Convention Newswire

Follow the Convention Live
Once again, the main plenary sessions and town hall and awards dinner will be LIVE streamed online. Starting Thursday, May 26th, the live link will be posted on CBTU's homepage and in social media posts throughout the convention.

View CBTU LIVE  |  View the schedule

Convention Hashtag: #CBTU45th
Share your convention experience and thoughts about CBTU speakers, panels, workshops, events - and even fashion on social media. Please use the convention hashtag of #CBTU45th in your posts. A special hashtag for CBTU's 2016 get-out-the-vote campaign will be released on the opening day of the convention. Stay woke...

Race & Labor Workshop Kicks off Convention
No topic is more volatile yet central to America's present and labor's future than race. Bill Fletcher, Jr., an internationally-recognized racial justice and labor activist, will lead a timely all-day workshop on understanding race, racism and the American labor movement. Seating is limited for this coveted workshop on Wednesday, May 25th, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. [check the program for the workshop room]

Exclusive CBTU Screening of Maya Angelou Documentary
CBTU is honored to host an exclusive screening of "And Still I Rise" the forthcoming documentary on the life of Dr. Maya Angelou. The 94-minute film will be shown to convention delegates and guests on Friday evening, May 27th, at the Washington Hilton hotel. It will be presented by Chris Gardner, whose incredible rags-to-riches life story was brought to the big screen by Will Smith in the movie "The Pursuit of Happyness." Chris is also very much CBTU "family."

President Terry Melvin


Environmental Justice: A CBTU Call to Action

The rash of residents exposed to the ravishing effects of lead toxicity, which has recently reared its ugly head in Flint, Michigan, reminds us once again that hazardous substances in the air, water, and soil - among unsuspecting communities - is a threat to the health and well -being of virtually every man, woman, and child on planet Earth. The only ones that have managed to escape this wrath of environmental terrorism are those who live in nonindustrialized countries. But ironically even they are not exempt. Global warming, fueled by CO2 from burning fossil fuel, is wiping out islands and coastal areas where large numbers of indigenous people reside, literally demolishing anyone and anything in the path of melting ice caps and rising sea levels.

While absorption of lead in the body is damaging to any age group, children are especially at risk. The impact of this insidious element, even in small amounts, can cause serious irreversible intelligence impairment among the innocent. We hear the Flint stories all too often, and the time for these kinds of nefarious behaviors to stop is long past overdue.

Flint Michigan, CBTU CARAT Team It is imperative that CBTU members stand together to continue exposing the truth and speaking out against the injurious nature of harmful chemicals in our neighborhoods and in our workplaces. By our own hands we must turn the tide against these silent slayers of health in our midst. In many cities across the country, CBTU labor-community environmental justice alliances help keep these issues in the forefront. Through its network of CARAT Teams, CBTU continues to expose perpetrators and keep environmental issues on the minds of those who will “heed the need” to help rid our communities of toxic chemicals that shorten life spans and destroy quality of life.

This year at Convention 2016 on Saturday morning CBTU will host a plenary session on Environmental Justice. Flint Now: Who and What Else Is Out There Killing Us Softly? The CARAT Team will enlist the thoughts and concerns of experts in the field of environmental health and environmental justice activists to share their knowledge and skills on how we can fight back! We can help give our children a chance to grow up healthy and free of diseases and conditions caused by hazardous chemicals and biological and physical agents. First we must become truly informed.

This is a CBTU Environmental Justice Call To Action. Each of us in our respective cities should get busy finding out what environmental hazards we may face. Look up EPA's Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) in your county. Find out who the polluters are. See to it that the water in old houses is tested to determine if lead is present from corroded pipes. Ask if your water is exceeding the standard for total trihalomethanes. Inquire about the location of abandoned waste sites and solid waste disposal facilities. Look at the trucks and railroad tankers and box cars that come through your communities every day carrying toxic chemicals that are mere miles away from another disastrous life-threatening spill. Mobilize your bases and demand that research be conducted on why so much diabetes, pancreatitis, and pancreatic cancer exists in our communities. Come to convention prepared to join in the discussion about what to do when friends, family and loved ones may be at risk. Let's do our part to make our communities hazard-free safe places to live.

Black History Month Celebration with AFL-CIO and CBTU

160 union members and community activists gathered at Laborers Local 42 for an AFL-CIO and CBTU Black History Month Symposium called "A Future for Workers: A Contribution from Black Labor." They came together to develop a plan for a fresh perspective on how to advance the labor movement that focuses on power over grievances, and connecting with workers around issues they can care about-such as criminal justice, education, jobs/economy, voter ID/voter suppression, and the future for workers.

Fred Redmond and Mary Armstrong

The program was moderated by Fred Redmond, national AFL-CIO Vice President and A. Philip Randolph Institute chairman, also one of the authors of the report "A Future for Workers: Contribution from Black Labor" Mr. Redmond served as Moderator. Mr. Redmond stated, "In the aftermath of the shooting of Michael Brown and AFL-CIO President Trumka's visit to Ferguson in September, 2014, some of us started having discussions about how labor needs to become a part of the larger community and have a discussion on race." The report "A Future of Workers: Contribution from Black Labor" was developed from those discussions. View more photos

Mr. Redmond noted, how the Great Black Labor Leader A Philip Randolph , raised the question about how labor need to have a discussion on race at the 1959 AFL-CIO Convention, AFL-CIO President George Meany shut him down and stated "who gave you the right to speak for all Negros" much to the applause of the white delegate present.

Panelists were Lew Moye (CBTU), Jamala Rogers (OBS), Mary Armstrong (AFT Local 420), Atty. Denise Lieberman (Advancement Project) and John Bowman UAW-LETC Apprenticeship Coordinator.

The panel presentations were followed by a Q & A dialogue. Then the union members and community activist developed five (5) issues work groups (1) Voter ID and Voter Suppression Laws, (2) Criminal Justice, (3) Education, (4) Jobs and Economy and (5) the Labor Movement and each work group reported to the entire body their findings.

The task of each issue group was to develop action steps that can be taken to bring communities of color and the labor movement closer together on the issues discussed.

From the Criminal Justice group it was pointed out that the United States has the highest incarnation rate in the world with Black and Hispanics making the largest percentage. We know the rates of incarceration are grossly high in the Black Community, especially in contrast to other demographics. How do we challenge the myth that this is due to Black people being criminals. Reform is needed but it gets lost in a debate over punishing crime.

In response to this myth Jamala Rogers stated "we learned from Ferguson about the racial profiling that has taken place for decades, it is not so much black people being criminals. It is the criminalizing of our communities (with phony tickets, unjust jail time and fines) by the police, courts, judges, city managers and mayors to finance their city budgets."

The Voter Suppression working group noted that the Republican led Missouri Legislature are pushing bills that encroach on the Constitutional Right to Vote. Attorney Denise Lieberman stated "today in America we are seeing the greatest roll back to voting rights that we have seen in more than century." A call was made for organize labor, to launch a full scale operation in opposition to voter id and voter suppression bills in the Missouri legislature.

Labor Movement session noted that Organized Labor has long held the mantle of the champion of social justice. Yet in the wake of the Black Lives Matter Movement labor has been notoriously silent. Labor is the number one path to getting the Black Community out of poverty. In response Lew Moye stated "one of the most difficult discussion for union members and leaders to have, is an honest discussion about race and how to confront it." "We need to get beyond past and current union leaders failure to address race and economic justice issues, it should be on the agenda of all local and state union meetings." Mr. Moye went on to state "Black rank and file members and Black union leaders must insist that Black Justice is a part of organize labor agenda."

During the symposium it was it was pointed out that the Republican led state representatives passed a back door "Right to Work" bill under the phony name" Pay Check Protection" and in reality it is Pay Check Deception and a directed attack on public workers. The bill if pass by the Senate would make it extremely difficult for public employees such as city and state workers, teachers, and other working people to exercise their right to organize, collective bargain, and collect union dues through pay roll deductions. It was asked of everyone present, to contact their State Senators to vote against the bill.

Mr. Redmond joined the United Steelworkers (USW) union when he went to work at the Reynolds Metals Co. in McCook, IL in 1973. He worked his way up from shop steward to International Vice President of USW.

2016 45th CBTU International Convention Call

I am pleased to issue the official convention call to the 45th International Convention of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU). This year the convention will be held in Washington, DC at the Washington Hilton Hotel, 1919 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20009 from May 26-30, 2016. The theme is An Injury to One - An Injustice to All. All general convention sessions will be held at the Washington Hilton Hotel.

This year we are doing things a bit differently. We are facing tough challenges as a people, as a movement, and as an organization. Our goal for convention has always been to train, educate, and mobilize members. This year we are trying to add more trainings and expand on our mobilization. Brothers and sisters we must be prepared, we must be equipped, and must be ever diligent in these times.

Beginning on Tuesday, May 24th we will be offering the Carol Anderson Leadership Institute Training as well as Common Sense Economics - Criminal Justice Reform Train the Trainer. Both trainings require certain criteria, commitments, and pre-registration. On Wednesday, May 25th, back by popular demand, our Brother Bill Fletcher will be hosting an all day workshop/seminar entitled Understanding, Race, Racism, & Organized Labor in the USA. Seating is limited so pre-registration is required as well. We invite you to take full advantage of the opportunities offered this year.

Our theme encapsulates our current situation. Injustice is rampant for working men and women. Our speakers, panelists, and workshops will provide information as well as ways to get activated on a local level. I hope you join us either in person or via our live webstream from the website.

Registration for the 2016 convention can be done by downloading forms online at the CBTU website,

Should you have any questions or need additional information, please call the CBTU International office at 202-778-3318 or email us at

2016: Soul Searching Our Identity

2016 is officially upon us. The candles have faded on 2015 as we usher in this New Year with new challenges. Every year brings its own set of trials and obstacles but 2016 brings a particularly difficult set of choices for us. We as a nation, as a country, as a collective, as a community are facing an identity crisis. As we look in the mirror of the New Year we must decide who that face is we see in the reflection. We as workers must decide what type of country we want to live and what values we want to stand for. The dilemma is clearly defined:

Criminal Justice: Are we a nation that has the world’s highest rates of incarceration, where convicts are determined by race and class? Are we ok with a penalization system versus a correctional model? Too many years and too much data have proven our criminal justice system is unjust. It is unjust to those incarcerated, it is unfair to those tasked to monitor inmates, it is unhealthy for our communities, and it is destructive to our families. So what type of justice do we need and are we going to continue to accept this inadequate model?

Jobs: Jobs are the fuel that keeps this country running. 2015 saw our fight for good jobs with the Fight for Fifteen and the opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Yet these good jobs are too few and rapidly exported. How do we claim to be this great nation when our leaders do everything to ensure no one can have healthy employment? Is America the country of underemployment or the land of opportunity? Policies, lobbyists, electeds, and the elite are answering this question for us. When will we begin to answer it for ourselves?

Race: Black Lives Matter. It has to be said because we are living through systemic devaluation of Black Lives. We are not a Color Blind Nation. We see race all too clearly. Will we continue to hide in shame of the slave legacy or shall we own our past to build a better future? We will never find a solution to this race problem if we continue to deny that a problem exists. We cannot fix the future if we deny our past.

Politics: Are we a country for all people or just an elite few? Do we elect leaders or fear mongers? Do we find comfort in our hate or in our diversity? We will elect a leader who will embody one of two visions of America. Which vision will it be? Will this person unite us under one banner or divide us with our fear?

It is up to us brothers and sisters to decide what our face looks like when we stare in the mirror. The battle is for our identity, it is for our soul, it is for our future. The clock is ticking as our children watch to see what America they will inherit when we pass it on. Let us use 2016 to put our best face forward for a better tomorrow. Let it be one that is built on hope and success instead of demagoguery and oppression.

Canadian Elections - Get Out and Vote

On October 19 Stephen Harper resigned as Conservative Party leader following a decisive electoral defeat in the Canadian Federal Election. Throughout the election, CBTU spoke out on the issues because our community knows that: All Black Lives Matter, carding and mass incarceration is an injustice, Fair Wages should be a right not a choice, trade unions lift workers’ wages and benefits, migrant workers deserve better labor standards, refugees should be welcomed, childcare promotes gender equality, climate change impacts upon our communities and access to education increases equality and job opportunities. . The Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, Ontario Canada Chapter issued a report card on each political party platform during the election and the Conservative Party consistently received the lowest scores. Voters resoundingly rejected Harper’s republican inspired promises to the wealthy and racist based appeals to “old stock” Canadians.

Since the beginning of election season CBTU Members have spoken out during open strategy sessions in Toronto, London, Ottawa and Halifax. Members spoke out in the media, sent messages through social media, knocked on doors, made calls and spoke to friends and neighbors one-to-one day in and day out. CBTU, Ontario Canada’s Black Votes Matter campaign reached over 10,000 voters with the support of the African Canadian Legal Clinic, Canadian Labour Congress, Ontario Federation of Labour and the Midaynta Community Services.

CBTU will not stop speaking out on the issues that matter to our community because of a Liberal majority government. We have learned too often that leaders campaign to do good and then become silent to our concerns when the economy is not doing well. CBTU intends to continue to work with our community partners, our labour allies and endorsed candidates both North and South of the border to fight for a society where we and our children no longer have to carry the weight of racial oppression. CBTU, Ontario Canada has already started planning our participation in the World Social Forum next year in Montreal and will continue to support spaces for ongoing resistance. Our ancestors fought and died to win the right to be human beings, to be given equal rights and we intend to continue that struggle until victory is won. Our Northern Brothers and Sisters showed us the way and set the bar for voting in 2015. CBTU members are remaining active and engaged. October 19th was a moment: not the end of our resistance to racial discrimination and struggle for social justice, fairness and equality. The struggle is our lives.

Black Trade Union Leaders Speak Out on The Future of the Labor Movement in New Report

Download 'A Future for Workers' Report

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:

  • For the past 50 years, the unemployment rate for African American workers has been at least double that of their white counterparts.
  • At its lowest point, when white male median earnings dropped to $37,000 in 1981, it was still higher than the peak median earnings of $34,118 that black men reached in 2006 -- 25 years later.

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.”

Download 'A Future for Workers' Report

Download 'A Future for Workers' Report - Executive Summary

Bloomberg BNA Daily Labor Report - Media Coverage