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Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka, who led the largest federation of unions in the country for over a decade, has died at 72.

The big picture: Trumka began working as a coal miner in 1968 and would go on to dedicate his life to the labor movement, including as president of the 12.5 million-member AFL-CIO beginning in 2009.

  • Trumka was an important ally to President Biden, who called him a "very close personal friend" upon hearing the news of his death on Thursday.
  • The AFL-CIO endorsed Biden in May 2020, providing a critical boost from Trumka's powerful coalition as Biden competed with former President Trump for the support of working-class voters in November.

What they're saying: "For Rich, work was synonymous with a word that defined his life: dignity. In the more than thirty years of our friendship, he was a fierce and forceful champion for the dignity of the American worker," Biden said in a statement, noting that he had just spoken with Trumka in an unscheduled call "to check in as old friends do."

  • "I was lucky to know Rich for many years, and I was always proud to work with him," Vice President Kamala Harris said in a statement. "Today, my thoughts and prayers are with Rich’s wife Barbara, their son Rich Jr., and their grandchildren Richard and Taylor."  
  • "The labor movement, the AFL-CIO and the nation lost a legend today. Rich Trumka devoted his life to working people, from his early days as president of the United Mine Workers of America to his unparalleled leadership as the voice of America’s labor movement," AFL-CIO communications director Tim Schlittner said in a statement.
  • "Today, the 56 unions and 12.5 million members of the AFL-CIO mourn the passing of our fearless leader and commit to honoring his legacy with action. Standing on Rich’s shoulders, we will pour everything we have into building an economy, society and democracy that lifts up every working family and community.”

A teary-eyed Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced Trumka's death on the Senate floor on Thursday, saying, "The working people of America have lost a fierce warrior at a time when we needed him most."

  • "Just yesterday, Rich was lending his support to the striking miners in Alabama," Schumer said.

"Rich’s story is the American story — he was the son and grandson of Italian and Polish immigrants and began his career mining coal," Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said in a statement.

  • "He never forgot where he came from. He dedicated the rest of his career to fighting for America’s working men and women. He was a fierce advocate for working people and a truly decent man."

Editor's note: This story has been updated with statements of remembrance from the president and vice president.

Go deeper

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Texas governor: "All hostages are out alive and safe"

SWAT team members deploy near the Congregation Beth Israel Synagogue in Colleyville, Texas. Photo: Andy Jacobsohn/AFP via Getty Images

All four hostages have been safely released after a day-long standoff at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said on Saturday night.

The latest: "Around 9 p.m., the HRT — hostage rescue team — breached the synagogue, they rescued the three [remaining] hostages, the suspect is deceased," said police chief Michael Miller of Colleyville, located roughly 15 miles northeast of Fort Worth. The other hostage had been released earlier Saturday.

The new normal: Google searches reveal America's COVID shopping habits

Data: The New Normal; Google Trends; Chart: Jared Whalen/Axios

As the pandemic enters its third year, some of America's COVID-era shopping habits — including strong demand for tequila and sweatpants — are here to stay.

Driving the news: Axios worked with Google Trends and the Schema Design firm to create The New Normal, which analyzes the products Americans have Googled since 2020. Items with a lasting increase in search interest help fill in the details of what our "new normal" looks like.

Updated 7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Concerns grow over CDC's isolation guidelines — Experts warn of more COVID-19 variants after Omicron — WHO recommends 2 new treatments — What "mild" really means when it comes to Omicron — Deaths are climbing as cases skyrocket.
  2. Vaccines: America's vaccination drive runs out of gas— Puerto Rico expands booster shot requirements— Supreme Court blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for large employers.
  3. Politics: You can start ordering free COVID tests Wednesday — Focus group says Biden weak on COVID response, strong on democracy — Biden deploying military medical staff to help overwhelmed hospitals.
  4. Economy: America's labor shortage is bigger than the pandemic— Nurses across the U.S. strike against COVID working conditions— CDC COVID guidance for cruise ships to be optional starting Saturday — The cost of testing.
  5. States: Biden admin threatens to take back Arizona's COVID aid over anti-mask rules — Students across U.S. walkout of classes to demand safer COVID protocols — West Virginia governor feeling "extremely unwell" after positive test — Youngkin ends mandates for masks in schools and COVID vaccinations for state workers.
  6. World: Beijing reports first local Omicron case weeks before Winter Olympics — Teachers in France stage mass walkout over COVID protocols.
  7. Variant tracker