‘I will never leave the labor movement.’ Skip to content

‘I will never leave the labor movement.’

At the close of this year’s AFL-CIO convention, Bill Londrigan stepped down as president. Berry Craig shares Londrigan’s departing comments.

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United Mine Workers of America retiree Joe Holland (left), speaking about retiring AFL-CIO president Bill Londrigan (photo by Berry Craig)

Bill Londrigan admitted it was tough stepping down as president of the Kentucky State AFL-CIO.

“It’s also been the greatest honor of my life to be your president for the past 24 years, alongside so many dedicated trade unionists, and have the opportunity to uplift Kentucky’s hardworking men and women,” he said at the close of the labor group’s two-day, 35th biennial convention in Lexington on Tuesday. The gathering united delegates from the state’s AFL-CIO affiliated unions.

Delegates elected Londrigan’s successor, Dustin Reinstedler, without opposition. Londrigan swore him in.

Reinstedler is president of the Kentucky State Building and Construction Trades Council and vice chairman of Bricklayers Local 4, Indiana/Kentucky.

Londrigan will stay on through February to help Reinstedler transition into the job.

Londrigan said serving as president “has truly been a labor of love.” He expressed his gratitude for an abundance of support and love “during our journey together to revive the spirit and purpose of the great state AFL-CIO and the Kentucky labor movement.”

Londrigan became president in 1999 following a widely-publicized embezzlement scandal that swirled around the administration of Ron Cyrus, the previous president.

Londrigan thanked present and past executive board members who served under him, singling out United Mine Workers of America retiree Joe Holland, who was the AFL-CIO’s Kentucky director. He acknowledged Holland and a handful of others present who “were with us from the very beginning and made all the difference in putting this organization back on track.”

After the outgoing president called Holland’s name, the Vietnam combat veteran mounted the stage and recalled how “Billy” Londrigan set out to rebuild the shattered labor federation during “terrible, terrible times.” He remembered that Londrigan traveled from union hall to union hall “with his hat in his hand because he started out from nothing.”

Holland said Londrigan rallied the state’s affiliate unions, which formed a leadership committee. The group helped him restore trust and confidence in the federation, which today is one of the strongest and most active state labor groups in the South. Most recently, the Kentucky State AFL-CIO endorsed and helped reelect a Democratic governor, Andy Beshear, in one of the country’s reddest Republican red states. Beshear visited the convention and thanked the federation Tuesday morning.    

“I was with [Londrigan] ... when he started and I’m with him when he ends,” said Holland, adding, “Billy, on behalf of the United Mine Workers, on behalf of the labor movement and on behalf of all of us, you have meant so much to the people of Kentucky, to the working people, but especially to our union. ... Every time that we have ever looked towards you, you’ve been there. We thank you, brother. We love you and good luck to you in the future.”

After a standing ovation, Londrigan continued. “I know that Kentucky’s labor family will rise to the occasion [under] a new president who will take our state labor federation and Kentucky’s labor movement to greater heights, honor the labor movement’s history and achievements, and carry on the tradition of fighting for what’s right.”

His last line brought another standing ovation: “So while I will be leaving my position as president, I will never leave the labor movement.”

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Berry Craig

Berry Craig is a professor emeritus of history at West KY Community College, and an author of seven books and co-author of two more. (Read the rest on the Contributors page.)

Arlington, KY

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