Washington, D.C. – February 2, 2021 – Today, North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU) released the following statement from President Sean McGarvey on the passing of AFL-CIO President Emeritus John Sweeney:

“John Sweeney’s passing is not just a loss for the labor movement; our entire country lost a decent, kind man who never wavered on his convictions in life. This working-class son of immigrants used lessons taught at home and in his church to guide him to pursue social justice for all, and he had a burning desire to lift up workers in this country and around the world. His cheerful tenacity confounded his critics and inspired millions. While many beneficiaries of his success may not know his name, they and their families enjoy the fruits of his lifetime labor and legacy.

“As President of the AFL-CIO, John always found time to greet you, learn your story, impart wisdom and offer a number to reach him in case you ever needed help. It is a fitting tribute that he was recognized with the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his patriotism and dogged pursuit of justice for all. We in the building trades will always remember his leadership, his thoughtful attention to our members’ needs and his genuine efforts to help. It is often said when one passes that there will never be another like him or her. In John’s case, it is absolutely true. As we mourn his passing, we’re re-energized by his fighting spirit for anyone anywhere that works for a living.

“Our heartfelt condolences to his beautiful wife Maureen, their children Patricia and John, and the love of his life – his granddaughter Kennedy. Rest in peace, John Sweeney – your work here among us mortals was very well done.”


Media Contact: Betsy Barrett (202) 756-4623 |

About NABTU: North America’s Building Trades Unions is an alliance of 14 national and international unions in the building and construction industry that collectively represent over 3 million skilled craft professionals in the United States and Canada. Each year, our unions and our signatory contractor partners invest almost $2 billion in private-sector money to fund and operate over 1,900 apprenticeship training and education facilities across North America that produce the safest, most highly trained, and productive, skilled craft workers found anywhere in the world. NABTU is dedicated to creating economic security and employment opportunities for its construction workers by safeguarding wage and benefits standards, promoting responsible private capital investments, investing in renowned apprenticeship and training, and creating pathways to the middle class for women, communities of color and military veterans in the construction industry. For more information, please visit, and to learn more about the building trades efforts during this pandemic, please follow the hashtag #buildingtradeswhateverittakes.