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MTD President Michael Sacco celebrates with his friend Richard Trumka after Trumka was reelected AFL-CIO President in St. Louis in 2017.

President Joe Biden presented the nation’s highest civilian honor to the late AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka during a White House ceremony on July 7.

Trumka’s family received the Medal of Freedom, one of 17 awarded during the event.

Trumka served as the head of the national labor federation from 2009 until his unexpected death in August 2021. He had been the federation’s secretary-treasurer from 1995 until his election as the AFL-CIO president in 2009.

A native of Pennsylvania, Trumka came from a family of Mine Workers. He was elected president of the MTD affiliate in 1982, at 33 the youngest person to lead that union. He served on the MTD Executive Board and was a regular presence at the department’s meetings and conventions.

“I can think of no greater tribute for our country to make than for President Biden to recognize Rich with the Medal of Freedom,” declared MTD President Michael Sacco, who was Trumka’s friend for decades. “He believed in this country and he believed in and fought for all of America’s workers and their families. I only wish he was with us to receive this personally.”

In announcing the presentation, the White House said, “Richard Trumka (d. 2021) was president of the 12.5-million-member AFL-CIO for more than a decade, president of the United Mine Workers, and secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO. Throughout his career, he was an outspoken advocate for social and economic justice.”

Trumka joins former AFL-CIO Presidents Lane Kirkland and John Sweeney as a Medal of Freedom recipient.