West Virginia’s largest labor organization said its members are devastated over the sudden death of former President Kenny Perdue.
“Kenny was tireless in his efforts to protect and serve West Virginia working families, having spent four decades working in the labor movement and close to 20 years with the West Virginia AFL-CIO,” stated West Virginia AFL-CIO President Josh Sword, who served alongside Perdue and then succeeded him as president.
“He was a mentor, who inspired me with his work ethic, integrity and kindness. Even more importantly, he was the shining light of his family, and our hearts go out to all his loved ones, his wife, Dusty, his daughters, his grandchildren and his great-grandchildren. Our collective hearts are broken – we will miss our dear friend.”
Perdue retired from the AFL-CIO in 2016. He spent 40 years with the labor movement and 20 years with the AFL-CIO.
Perdue was preceded in the president’s position by Jim Bowen. Joe Powell served in that role for 23 years. Powell served three years of an unexpired term, was elected president in 1977 and held that post until he retired in 1997.
Before he took office as president of the AFL-CIO in 2004, Perdue was secretary-treasurer of the organization for seven years and served as vice president of the AFL-CIO from 1989 to 1997.
The current AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer, Andy Walters, noted that when he took on that position, Perdue had just retired.
“I was so impressed with his passion for the labor movement. He said his main motivation was helping ensure that his daughters and grandchildren, other families like his own, could stay in West Virginia, and have safe, well-paying jobs,” Walters said. “Kenny was a true leader in the labor movement and will be personally missed.”
Perdue’s tenure as AFL-CIO president came at a crossroads for organized labor in West Virginia.
Near the end of his time leading the union, lawmakers passed a repeal of the state’s prevailing wage as well as a bill that prevents unions from automatically collecting dues from non-union workers.
Perdue said in 2016 that legislative majorities have threatened a way of life for his family and other union members.
“They made it a personal attack on me,” Perdue said then.
Perdue, a Clarksburg native, started as a sheet metal worker and was elected business representative for the Sheet Metal Workers Local Union No. 33. He came from a union family. His father and one of his brothers also held the business representative position. Two other brothers, three nephews, a son-in-law and a grandson are also sheet metal workers.
“It has been a true pleasure advocating for West Virginia working families and representing our union partners,” Perdue said when his retirement was announced.
West Virginia’s Democratic Party praised Perdue’s contributions to the state.
“Kenny Perdue’s legacy is one of unyielding commitment to the cause of the working people of West Virginia,” stated Democratic Party Chairman Mike Pushkin, who is also a state delegate.
“His dedication to labor rights, worker protections, and fair wages has left an indelible mark on our state. He was a true champion for the people and a tireless fighter for justice.”
Additional leaders in the Democratic Party described Perdue’s fights to improve lives and conditions for workers.
“This is a tremendous loss to the labor movement and to working families. Kenny was a mentor, a friend, and a leader who inspired all of us to fight for justice for workers. His spirit and dedication will continue to guide us as we work towards a brighter future for all working families in West Virginia,” state Senator Mike Caputo said.