Washington, DC – A new 35-page white paper, "A Future for Workers: A Contribution From Black Labor," was released this week by the Black Labor Collaborative, a group of influential African American leaders from major labor organizations who offer a progressive critique and agenda to frame discussions about the direction of the American labor movement. This is a seismic development, because it is the first time representatives of 2.1 million black trade unionists have published a comprehensive outlook on organized labor.
The BLC report lands the same week that the AFL-CIO's Labor Commission on Racial and Economic Justice held its first meeting. It also comes amid an explosion of protests and activism in black communities and among low-wage black workers across the nation, demanding racial justice as well as economic justice. For example:
In an executive summary that accompanies the report, the BLC calls for a “transformed labor movement,” noting that “the foe we face, in the political Right and global capitalism, demands a transformed and energized labor movement that can fight back with more than slogans of solidarity. No tinkering around the edges! A transformed movement must be authentically inclusive because diversity carries the strongest seeds of change, of untapped creativity.”
Rev. Terrence L. Melvin, one of the BLC conveners, said, “This is not about a ‘black agenda.’ This brief paper seeks to advance a broader discussion that is so badly needed: What is it that workers need and want, and how can it become the robust agenda that can truly rally the bottom 99% to collective action?”
Melvin, who is also president of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU), added, “We approach these questions in the voice of nearly 2.1 million African Americans in labor unions. We believe a frank and open conversation where diverse voices are heard can produce changes that will strengthen our movement and benefit all workers.”
Funeral services for Mujahid Majeed will be held on Thursday August 20th, 2015 at Cotton Funeral Service located at 1025 Bergen Street Newark, NJ 07112 at 6:00-9:00pm.
The second funeral services will be held on Saturday, August 22, 2015 at 11:00am-1:00pm at the Metropolitan Funeral Services Berkeley Chapel located at 120 West Berkley Avenue, Norfolk, VA 23523. Burial Services will be held at Woodlawn Memorial Gardens, 6309 East Virginia Beach Boulevard, Norfolk, VA 23502.
A repast will follow.
Please continue to pray for his wife Gloria and family.
On August 15 we as a community, as a movement, and as an organization lost a beacon in the night. Julian Bond, former NAACP Chairman, passed away at age 75 leaving a hole in our heart and a void in our soul. We at CBTU wish to honor, remember, and commemorate our brother and mentor as he moves on to the next phase of his essence. He was a quiet leader, a loud organizer, and stalwart of the Civil Rights Movement. Brother Bond will be sorely missed by all Black activists.
The legacy of Mr. Bond is too extensive to list. He was a founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), a Senator and Representative for the great state of Georgia, and he was the Chairman of the NAACP. His deeds and actions have left a permanent and lasting impression on America and especially on the Black Community. His tireless mobilizing, advocating, and advancement of People of all Colors has stood as the benchmark for all future leaders of the organization. He inspired and conspired with our President Emeritus Bill Lucy and has been a longtime ally and friend of CBTU.
We mourn the loss of our brother but shall never forget his legacy. When others sat, he stood up. When others ran, he marched forward. And when others remained silent, he spoke up with the loudest of voices. We have lost a legend but we have not lost his mission. Today we at CBTU continue the fight of Julian Bond. We honor his life by marching on. We shall never forget what he did as we strive to add to his legacy. We will miss you Brother Bond but we will never forget you.
From the Black Labor Collaborative
The force of history has brought America to this summer of reckoning. The oppressive conditions that daily suffocate Black lives are being challenged across the nation – in the streets and in corridors of power, on the airwaves and on social media.
Here in this moment, in this resilient city, a new chapter is being written in our long journey to break the shackles of unequal citizenship in this democracy that our free labor built.
To the organizers of the first Movement for Black Lives Convening and the more than 1,200 committed freedom fighters who have journeyed to Cleveland, you are the Fannie Lou Hamers, the John Lewises, the Diane Nashes, the Bob Moseses,, the Ella Bakers of our 21st century digital democracy. We salute you! We believe in you. And we are inspired by the inventive energy you bring to the struggle.
True, your historical task is formidable. But it is not yours to bear alone. We speak in the voice of the nearly 2.1 million African Americans in labor unions, and we are ready to play our role in the growing movement for Black lives. Already, black trade unionists have marched in solidarity protests in Ferguson, Baltimore New York and many other cities where BLM actions have occurred.
We know economic equality is incomplete without racial justice. We also believe racial justice is central to any revival of the American labor movement. Put bluntly, the foe we face, the political Right and global capitalism, demands a transformed and energized labor movement, a movement that authentically embraces racial justice because it carries the strongest seeds for lasting change and untapped creativity.
Sometimes, it is hard to see past our rage at how Black lives are devalued daily by our society, even by sympathetic co-workers, friends or leaders who don’t live in our skin. That is why this convening is so timely, so necessary, as we say her name: Sandra Bland…Rekia Boyd…Natasha McKenna; and remember Cleveland’s Tamir Rice, Ferguson’s Mike Brown, and Baltimore’s Freddie Gray and the many other unarmed black victims of police violence.
We need healing. We need space to reflect and download our anxieties and insights about this wondrous, evolving movement, while assessing its progress and potential.
Best wishes for a successful weekend. A luta continua! [The struggle continues.].
Clementa Pinckney, 41
Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45
Tywanza Sanders, 26
Ethel Lance, 70
Susie Jackson, 87
Cynthia Hurd, 54
Myra Thompson, 59
Daniel Simmons Sr., 74
DePayne Middleton Doctor, 49
They are real people! This is a real tragedy! This will continue until we create change!
On Thursday June 18th, 9 people were massacred while attending Bible Study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. In the House of the Lord they were not safe. This is a national tragedy. This is a crime against humanity. This has ruined lives and brutalized a community. Yet in the face of all this there is little hope that we will see any institutional change. In the face of more Black deaths we can only assume that nothing will be done to confront the heart of the matter. In America we continue to as, do Black Lives matter?
Now before we go down that road of analyzing, debating, rationalizing, or justifying what happened, let us all take a step back and remember that 9 beautiful people were savagely murdered. In a place of sanctuary, while learning the Lords’ words, these people were gunned down in front of their family and fellow congregants. It matters not what the pundits will say, we lost family and friends to a horrible act and we are sorry and saddened by this. Good, hard working people are dying because of the color of their skin. Innocents trying to live their life are being taken away from us because We don’t look like Them.
There is a lengthy historical record of murdering Blacks in America. It is institutionalized from policies like the Fugitive Slave Act, Dred Scott v Sanford, to Stop and Frisk, and the Rockefeller Drug Laws. There are statistics, there is data, there is case study, and there is living testimony. The facts are overt and the body count continues to rise. We at CBTU will not remain silent to this doctrine of subversive genocide. We have produced too many statements on Black deaths to not call this spade a spade. America, especially White America, is too comfortable with Black deaths. #BlackLivesMatter and to CBTU #BlackLivesMattertoLabor.
“Let me say that when the final history of labor is written in this nation, and in this state, and in the union he loved – the United Steelworkers of America – that history will not be complete unless it reflects the many contribution of Oliver Montgomery, Sr.” Read more
It is with great sadness that we inform the CBTU family of that our beloved dear brother Oliver Montgomery transitioned peacefully on June 6, 2015.
“Oliver, being a gentleman and a mentor to me, was one of the stalwart builders of this organization,” said CBTU President Terry L. Melvin. “But his contributions to improving the lives of working men and women, especially people of color, were boundless. This CBTU pioneer and civil rights champion will be sorely missed but never forgotten by his CBTU family. Our heartfelt condolences go out to the Montgomery family, his friends and his many, many sisters and brothers in the labor movement.”
Oliver R. Montgomery, Sr. was a tenacious fighter for racial equality and equity, for civil and human rights, and above all, for the collective power of workers in unions. Oliver, who began is illustrious labor career in 1948 when he joined United Steelworkers Local 2163, served on the CBTU executive council for many years and established the CBTU Pittsburgh Chapter, also becoming its first president.
Later, Oliver would use his experience as national director of the Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees (SOAR) to help CBTU launch its own retiree committee, which now sponsors a retiree conference at CBTU’s annual convention.
R.I.P. Oliver Montgomery.
Contributions and sympathy cards can be sent to:
Family of Oliver Montgomery
7886 Mark Drive
Verona PA 15147
"There is an Earthquake of Activism Rumbling Across America."
CBTU raised a Windy City ruckus during the 44th International Convention in Chicago, May 20-25th. Workshops were packed and informative. Speakers were inspirational. Panels sparked insights and emotion. Golfers raised money for scholarships. And the CBTU gospel choir simply tore it up with “Glory!”
The tone of the convention was hopeful but vigilant, echoing the mood throughout Black America, which has been profoundly shaken by frequent police killings of unarmed black people but galvanized to confront racial injustice under the banner of “Black Lives Matter.”
CBTU President Rev. Terry L. Melvin told the 800+ delegates and guests, “This occasion that brings us together has taken on greater urgency against the backdrop of Black bodies piling up on television, angry marchers in the streets, and a criminal justice system that repeatedly, even deliberately, fails to produce justice.” He continued, “That said, there is an earthquake of outrage and activism rumbling across America and other continents, centered mostly in communities of color.” He declared, “If we want to own our future, we must start now owning our communities.”
See what you missed or see it again!
2015 Convention Webcast
9 segments available on-demand:
Convention Photo Gallery
Thanks go out to our contributing photographers: Johnny Knox, James McCray, and Shaq.
The Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, with all of Labor, stands in support of the Gray family in their pursuit of justice and a fair resolution to this young man’s death after questionable police conduct. The shady facts over the potential homicide of another Black man at the hands of law enforcement compels us to ask difficult questions during this difficult time. This investigation needs to be transparent. We at CBTU are calling for an independent, impartial investigation of the facts and circumstances surrounding this young man’s death. We additionally support the Mayor of Baltimore’s attempts to reform and amend policing policies in an attempt to curb police brutality, and call on other Mayors throughout this country to take proactive steps to address this problem rather than wait for another tragedy to occur.
CBTU has stated time and again that these incidents are not isolated but rather systemic. The deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Eric Garner in NYC, and now Freddie Gray in Baltimore are nothing more than the consequences of policies long established that disenfranchise the Black community. Law enforcement officials are our union brothers and sisters but they deserve to feel the same weight of the legal system Black youth encounter on a daily basis. It is no longer ok to shield abusive officers behind the Blue Shield while supporting a legal system that disproportionately targets and incarcerates people of color. We need an end to racial disparities in arrests, adjudications, and incarceration rates of the poor and people of color.
Time and incidents have shown that this will happen again. We at CBTU condemn the violent backlash and rage exhibited by certain protestors in Baltimore. Yet while we disagree and disavow their actions, we understand that an oppressed and hopeless people will always act out chaotically when there is no solution in sight. To that end, we must confront the root causes of these issues. We want an end to racial injustice, unequal education, income inequality, workplace hostility, and substandard housing. We need summer jobs for our youth, a living wage for working people and a real initiative to help ex-offenders and the homeless. We need solutions rather than responses. We need to be proactive instead of reactive. We need to treat all life with human dignity. And sadly we must constantly remind others that #BlackLivesMatter.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP as it is commonly referred to, is a trade agreement being developed behind closed doors with the potential to impact 4 continents. Crafted in secrecy, this trade agreement is being designed to empower multinational global corporations over national and worker interests. Under no uncertain terms can CBTU support such a devious and shady partnership. CBTU and our Leadership stand in opposition to the TPP and any proposal that would fast track its passing and implementation. The TPP is an agreement that looks to trade worker rights for corporate profit.
There is little known about TPP as it has been largely kept private from public scrutiny. What is known is that besides leaders from North America, South America, Asia, and Australia there are also corporate and business leaders at the table drafting and constructing this document. While our elected officials are banned from the bargaining table, corporate lawyers have been invited to write the language. This is an affront to our democracy and further erosion of our rights as working people. The TPP would allow corporations to sue countries in a secret court if national laws infringe on their profits. If we have environmental regulations that prohibit the sale or production of toxic goods corporations can sue America for hurting their profits. If we establish a minimum wage that cuts into their profit margin, they can sue. In affect companies will be allowed to sue our elected leaders for protecting the very people who put them in power. So we are forced to ask, whose country is this?
We are still suffering in America. Unemployment is still a problem, outsourcing is bleeding our workforce, tax shelters are depriving our government of necessary funds, and the wage and race gap between haves and have nots is violently growing. In the face of these challenges, the Obama Administration is looking to further erode the little progress we have made. Instead of confronting the issue of #BlackLivesMatter this administration has decided their hashtag is #CorporateProfitsMatter. Black unemployment is almost double that of our White counterparts. College educated Blacks have a harder time finding jobs than White high school dropouts. Yet this administration thinks a solution is to export jobs for cheap labor to countries with no labor standards. This is the opposite of the rising tide affect. Rather it seems the idea is to strap an anchor on all working people so we can equally sink to bottom.
We at the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists believe in an economy that supports hard working people, not one that rigs the system so the elite remain in their ivory tower. We need economic development in our communities. We need to reform the prison industrial complex where Black youth are turned into an Untouchable caste by legally being denied employment, education, and housing opportunities. We need to close the wage gaps between rich and poor, men and women, and Whites and Blacks. There is no economic or logical rational behind the TPP beyond making the rich filthy rich. We at CBTU oppose TPP, we oppose the idea of fast-tracking the legislation, and we oppose any more corporate welfare.
Vernon Watkins, who became a legend in the California labor movement and a behind-the-scene force within CBTU from its inception, was eulogized and laid to rest Monday, March 16, following his homegoing service, which drew an overflow crowd that included CBTU President Emeritus William Lucy and numerous CBTU and AFSCME members. He was 76. His wisdom, humor and gritty Detroit swagger will always remain present.
Speakers pinpointed highlights of Vernon's amazing career that began in the late 1950s with the Graphic Arts International Union and then took off when he became an organizer for AFSCME in the late 60's. He was a trailblazer who played a key role in the fight for pay equity for nearly 4,000 low-wage Los Angeles city workers, most of them women.
As AFSCME's statewide director in California, Vernon led an unprecedented campaign to organize University of California employees in the 1980s. Cheryl Parisi, executive director of District Council 36, said, "Vernon built the union in this state. He was involved in virtually every large element of our growth and organizing."
But as tenacious as Vernon R. Watkins was about protecting the rights of working people and fighting for social justice, he enjoyed nurturing folks to achieve goals that they might believe beyond their resources or background. His motto: "Simple, find a way."
He capped his career by becoming Bill Lucy's executive assistant in the Offfice of the AFSCME International Secretary-Treasurer. He succeeded the late Leonard Ball and served from 1992 to 2010, when he retired and returned to his home in the Los Angeles area.
Mr. Lucy said of his dear friend of many decades, "A Vernon Watkins does not come this way often. He had my back and was always in the thick the action -- building CBTU, making AFSCME a powerhouse in California,, helping South African trade unionists win freedom. He and his beloved wife, Marion, and his children were so very, very close to me and my family. Our hearts will always ache for their loss, but they can be certain that the Watkins family and the Lucy family will always be bound by unwavering love and mutual support."
Cards and or condolences may be sent to his family:
Mrs. Marion Watkins
5736 Showalter Coulter
Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91701
Congressman, Union Leader, Statesman, Community and Civil Rights Activist
Charles Arthur Hayes was born in Cairo, Illinois on February 17, 1918. He graduated from Sumner High School, and relocated to Chicago, where he remained until his death on April 8, 1997.
During the Depression he served in the Civilian Conservation Corps, the New Deal organization set up to give work to the unemployed.
Charles A. Hayes was a pioneer organizer of the CIO Packinghouse Workers, became Director, District 1 of the United Packinghouse Workers , and later International Vice President and Director of the United Food and Commercial Workers and was a co-founder of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists. He was elected to Congress in 1983 and for Chicagoans, he played an important role in the election of Harold Washington as Mayor in 1983.
William "Bill" Lucy is indisputably the most prolific African American labor leader since the late A. Philip Randolph. Over a career spanning more than 50 years, Bill Lucy repeatedly has been at the crossroads of history -- his legacy secured.
From Memphis to the Mideast to South Africa - Bill Lucy.
With King, with Mandela, with Obama - Bill Lucy.
Through thick and thin - always Bill Lucy.
He redefined the role of black trade unionists in electoral politics; he led the push to open more union leadership positions to people of color and women; and he won international respect and visibility for African American labor activists in the global movement for social justice and empowerment.
Go back to 1968.
Bill was dispatched to Memphis by the late AFSCME President Jerry Wurf to help resolve a labor strike by 1,300 black city sanitation workers who were fed up with racism, dangerous working conditions and, above all else, the refusal of white city leaders to recognize and negotiate with their union, AFSCME Local 1733. Bill worked closely with the strikers and the black community that rallied to support them. He also worked in tandem with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who came to Memphis to support the strikers. In the tumultuous aftermath of Dr. King's tragic murder at a Memphis hotel, Bill played a key role in steering the grieving men back to the bargaining table, where city leaders ultimately met their major demands.
Four years later, Bill was catapulted to the ranks of national leadership. Elected in 1972 as AFSCME's international secretary-treasurer, he became the nation's highest-ranking African American union leader. Skillfully, he transformed what is ordinarily a passive, ceremonial position into a powerful platform to advocate on behalf of AFSCME members and oppressed workers and communities worldwide.
On Tuesday, Feb. 10th, three Muslim students were murdered in their home in Chapel Hill, NC. A newlywed couple and the wife's sister, all under the age of 23, were gunned down in their home over what police are calling a dispute over a parking spot. While the overt motivation for these killings remains vague the subliminal message seems loud and clear - Muslim lives don't matter.
In the wake of this crime we find the media and the nation as a whole largely silent on this incident. We are bombarded daily with images, sound bites, and editorials on the evils of Islam and the deeds of a fanatical few. Yet when the narrative turns, when Muslims are the victims, there is barely a peep.
In America we have long demonized and villainies practitioners of Islam. It sells paper, grabs viewers, and capitalizes on fear, racism, and xenophobia. In this cyclone of hate and vitriol many fail to see the actual facts. Around 23% of the world's population is Muslim. Of that 23% we focus only on the less than 1% who are violent and barbaric. Additionally if we look at the victims of these fundamentalist regimes like ISIS or Al-Qaeda or the Taliban, we find that they have disproportionately murdered and brutalized Muslims versus non-Muslims. We have become comfortable allowing a select group of zealots define over a billion believers.
Deah Barakat (23), his wife Yusor Mohammed (21), and her sister Razan Mohammed Abu-Salha (19) were all students at the University of North Carolina. They were as innocent as the French journalists of Charlie Hebdo. The constant demonization of Muslims fuels the flames of violence and further disenfranchises a huge population of Americans. There is no hierarchy of oppression, no pecking order of injustice. An injury to one is an injury to all. We at CBTU support all brothers and sisters regardless of religious affiliation. We stand in solidarity with the Chapel Hill, N.C. community in the aftermath of the shooting deaths of three American Muslim students and with the over 1.5 billion peaceful Muslims of the world.
We call on the Department of Justice to investigate this tragic incident as a possible hate crime. The Chapel Hill community has our support.
Black Lives Matter. A simple phrase that bears the burden of carrying the voice of millions of disenfranchised Blacks in America. This hashtag was birthed in the misery of Ferguson, MO as a rallying cry by organizers and activists. A community ravaged by violence, unemployment, and mass incarceration felt compelled to label what was once assumed obvious. Black Lives Matter. And to CBTU, Black Lives Matter to Labor.
But Black Lives Matter is bigger than just violence or unemployment or prison rates. Black Lives Matter because it is not enough just to exist. Rather it is the conditions and environment of these Black Lives that is at stake. It is not enough to scrape by and survive. It is not acceptable to try and make a dollar out of fifteen cents. Black Lives Matter beyond just living, they matter in how they live, the way they live, and the way this society has attempted to prevent them from living. Black Lives Matter because workers matter, because families matter, because the American Dream matters.
Black Lives Matter is commonly associated with the death of Black males by law enforcement, the response to the death of Michael Brown. Left out of the larger conversation are Black women. Not only do Black women face the horrid realities of sexual assault, wage discrimination, and a constant battle over ownership of their body, but according to a recent study Black girls face harsher school discipline than their white peers. Excessive punitive actions were taken against Black girls at an alarmingly higher rate than their peers. Compounded with an already widening gap of education inequality for low income areas, Black girls are facing oppressive hurdles earlier in life. The report can be found at the African American Policy Forum - www.aapf.org.
Black Lives Matter has become a term meant to “trend” on social media. But what happens when it is no longer trendy? What happens when the sensationalism of Black deaths fades away into the headlines? Black Lives Matter because there is struggle, there is still discrimination, there is still disparity. CBTU was founded on the voices of Black Workers. It is on the shoulders of those giants that was as an organization affirm Black Lives Matter. Additionally, Black Lives Matter to Labor.
Some Missouri Democrats have donned sheep’s clothing as wolves against Labor. Under the disguise of “racial equity” Missouri is looking to strip worker rights in the construction industry by passing Right to Work Legislation. Right to Work is a law that allows employees to not be part of the union but to reap the benefits of being in a union. Like being allowed access to the VIP room without paying the membership fee. This would lead to workers losing their right to collective bargaining and safety protections guaranteed by union contracts, as there would no longer be a union to guarantee these things. This would also further empower contractors to exploit and mistreat workers on the job. Once again we see attacking workers as an easy solution to other societal issues. The constant whipping boy of the wealthy, workers continue to bear the burden of failed political promises, bankrupt economies, and racial injustices.
Missouri has had a very difficult time lately dealing with racial tensions. The divide between citizens of color and law enforcement is at an all-time high. Unemployment, mass incarceration, and inadequate health care all plague communities of color disproportionately more than other areas. With all this going on, certain Missouri Democrats have chosen to pretend to care by attacking working men and women. The lie used to advance Right to Work in the state is that minority contractors and workers of color are being excluded from unionized construction. The claim is that by destroying the Construction Unions there would be racial equality in employment practices. This is pure manipulation and exploitation of a historically disenfranchised population.
Statistically unionized jobs have always been the greatest factor in economic equity for all workers – closing the wage gap for women and people of color. Unions created non-discrimination clauses in their contracts before there was a federal law. The majority of union members are women and people of color. Unions marched from civil rights, supported marriage equality, and are actively fighting pay discrimination for women. Yet a few Missouri Democrats think destroying unions is the solution to their social problems. Enough is enough.
Missouri needs to comprehensively and diligently address the racial divide permeating their communities. Attacking workers and their unions is not the answer, but rather an easy scapegoat to hide the real issues. The Coalition of Black Trade Unionists does not support race baiting tactics that hurt working people and further divide the working class. We do not support Missouri Democrats and their pathetic attempt to cripple our rights. CBTU stands with our brothers and sisters in the Building Trades and calls for a real racial dialogue in Missouri. Black Lives Matter to Labor.
I am pleased to issue the official convention call to the 44th International Convention of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU). This year the convention will be held in Chicago, Illinois at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, 151 East Wacker Dr., Chicago, IL 60601 from May 20-25, 2015. The theme is Owning Our Future - Building Our Community. All general convention sessions will be held at the Hyatt Regency Chicago.
We always use convention as a way to highlight the work and build for the next chapter. To accentuate our unity and history we are asking that on Thursday participants dress in Afro-Centric garb to commemorate our lineage, and on Saturday we all wear our CBTU 2015 T-Shirts.
For our 44th International Convention we are diversifying our agenda and offer more trainings and workshops then ever before. As always we plan on keeping participants busy, but engaged. We will be challenging attendees to be ever present and active in all parts of the program. I invite you to join us and our distinguished speakers, panelists, presenters, and facilitators.
Registration for the 2015 convention can be done online at the CBTU website, www.cbtu.org. Simply click on the “Registration” link on the cbtu.org home page.
Should you have any questions or need additional information, please call the CBTU International office at 202-778-3318 or email us at email@example.com.
See you in Chicago!
Rev. Terrence L. Melvin, President
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI) and Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) today announced that the organizations have commissioned a study into issues affecting black communities across the country, including the circumstances that led to the tragic death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. and the protests that followed.
Due in 60 days, the report will also examine the ideal role of organized labor in addressing the problems that are systemic in some black communities, such as high rates of joblessness, inadequate educational opportunities and other matters of economic justice.
"The CBTU and APRI were formed to educate, mobilize and advocate for black workers both in and outside of the labor movement," said CBTU President Rev. Terry Melvin. "We have long been considered the conscience of organized labor for making otherwise voiceless workers heard and representing the disenfranchised."
Both organizations are looking forward to working with a broad coalition of unions, government agencies and other groups who seek social and economic justice to present the report and implement its findings when complete.
2014 has come to a close but the wounds it has left have not yet fully healed. In 2014 we as a global and national community suffered hardship and tragedy. Our brothers and sisters in Asia have been plagued by aviation calamities and disappearances. Hundreds of families have lost loved ones in airplane crashes or worst; have lost loved ones to mysterious disappearances. In the Middle East the rise of ISIL has proven how ugly and barbaric fundamentalists can be when empowered by weapons and social media. Youtube videos of their barbarous actions only further highlight how cruel we as humans can be to one another. Nationally we are still reeling from the violent deaths of Black males by law enforcement. To make matters worse a perverse few have retaliated against the police. This has left the national polarized, expanded distrust between the people and the police, and has left an air of uncertainty. The year of 2014 ended in turmoil, but it has also paved the way for the positive change we need.
Owning Our Future – Building Our Community is CBTU’s theme for 2015. It is our theme for our upcoming International Convention but it is also our mantra for the year. We have been victimized and disenfranchised to the point where we no longer feel in control of our lives. We have become reactionary to the conditions around us, but have not become proactive in confronting the issues. It is time we own of our future. It is time we control our destiny and direct our fate. We no longer need to list the symptoms that plague our communities, we need to develop and implement the remedies needed to cure these ills.
Our salvation resides within ourselves and must be manifested in our communities. It is within our communities that we raise the future, support our neighbors, and nurture our culture. It is also in our communities where we hold funeral services, watch families grieve, and see our youth underachieve. In 2015 we must be about taking back our streets, capturing our future, and enhancing our communities. The turmoil of 2014 must be seen as the tilling of soil for the seeds we must plant this year. Tilling the earth is an arduous, grueling, and laborious task. That is the nature of change. We have gone through the tilling but we now must plant the seeds, tend to the ground, allow it to heal from the chaos caused.
We are in a new year, with the hope for a new beginning, and the inspiration for a new course. We must take back the wheel of our destiny. We must control our fate, own our failures, and build on our success. In 2015, CBTU will Own Our Future by Building in Our Community.
On Nov. 24th a grand jury in Ferguson, MO decided not to file any charges against Officer Darren Wilson for the shooting of Michael Brown. In a case that has crippled the nation this is a sad turn of events. While a grand jury indictment of Officer Wilson would not presume any guilt on his part, what it would have done was allow a jury of his and Michael Brown’s peers to determine if the shooting was criminal. It would have offered the community a chance to see the legal system play out, evidence a chance to be shared publicly, and ultimately a conclusion reached in a case mired by racial tension. Instead we are left with an open wound still infected from the death of another Black youth.
We know that the rage and pain and disenfranchisement of the people of Ferguson will manifest itself at times negatively. When people feel trapped and hopeless they occasionally react violently and blindly. Already we are hearing stories of stores attacked and people harassed. But if you listen closely you will also hear about a community organizing, a community crying, a community pulling itself together in the face of another defeat. CBTU applauds and supports the people of Ferguson who are diligently working through their grief to make positive change from this tragedy. We cannot continue to let Michael Brown’s death be in vain.
Now it needs to be noted again that a grand jury indictment would not have meant Officer Wilson was guilty. A grand jury only determines if a case goes forward to trail. It would have meant someone was held accountable for the shooting death of this teenager. We need accountability now more than even. And while we must continue to demand our elected officials remain accountable to us, we also have to become accountable to one another. These are our kids and our streets in our community. We must be responsible for the well-being and welfare of all our brothers and sisters and especially our kids. We have to be accountable to ourselves, for only we have the solutions to our problems.
We as a nation will move on from this event. We as a people have to look inward while grieving. There is systemic injustice and imbalance and we are naive to think the system will fix itself. With calm heads and firm memory we must once again carve out our own solutions and make our communities safe for our youth. Grieve for Michael and support the people of Ferguson. We at CBTU stand with the people of Ferguson and the positive community organizing that is going on. That is how we must prevail, that is how we will truly honor the memory of Michael Brown.
On Nov. 20, 2014 President Obama announced he was signing an Executive Order to address the immigration crisis. He took this action based on a lack of any movement or resolution by the Legislative Branch of the government. CBTU President Rev. Terrence Melvin supports this action and stands with the President. For too long we have had a crisis at our border where families and children suffered as they hung in limbo with no resolution or hope. This is not what America stands for. This is not who we are as a country. CBTU supports this Executive Order and the 4 million families and children it seeks to help.
Immigration is a political subject with human consequences. With all the rhetoric thrown around many forget there are some facts that need to be considered. First, President Obama has deported more immigrants than both Bush Presidencies combined. Secondly, immigrants have paid more taxes than most major corporations in America. Immigrants pay their fair share more often than the very businesses profiting off our hard earned dollars. With those facts in mind, this Executive Order still increases border patrols and demands taxes be paid by immigrants prior to citizenship. What it also does is protect children, parents of US citizens, and those with long standing ties to this country from being deported and targets employers who exploit and hire undocumented workers.
4 million undocumented immigrants will be spared deportation by this action. There are roughly 12-15 million undocumented immigrants in the US. This Executive Order seeks to help the most vulnerable and committed immigrants become part of our great country, and it’s a step forward to fixing the larger problem but it is not the sole solution. We need the Legislative Branch to do their job and pass comprehensive immigration reform. President Obama has only thrown a Band-Aid on a gaping wound. There are still around 10 million undocumented workers to be addressed and no clear pathway to citizenship available.
We are a nation built on immigrant labor. We maintain a long standing tradition where immigrants overall work hard, pay their fair share, and aspire for the same dream we all have. It is time we treat them like people and not prisoners. CBTU applauds President Obama for taking the first step but we also challenge our elected officials to enact comprehensive reform and reach a resolution before things get worse.
On Oct. 16th Walmart workers and their supporters were arrested in Washington D.C. and New York City as they staged protests against the Walton family. Currently the Waltons hold the same wealth as 43% of all American families combined. While we at CBTU harbor no ill will towards successful business people, we do hold those in contempt who rake in huge profits while forcing their workers to suffer with substandard wages. That is the sad business model Walmart has employed for years to ensure this one family maintains obscene profits. Workers are paid below a living wage, forced to survive on public assistance. This practice has gone on for too long and needs to stop.
On Nov. 28th, workers, families, friends, and union members will be gathering throughout the country to protest Walmart on their highest profit day. Black Friday is a day usually associated with cheap prices, great sales, and mass consumerism. We at CBTU stand with our allies to change the face of Black Friday. This day should no longer stand for cheap prices but rather represent a day we stood up against cheap wages. Workers from Walmart will be uniting with allies throughout the US to demand better wages, better working conditions, and the right for Walmart workers to organize a union.
We call upon all our Regions, Chapters, and Members to join us on Nov. 28th as we take a stand against corporate greed and march towards social justice. The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union is leading the charge mobilizing workers and community members. For more information please visit their Walmart blog at http://www.ufcw.org/category/industries/retail/walmart-retail/. Additionally, to find a protest near you go to http://blackfridayprotests.org/ which has a map with various protest sites.
While as consumers we want cheap goods we must be aware nothing is for free. While Walmart may offer products at a reduced rate, we are paying more as our taxes go to subsidize the wages and health care of their workers, as our communities suffer from local business being forced out, as our local government goes broke due to Walmart tax breaks, and our families are pulled apart by parents needing to work extra jobs to compensate for the low wages they make. There is no free lunch. We have paid the price for Walmart to reap huge profits for too long. It is time we roll back their abusive ways. Join us and others on Nov. 28th to stand with workers.
Currently our brothers and sisters up north are debating a potential $15 an hour minimum wage. If implemented, this would truly be an historic and momentous event. Currently too many workers in North America are struggling to get by. With unskilled, highly replaceable jobs being the largest industries, we find citizens subject to the whimsy and wage scale of employers. These jobs are largely non-union and pay their works the bare minimum. By increasing the minimum wage, the standard of pay elevates across the board.
We support the bold leadership of Canada that is pushing the minimum wage issue. Their bravery in the face of austerity cuts is inspiring and motivational. Keynesian economics looks at how an influx of monies to the lower classes helps ends recessions and depressions. It takes the view point that the average worker will spend their money locally, on local goods, in local businesses infusing much needed revenue into depressed areas. By increasing the minimum wage, Canada would be infusing a hurt amount of disposable monies onto working people who in turn will spend it on their local economy. This will not only enrich Canada, but also provide them with additional revenue to spend potentially infusing more money into the economies of North America.
A rising tide lifts all ships. CBTU supports the efforts in Canada and sees the potential impact it will have on workers there as well as the potential it will have in the United States. For too long Canada has been victimized by a growing US Conservative movement. Hopefully if they succeed US progressive leaders will get the hint and also push to further increase the minimum wage in the States. We support all efforts and encourage our chapters and members to further be involved in the campaign. A win for one is a win for all.
For more information regarding the investigation we recommend you go to http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2014/September/14-crt-937.html which is the department of justice website. Educate yourself on the details and process, get involved for sake of your family and conscience.
We are living once again through the tragic serial drama of America. It is the depressing reality TV we get exposed to every few months. Every episode is different in the details. The actors change, the location is different, the facts vary – but the theme remains the same. An unarmed colored youth (either black or brown) under the age of 18 is tragically murdered by an armed law enforcer. The enforcer can be a cop, a community watch advocate, or a zealot vigilante. That title of the law enforcer isn’t as important as the fact that they are offered a shroud of vindication for attempting to enforce laws. The victim is always unarmed, physically intimidating though still a minor, and engaged in some questionable behavior. The community is always outraged at the murder, committed to demanding justice, and routinely labeled as rioters.
This is the American narrative. As stated earlier, the actors change: from Trayvon Martin to Michael Brown. The law enforcer varies from police officer to vigilant citizen. The neighborhoods range from down south to mid-west. But the narrative is always the same. An unarmed youth is left dead, society vehemently picks sides, and nothing changes. From Trayvon to Michael what have we really learned as a society? What is different beyond the details? Families are still suffering, communities are torn apart, politicians have jostled for position, organizations have ramped up fundraising, and bodies keep coming. It is no longer enough to just ask about Ferguson, MI we have to ask about our society.
These violent incidences are no longer circumstantial. There have been too many for far too long for us to act as if this is unique. These are not isolated incidents; they are endemic results of a societal failure. We are failing our youth when we disregard their deaths. Black or white, big or little, when youth are murdered it is a tragedy. We still mourn Colombine for the deaths of all those kids in that school shooting. We never ask if any victims were physically intimidating, or deserving to be killed, or if they bullied the murderers. We mourned their loss because kids should not be killed. Sadly, when we remove the youth from the school and put them on the streets and change the killer from an unknown to a title we respect, that murder takes on a different shape. We no longer cry for the dead but instead demand evidence.
When our youth die we need to stop running to our camps. Cops need to stop blindly defending their own and the community needs to own up to its members behavior. We need to be honest and upfront. We need to stop seeing this as adversarial and treating it for what it is: a national tragedy. When the dust settles in Ferguson we will be left with a torn community but no lessons moving forward. We will cry for Michael while we wait for the next victim. This needs to stop. Communities need to take back control of their streets. Police need to remember they are community members first. Only cooperation will lead to salvation. No more dead bodies of our babies but rather babies being brought up by their community. We can do this. We have done this. It is time to stop picking sides and build one road for us all to walk down together.
Welcome to the website of CBTU, the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists. CBTU is the fiercely independent voice of Black Workers within the Trade Union Movement.
Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA)
A. Phillip Randolph Institute (APRI)
Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW)
Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA)
Pride at Work
Every 9 1/2 minutes someone is infected with HIV / AIDS.
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Union-to-Union relief effort supports Haitian workers. Click here to read more.