CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Organized labor will pay tribute to retiring U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller Friday. The West Virginia AFL-CIO will present Rockefeller with a Lifetime Achievement award during a special convention to prepare for election season.
“We’ve been fortunate to have had friends like Senator Rockefeller,” said West Virginia AFL-CIO President Kenny Perdue. “He’s given so much, not only to labor, but to the state of West Virginia we just want to say,’Thank-you.'”
The convention will take place at a downtown Charleston motel.
Rockefeller has long championed labor causes from his position including efforts to salvage the nation’s steel industry and fighting for black lung benefits for coal miners.
“Even if there are floor votes or committees, he’s always been willing to take the time to meet with us and listen to us. A lot of times that’s all we ask,” Perdue said. “He gives that and so much more.”
Rockefeller’s retirement from the Senate will complete a vast shift in consistency in West Virginia’s congressional delegation. Rockefeller and Sen. Robert C. Byrd prior to his death were among the longest tenured representatives of a state in the nation’s history. Perdue lamented never getting to honor Byrd for his service prior to his sudden death. He said they are happy they’ll get the chance to honor Rockefeller.
“Just to be able to sit next to him and talk to him and to be around what he’s seen and hear his encouragement and his frustration with what’s going on in this country,” he said. “I’ve been honored to be around him and to be present for so much of it.”