Thursday, June 22, 2023

R.I.P., Michael Williams: Labor leader Mike Williams dies in water accident. (Jacob Ogles, Florida Politics, June 19, 2023)

Williams has been president of the Florida AFL-CIO since 2009.

Mike Williams, president of the Florida AFL-CIO, died in an accident this weekend. He was 72.

The labor group confirmed Williams’ death on social media.

“Florida’s union families are mourning the passing of Mike Williams, President of the Florida AFL-CIO, following a water accident on June 17th at his home in St. Marks, Florida,” reads a post from the organization. “Williams was one of the most transformative labor leaders in Florida history.”

Williams first became active in labor during an apprenticeship as a construction electrician, his official biography states. He would ultimately become business manager for the Local IBEW 177 in Jacksonville. He was President of the Florida Building and Construction Trades Council from 2001-2009, a time that saw some tumultuous workers’ compensation battles between labor and business associations.

Williams, who served as the Florida AFL-CIO’s president since 2009, could be easily spotted among a crowd of Tallahassee lobbyists. He resisted the blue and gray wool suits, choosing instead to don jeans, a colorful shirt and a tweed blazer while he championed the union’s positions on workers’ rights, wages, health care access, retirement benefits, education and training opportunities. And in a town where some male lobbyists trim their hair twice a month to ensure a neat appearance, Williams also allowed his curly locks to hit his collar.

“During his term, he has revitalized the vision of labor to represent all workers and fostered new alliances with community, immigrant and faith-based groups,” his bio reads. “He refocused the organization on its core values and strengthened its political influence through grassroots activism and mobilizations.”

He has advocated at the state level to protect workers’ compensation, while the AFL-CIO under his leadership also has fought to support domestic production.

Political leaders across the state mourned Williams’ death.

“Mike Williams was a giant and labor icon across the state of Florida,” tweeted U.S. Rep. Maxwell Alejandro Frost, an Orlando Democrat. “Someone who woke up each and every day committed to helping working people and to building long-lasting coalitions of power to ensure Floridians thrived, not just survived. Rest in peace, Mike. God bless.”

U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, a Kissimmee Democrat, also noted the loss.

“We are shocked and saddened by the untimely death of Florida AFL-CIO President Mike Williams. He was a legendary labor leader who passionately fought for fair wages and benefits, workplace safety and Florida’s working families,” Soto posted.

Nikki Fried, Chair of the Florida Democratic Party and former Florida Agriculture Commissioner, also released a statement.

“Mike will remain a giant in the labor movement, leaving a long legacy of service and commitment to America’s workers,” she said.

“As President of Florida AFL-CIO for the past 15 years, Mike organized, advocated and revitalized the labor community in Florida, serving as a powerful advocate for workers’ rights fighting until the end for a living wage, health care, retirement benefits, education and training. A man of character and conviction, Mike showed us how to stand up for what we believe in and never failed to remind us who built America. We are committed to continuing the work of his enduring legacy. May he rest in peace.”

State Rep. Dotie Joseph, a North Miami Democrat, also remembered the labor leader.

“My deepest condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of AFL-CIO President Mike Williams, a pillar in our labor community and relentless fighter for the rights of workers,” she tweeted. “We will honor his legacy by continuing to fight for the people and our increasingly fragile democracy.”

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at

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