Larry Cohen, a longtime labor activist and former president of the Communications Workers of America, said Trumka’s death was a “devastating” loss for labor, in part because of his long-standing relationship with Biden.
“His ability to talk to the president of the United States will be very hard to replace. It’s a long history, based on personal trust. It’s remarkable,” said Cohen, who had known Trumka since the early 1980s.
Trumka burst into national union politics as a youthful 33-year-old lawyer when he became the United Mine Workers of America’s president in 1982. Pledging the economically troubled union “shall rise again,” Trumka beat sitting president Sam Church by a 2-to-1 margin and would serve in the role until he became the AFL-CIO’s secretary-treasurer in 1995.
There, he led a successful strike against the Pittston Coal Company, which tried to avoid paying into an industrywide health and pension fund.
“I’d like to retire at this job,” Trumka said in 1987. “If I could write my job description for the rest of my life, this would be it.”
At age 43, Trumka led a nationwide strike against Peabody Coal in 1993. During the walk-off, he stirred controversy.
Asked about the possibility the company would hire permanent replacement workers, Trumka told The Associated Press, “I’m saying if you strike a match and you put your finger on it, you’re likely to get burned.” Trumka insisted he wasn’t threatening violence against the replacements. “Do I want it to happen? Absolutely not. Do I think it can happen? Yes, I think it can happen,” he said.
Originally Appeared Here