Commentary | Unions and Labor Standards

EPI board member Trumka elected AFL-CIO President

The Economic Policy Institute congratulates Richard Trumka as he takes on his new role at the helm of the AFL-CIO — and we also congratulate the AFL-CIO for the wisdom of their choice. It would be hard to imagine anyone better suited by talent, training, and temperament than Rich Trumka to take up the challenges facing America’s working people today.

As a coal miner, Rich Trumka learned the harsh necessity and the liberating power of solidarity among workers who lives depend on each other. As a lawyer he learned how to fight for justice across the bargaining table, in courtrooms and in legislatures for working people here — and around the world. Rich Trumka has also led the way by sometimes saying the things that his audience doesn’t want to hear – but things that need to be said. In the boiling pot of politics, he has stepped up when others shied away, as he did during the 2008 Pennsylvania presidential primary election on the issue of race. By bringing the issue into the light, he made it possible for his audience to confront it, to move beyond the past and stand up for what’s right.

Trumka has been a member of EPI’s board of directors since its founding a quarter-century ago. Jeff Faux, EPI’s founding president, had this to say: “What makes Rich Trumka such an effective leader is his lifelong commitment both to the power of ideas and to the hard work of turning those ideas into action that makes a difference in people’s lives.”

Those skills and talents will be put to the test. In an economy marred by still-rising unemployment, underemployment, falling wages, rising poverty, and widening inequality, the strong voice of a strong labor movement is needed more than ever to plead the case of all working people – union members or not.

Lawrence Mishel, EPI’s president, said: “These times call for nothing less than a leader who’s not afraid to lead – to think, to strategize, to speak out, and to act with purpose and commitment. In other words, these times call for Rich Trumka.”

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