Staff at the AFL-CIO were informed of the death on Thursday morning. The federation did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“The labor movement has lost a giant and a longtime champion of working people across America. He will be greatly missed,” The National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association wrote in response to the news on Twitter.
“It’s just horrible news,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor Thursday. “He had in his veins, in every atom of his body, the heart, the thoughts, the needs of the working people of America. He was them. Rich Trumka was the working people of America.”
A third-generation coal miner, Trumka spent his career in the labor movement, serving as president of the United Mine Workers of America and as a member of the AFL-CIO’s executive counsel, as well as on various federation committees before being elected AFL-CIO president in 2009.
It was unclear whether Trumka was going to run for another term as AFL-CIO president or retire ahead of the federation’s convention that was originally scheduled for this fall.
Citing coronavirus concerns, the federation announced earlier this year it was pushing the convention to June 2022, a move that some in the labor movement criticized as effectively extending the federation’s leadership’s terms by roughly eight months.
But that now leaves an even longer gap for the federation to fill the role permanently in Trumka’s absence.