumka had a deep love for New Jersey’s workers and a deep appreciation for our state’s labor movement,” President Wowkanech continued. “He supported our 1 million members in every way possible, just as he supported every single worker in every sector of labor nationwide, from teachers to construction workers to transit workers to nurses and beyond.”
“Rich Trumka was a force of nature,” New Jersey State AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Laurel Brennan said. “He devoted his life to ensuring that every man and woman could have what he believed in most – a good union contract with fair wages and a voice in the workplace.”
“Whether it was his concern for the safety and health of frontline workers during the pandemic or fighting for the right to organize, President Trumka put working men and women first,” President Wowkanech said. “He has inspired us since his days as president of the United Mine Workers of America. We will miss his leadership as the voice of America’s labor movement, and we pledge to carry on in his footsteps.”
U.S. SENATOR BOB MENENDEZ
“I’m deeply saddened by the loss of my friend and ally Richard Trumka, a true champion of the labor movement and social justice in our nation. Richard’s stalwart leadership of the AFL-CIO and his commitment to improve the lives of American workers and their families are unparalleled. His passing is a great loss for America and the hard-working families the AFL-CIO has fought for under his decades-long leadership.
“I personally worked alongside Rich on many issues, from fighting for comprehensive immigration reform to pushing for fair labor rights in Bangladesh. In every way, his commitment to advance the causes he believed in inspired others around him and leaves a legacy of advancing the well-being and dignity of working families here at home and around the globe.
“The struggle for labor rights is the life’s work of Richard Trumka. He was a single force for good on behalf of America’s workers and I am certain the movement he helped build will carry on in his honor with all of us – unions, government, the private sector and workers themselves – joining hands in common cause and in lasting tribute to his legacy. My deepest thoughts and prayers are with his wife Barbara, his entire family, and everyone in the AFL-CIO community that mourns his loss during this difficult time. He will be greatly missed.”
GOVERNOR PHIL MURPHY
“I am shocked and saddened by the sudden passing of my friend, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. America’s and New Jersey’s working families have lost one of their most steadfast and dedicated allies. Organized labor has lost one of its most powerful voices.
“I was honored that Rich served on my Restart and Recovery Commission, ensuring that the needs of working families and union members would not be overlooked as we worked to reopen our economy after the early and darkest days of the pandemic. But, even more, I was proud to have his support as our administration restored the historic seat at the table for organized labor.
“I will direct all flags across New Jersey to fly at half-staff in his honor and memory. Tammy and I send our deepest condolences to his wife, Barbara, and son, Richard – and to his entire New Jersey State AFL-CIO family. We have lost a good man, and I know we will feel his spirit as we continue our work for a stronger and fairer New Jersey that works for every family.”
SENATE PRESIDENT STEVE SWEENEY
REP. DONALD NORCROSS
“I was saddened to learn of the passing of Richard Trumka. I knew and worked with him for over three decades, from his time fighting for the United Mine Workers to his steadfast leadership at the AFL-CIO.
“Ever since his earliest days, he never stopped fighting for working families. Throughout his career, Rich has improved so many lives and led winning battles for workers across the nation. His death is a loss for working families everywhere. His memory will live on as he has set the stage for workers to lead the way in the economic recovery. His powerful voice and remarkable leadership will be dearly missed. My condolences go to his family, loved ones and all who knew him.”
32BJ SEIU PRESIDENT KYLE BRAGG
“Today we mourn the loss of a great labor leader and a champion for working people across the nation, Richard Trumka.
“Richard was a transformational leader within the labor movement. He spent decades advancing the work of organizing, and took monumental steps to further diversity, equity and inclusion efforts within the AFL-CIO.
“Sadly we know firsthand what it’s like to lose a leader suddenly, with our loss of 32BJ SEIU President Hector Figueroa just a few years ago. I offer my deepest condolences and sympathies to his family, friends and Richard’s brothers and sisters at AFL-CIO.
“Richard Trumka helped to vastly improve the lives of millions of working families. His legacy will live on through the power of the labor movement he leaves behind.”
REP. MIKIE SHERRILLL
“I’m incredibly shocked and saddened by the sudden passing of AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. The dedication he showed through decades in the fight for working men and women and his overall devotion to the labor movement has served as a shining example to all of us in public service.
“While his loss will be deeply felt by everyone in the labor community, his spirit of persistence, courage, and solidarity will help continue to fuel the effort to protect and expand collective bargaining and the rights of working families everywhere.
“It is my hope that we’ll make him proud in our efforts to bolster the labor movement. My heart goes out to his wife Barbara, his entire family, the more than 12 million members of the AFL-CIO, and all working people. He will be dearly missed.”
REP. ALBIO SIRES
“I was deeply saddened to hear about the passing of Richard Trumka this morning. As the President of AFL-CIO, Richard understood the needs of American workers and was a tireless advocate for workers’ rights. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to work together with Richard on labor issues. My thoughts today are with his family, and I extend them my condolences. I am hopeful that a future generation of labor advocates will step up to continue his fight.”
ASSEMBLY SPEAKER CRAIG COUGHLIN
“I am saddened to learn of AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka’s sudden passing. A decades-long champion for labor rights and an ally to working families across the country, America’s workers lost a giant today. My thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends, and all who knew him as New Jersey and the nation mourn his loss.”
STATE SENATOR LINDA GREENSTEIN AND ASSEMBLYMEN WAYNE DEANGELO AND DAN BENSON
“Richard Trumka was a lion of the Labor Movement. Today, we join the AFL-CIO’s more than 12.5 million members in mourning his passing. We extend our deep condolences to his wife Barbara and their son.
“As a third generation coal miner, he knew the value of a hard day’s work. Richard later got his law degree and used it to spend his life standing up for workers’ rights. From leading successful strikes to working to fight racism, we are deeply grateful for his efforts.
“We are proud to have the support of the New Jersey AFL-CIO and many other labor organizations. Whether it is fighting back against right to work, ensuring a living wage, expanding benefits such as paid family leave or guaranteeing safe working conditions, we have the backs of working people in New Jersey.