This article appeared in the August 06, 2021 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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Remembering Richard Trumka, a Monitor Breakfast stalwart

Alex Brandon/AP/File
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka listens at the National Press Club in Washington on April 4, 2017. The longtime labor federation president, who died on Aug. 5, 2021, had been AFL-CIO president since 2009.
Linda Feldmann
Washington Bureau Chief

Richard Trumka was a fighter. You could see that in his advocacy for workers as the nation’s top labor leader, and in his dealings with journalists. He clearly enjoyed a good argument, and in his 12 appearances at the Monitor Breakfast – every year like clockwork, pre-Labor Day, beginning in 2009 – the sparks often flew. We reporters loved it. 

The news yesterday of Mr. Trumka’s passing brought a flood of memories. Former Monitor Editor and breakfast host David Cook recalls that the AFL-CIO president always came prepared with extensive remarks, making it hard to find a way – politely – to cut him off and get to questions. 

Mr. Trumka never failed to bring up his roots as a third-generation coal miner from southwestern Pennsylvania, where he still had property – good for family time and hunting. He was also a lawyer, but he didn’t come across as an inside-the-Beltway type. 

Yet he was the ultimate insider, in union halls, in the Capitol, at the White House, mostly with Democrats. Mr. Trumka had the ear of President Joe Biden – another son of blue-collar Pennsylvania – and tried to work with President Donald Trump on trade, to limited avail.

At our last in-person Trumka breakfast, two years ago, my most memorable moment came right when we sat down. “The first thing he mentioned was his new granddaughter – and we know how tough guys melt over grandchildren,” I wrote afterward

We were scheduled to have Mr. Trumka back on Aug. 31 for our first in-person breakfast of the pandemic era. There would have been lots of questions. And he would have had plenty to say. 

This article appeared in the August 06, 2021 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 08/06 edition
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