Pelosi Floor Speech on the Passing of AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka

October 26, 2021
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks on the Floor of the House of Representatives on the passing of AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka ahead of a moment of silence.  Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you very much, Congressman Levin, for organizing this Special Order for a very, very special person.  It's my honor to participate.  You have – I know you were a great friend and ally of President Trumka.  And he would be so proud you are leading the way for us this evening. 

Richard Trumka – that name is synonymous with workers' rights.  Richard Trumka, fairness for everyone.  Richard Trumka, middle class with a union label on it.  Richard Trumka, fighter For The People.  As we are engaged in our negotiations now, I think of Richard every day because he always said, ‘When you get down to the end of the negotiation, that's when you have to be the strongest.’  Never tire.  Never tire.  Always, always save the energy for that final negotiation, because sometimes people relax and say, ‘Well, let’s just get it over with.’  

But Richard Trumka would never adopt that attitude when he was there working for the workers.  He was a titan of the labor movement.  A third-generation coal miner, he dedicated his life to the right to organize – from his work at the United Mine Workers of America to his decade-long leadership at the AFL-CIO.  In everything he did, Richard Trumka was always thinking about the workers.  What can we do to give them more certainty in their lives in terms of good pay, jobs, benefits and working conditions? 

Richard Trumka was a great patriot, and he fought always to strengthen the middle class, as I said, and lift up those who aspire to it, understanding that the middle class – again, which is the backbone of our democracy – has a union label on it.  

Richard carried his values into other realms of public policy, as he recognized and respected the dignity of all people.  Whether speaking out against apartheid in South Africa or fighting bigotry and racism at home, indeed, his leadership transcended every single movement.  His courage in speaking truth to power made a difference for millions, and it made him a respected ally in Congress's mission to advance the health, the national security and well-being of working families. 

After his passing, many Members immediately called for the PRO Act, the cornerstone of Democrats' pro-worker agenda, to being named in his honor.  Doing so would be a fitting way to pay a tribute to this hero for workers.  We did pass the pension bill in the Rescue package – and, now, the PRO Act. 

While we remain heartbroken over his passing, we take comfort in knowing that Richard’s leadership gives a legacy that will inspire countless people for years and generations to come.  I know I share this same impression.  When we heard he died, it’s like, ‘It can't be.  He's a giant.  He's so strong.  It can't be.’  But it was.  Again, the legacy that he left is something we will always build on, in his memory. 

May it be a comfort to his wife, Barbara, their loved ones, and the eleven million men and women of the AFL-CIO that so many mourn their loss, are praying for them at this sad time.  Richard Trumka, we love you.  We miss you.  May you rest in peace. 

I yield back.