The role labor played in South Africa's struggle for majority rule cannot be underestmated, and America's labor unions and were among the millions, if not billions, of people expressing sympathy at the death Nelson Mandela.
The United Mine Workers of America took the time to remind its members that they were among the first unions to call for Mandela's release and the end of apartheid. The UMWA also spearheaded the efforts to boycott Royal Dutch Shell. In 1994, when South Africa held their first multiracial elections, six UMWA members acted as observers.
The American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees mentioned the role their membership played in demonstartion at the South African Embassy and that former Secretary-Treasurer William Lucy was a founding member of the Free South Africa movement. AFSCME also made note that one of the stops Nelson Mandela made during his tour of the United States in 1990 was at the National Convention of AFSCME.
United Steelworkers International President Leo Gerard perhaps summed up how a lot of people felt about Mandela when he said "Nelson Mandela inspired people everywhere around the world. His loss is universal." Fred Redmond, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the A. Philip Randolph Institute, said the best way to honor Mandela is to promote equality and fairness wherever and whenever we can.
Service Employees International Union President Mary Key Henry express that Mandela's legacy will live for years: "he will forever inspire generations of activists to challenge the status quo and demand racial, social and economic justice."