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The Legendary Career and Spiritual Calling of John Sweeney

Statement from AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka on the passing of AFL-CIO President Emeritus John Sweeney:

John Sweeney was a legend, plain and simple. He was guided into unionism by his Catholic faith, and not a single day passed by when he didn’t put the needs of working people first. John viewed his leadership as a spiritual calling, a divine act of solidarity in a world plagued by distance and division. The son of Irish immigrants, he used work as a way to directly apply his values, consistently exhibiting grit over flash and pursuing progress instead of posturing. He built SEIU into a powerhouse, doubling its membership, earning respect across the labor movement and in the halls of power. Throughout his storied life, John used the lessons he learned as a ground-level union leader to uphold dignity for all working people and expand human rights worldwide. I was proud to join his insurgent ticket in 1995, which recommitted the AFL-CIO to worker organizing and collective power. As president, John was a great leader and true innovator, driving the labor movement forward. We stand on that foundation today as we take on the challenges of inequality, systemic racism and much more. Former President Bill Clinton called John “a force for inclusion and activism.” I was blessed to call him a brother, a mentor and a friend. May God bless John’s memory, his family and the labor movement to which he devoted his life.