Richard Trumka: The Labor Leader Who Told Hard Truths

Politico ran an article on AFL-CIO President Richard L. Trumka who passed away this past August. As we close out the year and get ready for a year in which workers are organizing and taking collective action in historic numbers, where Ohio will have a critical US Senate and Governor’s race and one where we will see the results of the Ohio Supreme Court’s ruling on gerrymandering, this piece was a good reminder that no matter the situation, speaking truth to power is always best for working people.

Trumka never flinched from telling the rank-and-file hard truths they didn’t want to hear. In an October 2008 speech to (predominantly white) steelworkers, Trumka said, “There’s not a single good reason for any worker, especially any union member, to vote against Barack Obama,” and “only one really bad reason … and that’s because he’s not white.”

In 2016, as Donald Trump’s presidential bid drew growing support from the white working class, Trumka distributed a pre-primary video for union members voicing his opinion of Trump. Trump wanted to “divide and deport immigrant families” and “says it’s OK to treat people differently just because of their religion,” Trumka said. “I’ve heard that kind of thing before — politicians trying to divide working people,” he continued. “Every time we listen to that kind of talk, in a coal mine, or an office, or a factory, or in a voting booth, we end up weaker and poorer.”

President Trumka’s legacy serves to remind union leaders that moral courage and the fundamental principles of the trade union movement, striving for economic and social justice, are non-negotiable.

Read full Politco article here