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Originally published Sunday, January 13, 2013 at 5:29 AM

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Ex-postal workers' union head Sombrotto dies at 89

Vincent R. Sombrotto, a labor leader who served as president of the National Association of Letter Carriers for 24 years, has died. He was 89.

The Associated Press

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MANHASSET, N.Y. —

Vincent R. Sombrotto, a labor leader who served as president of the National Association of Letter Carriers for 24 years, has died. He was 89.

The NALC announced on its website that Sombrotto died Thursday. Fairchild Sons Funeral Home in Manhasset, which is handling the arrangements, confirmed his death to The Associated Press on Sunday.

Sombrotto joined the then-Post Office Department in 1947 as a part-time carrier. As a letter carrier at New York's Grand Central Station, he took charge of the 1970 postal strike to protest poor working conditions and wages so low that some carriers qualified for welfare. President Richard Nixon called in 25,000 troops to deliver the mail in the city after the carriers went on strike.

The walkout eventually spread to 100 cities and involved more than 200,000 postal workers. It led to the creation of the United States Postal Service.

In 1978, Sombrotto was elected as the NALC's 16th president, a position he held leading the union's 300,000 members until his retirement in 2002.

He played a key role in helping to reform the Hatch Act, a law that prohibited partisan political activities by federal employees.

"Vince's long tenure and tireless work for this union, at both the local and national levels, has left a lasting, positive impact on all the men and women who have carried the mail since the Great Postal Strike, and on those who will do so in the decades yet to come," NALC President Fredric V. Rolando said.

He is survived by his wife, Rae, seven children and 14 grandchildren. A funeral Mass is planned for Monday morning in Port Washington.

Donations can be made to the National Kidney Foundation.

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