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Richard L. Trumka, AFL-CIO President, Dies at the Age of 72

Trumka, who worked in the mines at the age of 19, rose to become a union leader and received the NIAF Leonardo da Vinci Lifetime Achievement Award

by NIAF

Richard Trumka at the NIAF Gala November 2, 2019

On behalf of the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) Board of Directors and the Italian American community, we send our heartfelt condolences to the family of Richard L. Trumka, AFL-CIO president, who passed away Thursday, August 5, 2021 at the age of 72.

Trumka received the NIAF Leonardo da Vinci Lifetime Achievement Award in Service to the American Worker at the Foundation’s 44th Anniversary Gala in Washington, D.C. During his acceptance speech he expressed his gratitude and said “being here tonight, surrounded by my family and some of my closest friends, and getting to share a delicious meal, that is the essence of being Italian American.” Trumka grew up in Nemacolin, Pennsylvania and was the grandson of Italian and Polish immigrants.

Trumka began working in the mines at age 19 and continued to do so while supporting himself through undergraduate studies at Pennsylvania State University and the Villanova School of Law.

He was an active member of United Mine Workers of America Local 6290 and was exposed to life-changing lessons during his years working underground. He served as Chairman of the United Mine Workers Safety Committee and was elected to his first of three terms as United Mine Workers International President in 1982. During his presidency, the United Mine Workers saw the passage of the federal COAL Act, which provides guaranteed health care for retired miners. He brought the UMW back into the AFL-CIO, mobilized the support needed to secure a contract that put 18,000 striking miners back to work, and established a committee that rallied support among mine workers for the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa.

A lifetime of non-violent civil disobedience was recognized in 1990 with the Labor Responsibility Award from the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change. In 1995, Trumka was elected as the youngest Secretary Treasurer of the AFL-CIO. He led the creation of the AFL-CIO Capital Stewardship Program to promote the retirement security of America’s working families. He was nominated by President Bill Clinton to the Bipartisan Commission on Entitlement and Tax Reform and also served on President Barack Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board, as well as President Donald Trump’s American Manufacturing Council.

In 2009, he became the President of AFL-CIO. Trumka devoted his life towards making sure employees get a fair share of what they produce, a safe and a healthy workplace, fair wages, good benefits, healthcare and a retirement pension. He was re-elected to a third term as AFL-CIO president in 2017. Trumka is survived by his wife, children and grandchildren.

The National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to preserving, promoting, and protecting the Italian American heritage and culture. To learn more about the Foundation and become a member, please visit www.niaf.org

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