Washington, Aug 5 (EFE).- Richard Trumka, the leader of the largest labor union federation in the United States and an important political ally of President Joe Biden, died Thursday of a heart attack. He was 72.
“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 said.
The Pennsylvania native became president of the 12.5 million member AFL-CIO in 2009 after 14 years as the organization’s secretary-treasurer.
Biden, who learned of the labor leader’s death during a public event at the White House, said that Trumka was “more than the head of the AFL-CIO, he was a very close personal friend.”
“At least he was with people who adore him,” Biden said, noting that Trumka died while on a camping trip with his grandchildren.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer referred to Trumka’s death on the Senate floor Thursday.
“We lost a fierce warrior,” the New York Democrat said.
Born into a family of coal miners, Trumka worked in a mine for several years before earning degrees from Pennsylvania State University and Villanova University law school.
He was only 33 when he won the election for president of the United Mine Workers.
Though the US labor movement is traditionally aligned with Democrats, Trumka, who had been a vigorous supporter of the 2009-2017 administration of Barack Obama, praised Republican President Donald Trump for imposing tariffs on imported steel and aluminum.
The AFL-CIO chief also worked with the Trump White House to make the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement on trade more worker-friendly than the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Trump is “closer aligned with us on trade than we’ve had for quite some time,” Trumka told Efe in a March 2018 interview.
Even so, the labor leader did not shrink from criticizing Trump for the Republican’s anti-immigrant rhetoric and his reluctance to to condemn racism. EFE llb/dr