Top 100 - 2011

John Sweeney

On Tuesday, February 15, President Barack Obama presented a Medal of Freedom to John Sweeney, the renowned labor leader. Sweeney was honored for his work as President of the AFL-CIO (1995-2009), bringing new life to the American labor movement and working hard to protect the American worker.

Born in the Bronx, New York, to Irish immigrant parents (Agnes, a domestic worker, and Joseph, a city bus driver), Sweeney’s commitment to the American labor movement began as a young boy when his father took him to numerous union meetings. He became a union representative with the International Ladies Garment Workers Union in 1956 and spent the next 53 years addressing the needs of American workers. He co-authored two books, including America Needs a Raise: Fighting for Economic Security and Social Justice.

He is married to Maureen Power, a former schoolteacher, and has two grown children: John, an information technology professional, and Patricia, who works for the AFL-CIO. Sweeney was Irish American of the Year in 2004.