AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka responds to the news of former South African President Nelson Mandela's passing this evening:
President Nelson Mandela gave more than 60 years of his life fighting for the rights of South Africans and all of humanity. He was a gentle yet determined man who fought for his convictions.
In 1964, Nelson Mandela arrived on Robben Island, where he would spend 18 years confined to a small cell, forced to do hard labor in a quarry. Despite these hardships, Mandela never wavered in his commitment to social and economic justice for the people of South Africa and the world.
He told the court that sentenced him, "I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal for which I hope to live, and to see realized. But my Lord, if it needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die."
His quiet dignity earned respect for him and his cause across the globe. He once said, “After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.”
During his visit to the United States in 1990, Mandela spoke to the AFL-CIO and called on the labor movement to use its history of empowering America’s workers as a model for South African workers. We in the labor movement must take Mandela’s words and continue to strive for equality and fairness for all working people around the globe.
On behalf of AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Elizabeth Shuler and AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre, the AFL-CIO Executive Council and the 12 million working men and women of the AFL-CIO, we extend our deepest condolences to Nelson Mandela's family, his colleagues and the people of South Africa.