AFL-CIO and Labor Community Honor the Life and Work of AFL-CIO President Emeritus John J. Sweeney

University of Ulster Establishes a Peace Studies Scholarship in His Name

Jul 31, 2014, 10:44 ET from AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust

WASHINGTON, July 31, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- John J. Sweeney, President Emeritus of the AFL-CIO, was honored last night at a reception hosted by the AFL-CIO, AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust (HIT) and the American labor community.  

The event recognized Mr. Sweeney's lifelong advocacy for working people here and abroad, a life that has been rooted in religious faith, family and an abiding belief in social and economic justice.

At the event, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka presented Mr. Sweeney with the George Meany-Lane Kirkland Lifetime Achievement Award for Global Workers' Rights.  

"John Sweeney has truly lived his core values of fairness, faith, and family," said Mr. Trumka, who served with Mr. Sweeney at the AFL-CIO as secretary-treasurer. "John's leadership has given a voice to countless workers who deserve to be treated with dignity and fairness."

James Boland, President of the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers, called Mr. Sweeney "a man who has worked selflessly to improve the lives and livelihood of workers around the world. John's work provides a foundation for future generations of labor leaders and seekers of peace and fairness."

The University of Ulster, Northern Ireland, recognized Mr. Sweeney with the International Conflict Research Institute (INCORE) Global Peace and Social Justice Award in honor of his work for peace and justice in Northern Ireland.  The University also announced its creation of the John J. Sweeney Scholarship, a full scholarship that will be available to American students with union ties who aspire to be part of the next generation of peace builders.

Professor Hugh McKenna, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, University of Ulster, who presented the award said: "The University of Ulster and its INCORE center are delighted to honor Mr. Sweeney with this inaugural award and scholarship, in further recognition of his outstanding contributions to the American labor movement, the wellbeing of working people and the cause of peace in Northern Ireland.  This has been made possible thanks to the contributions of the AFL-CIO and the American labor community and will enable American students to learn about peace in a post-conflict society and access the internationally recognized expertise at the University of Ulster." 

The scholarship is being established in conjunction with the newly endowed John Hume and Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill Chair in Peace at the University of Ulster.

"John was a dear friend of my Dad and one of those people he could count on for Northern Ireland," said Thomas P. O'Neill III, Chief Executive Officer, O'Neill & Associates.

In addition to Mr. Trumka, Mr. Boland, Mr. McKenna, and Mr. O'Neill, other speakers included Anne Anderson, Irish Ambassador to the United States; Steve Coyle, Chief Executive Officer, AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust; and Tom O'Leary, Chief Operating Officer, The American Ireland Fund.  Attending the event were union leaders, members of Congress, and others who have worked with Mr. Sweeney during a career spanning more than five decades.

Mr. Sweeney reflected on his tenure at the helm of the AFL-CIO, "I look at it as a lifetime of working to improve the lives of workers. I got tremendous satisfaction from my work, a lot of happiness. Sure there were days when we were in tough fights over collective bargaining or strikes, but I always looked forward to going to work and got great satisfaction helping workers improve their lives."

Since retiring from the AFL-CIO, Mr. Sweeney has continued to advance the interests of working people as Chairman of the AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust.

"John Sweeney has had a tremendous impact on the lives of millions of working people in America and around the world," said Mr. Coyle, noting that Mr. Sweeney is the only Trustee who has served on the HIT's board since its inception in 1983.

"His work on our board includes championing initiatives that have provided over 90,800 housing units for working families, created 74,000 union construction jobs, stimulated over $24 billion of economic activity across America, and helped grow the HIT's assets to $4.8 billion," Mr. Coyle said.

A feature article profiling Mr. Sweeney and his career in the labor movement can be found on the HIT's news service, HITWIRE, at It is available to be downloaded and reprinted free of charge.  

Dottie Kyranos

SOURCE AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust