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Friends for decades, MTD President Michael Sacco and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka celebrate after Trumka was re-elected to lead the Labor Federation during its 2017 convention.

The Maritime Trades Department, AFL-CIO joins with the rest of the Labor Movement and all workers in mourning the passing of AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, 72.

According to a statement from the AFL-CIO, Trumka passed away in his sleep during the night of August 4-5. He had served as the head of the labor federation since 2009. Prior to that, he was elected its Secretary-Treasurer in 1995.

Trumka came from a family of Mine Workers in western Pennsylvania, and worked in the mines before gaining a law degree. He used that knowledge to help fellow Mine Workers (UMWA) and rose through the ranks to eventually become that union’s president. When he was elected in 1982, he was 33 years old and the youngest person ever to head the UMWA.

MTD President Michael Sacco (who was a vice president for the Seafarers Union then) worked on several contract battles together with Trumka and the Mine Workers as far back as the 1970s in Missouri, Kentucky and Illinois. It was through those campaigns that the pair became fast friends, which they remained over the decades.

“This is a terrible loss for the Union Movement, and me personally,” stated MTD President Michael Sacco upon hearing the sad news.

“Rich was fearless and down-to-earth, and even though he had plenty of formal education, at his core he remained a working-class union guy and a family man. He never forgot his roots with the Mine Workers.”

“Rich was a legend, 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,” declared AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Elizabeth Shuler. “Rich loved workers. And he knew there was nothing more powerful than workers standing together for a better life.

“Now more than ever, we must come together, as one federation, to carry the mission Rich devoted his life to,” Shuler added. “That’s how we honor his legacy.”

Trumka was a regular figure at MTD meetings and conventions beginning in the 1980s, from serving as the UMWA Executive Board Member to addressing the 2017 Convention and the 2019 Executive Board Meeting.

He grew up in Nemacolin, PA, attended Penn State University, and received his law degree from Villanova University.

The MTD expresses its deepest sympathy to his family and legion of friends.