Brendan Barber, who gets a knighthood in the Queen's Birthday Honours, won respect from both sides of industry and all shades of government during his time as leader of the TUC.
He spent almost a decade as general secretary before leaving at the end of last year, although he held several jobs over 37 years at the union organisation.
He worked as policy officer and headed the TUC's press and information and organisation and industrial relations departments.
The 62-year-old gained a reputation as a skilled negotiator, helping to resolve a number of disputes, in between finding time to watch his beloved Everton football team.
In his last few years at the helm of the TUC he was heavily involved in negotiations with the Government over the coalition's controversial changes to public sector pensions.
He spoke at many rallies and demonstrations, fiercely criticising the changes, and marched with huge numbers of public sector workers who took strike action.
Since leaving the TUC he has taken up posts on the board of Transport for London, on the council of City University, where he was a student, is a member of a government advisory group on a British Business Bank and is studying the future role of the Police Federation.
He told the Press Association: "The trade union movement does outstanding work day in day out, making lives better for millions of ordinary people.
"I regard this honour very much as recognition of that major contribution to the life of our nation."
His popularity across many strands of British society was shown at an event to mark his departure from the TUC, which was attended by Labour leader Ed Miliband and many MPs, with a special message sent by outgoing Bank of England governor Sir Mervyn King.