A close ally to President Joe Biden and several labor-friendly Democrats, Trumka's death was announced by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on the floor of the Senate on Thu., Aug. 5. Trumka was 72.
Trumka worked as a coal miner starting as a teenager and then graduated from Pennsylvania State University in 1971 and Villanova University Law School in 1974. Before working with the AFL-CIO, he served as president of the United Mine Workers, where he led successful strikes across Pennsylvania and the nation.
“The labor movement, the AFL-CIO and the nation lost a legend today," said AFL-CIO communications director Tim Schlittner in a statement. "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. He was a relentless champion of workers’ rights, workplace safety, worker-centered trade, democracy and so much more."
Messages praising Trumka started to pour in shortly after his death was announced. Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D-Braddock) said Trumka's death was a "truly heartbreaking development."
"We lost a larger than life figure who spent a career fighting for, and defending the Union Way of Life," tweeted Fetterman. "It’s left to the rest of us to pick up the slack and never stop fighting."
According to WESA's Chris Potter, the head of the Pittsburgh's largest labor coalition, Darrin Kelly, said Trumka "was more than a national leader. He was a friend. No matter where he went, no matter which office he held, he never forgot his roots...[H]e was always a kid from Nemacolin. He was always a mineworker."
Darrin Kelly, the top labor leader in the Pittsburgh region, on Trumka: "He was more than a national leader. He was a friend. No matter where he went, no matter which office he held, he never forgot his roots...[H]e was always a kid from Nemacolin. He was always a mineworker."— Chris Potter (@CPotterPgh) August 5, 2021
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D-Montgomery) tweeted that he is standing in solidarity with AFL-CIO and everyone who called Trumka a friend.
"Richard Trumka was the champion American workers deserved, and I’m profoundly grateful for his work and the movement he represented," tweeted Shapiro.
Further details of Trumka’s death were not immediately made available.