President Biden mourns John Sweeney: He was a giant of the American labor movement and a good man

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Updated: March 2, 2021

I had the honor and privilege of working closely with John Sweeney during his leadership of the AFL-CIO. Time and again over the many years of our friendship, I saw how lifting up the rights, voices, and dignity of working Americans was more than a job to him. It was a sacred mission. It was a calling.

The son of a maid and a bus driver from Ireland, John grew up attending union meetings alongside his father. By the time he punched his own union card, America’s faith in unions was too often undermined. But John’s own faith in God sustained him with a value set and the conviction — to never lose sight of the truth that the middle class built America, and that unions built the middle class.

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The work he led, from the factory floors of the garment workers early in his career to the highest corridors of power as a national labor leader, embodied the vital role that unions play in delivering greater wages and benefits for working people — union and nonunion alike. With every legislative push and tough labor negotiation, he understood the possibilities of our nation when everyday Americans who do extraordinary things are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.

Jill and I count ourselves among the millions of Americans who will always be grateful for the progress John won, the example he set, and the legacy he has left to our nation. Our prayers are with John’s wife, Maureen, with their children, Trish and John Jr., and with his granddaughter, Kennedy.

May God bless John Sweeney, a giant of the American labor movement, and a good man.

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