Policy: Labor

British transit union leader Bob Crow dies at 52

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LONDON (AP) — British transit union leader Bob Crow — a hero to many of his members but a scourge to London commuters — has died at the age of 52.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport Union said Crow, its general secretary since 2002, died early Tuesday. It did not disclose the cause.

One of the few British union leaders to be a household name and recognizable face, Crow led his union through a series of disruptive strikes on London's busy subway system.

He was a villain to right-wing newspapers — and to many a frustrated commuter — but many union members saw him as a leader who got results.

London Mayor Boris Johnson, with whom Crow often clashed, praised him as "a fighter and a man of character."

"Whatever our political differences, and there were many, this is tragic news," Johnson said.

"There can be absolutely no doubt that he played a big part in the success of the Tube, and he shared my goal to make transport in London an even greater success."

With his bald head and cloth cap, Crow affected an old-fashioned, working-class demeanor, but he faced criticism for his six-figure salary and subsidized home.

At a time when most people thought the era of militant trade unionism long over, he was unafraid to confront management and stage walkouts.

Former London Mayor Ken Livingstone, a politician broadly sympathetic to Crow's left-wing views, said that "with the passage of time people will come to see that people like Bob Crow did a very good job."

"The only working-class people who still have well-paid jobs in London are his members," Livingstone said.

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