Vernon Watkins


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

Download CBTU Farewell Tribute to Vernon Watkins

Charles Hayes

Charles "Charlie" Hayes

Congressman, Union Leader, Statesman, Community and Civil Rights Activist

Early life/career

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.

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William Lucy

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.

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President Terry Melvin

Shooting of UNC Muslim Students

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

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 -

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.

Right to Work Fight in Missouri

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.

44th International Convention


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, Simply click on the “Registration” link on the 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

See you in Chicago!

In Solidarity,
Rev. Terrence L. Melvin, President

APRI, CBTU Sponsor Joint Study on the State of the Black Community in America and Organized Labor’s Role in Building a Fairer Society

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.

Bringing In a New Year - What Lies Ahead in 2015

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.

CBTU President Statement on Ferguson Grand Jury Decision

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.

CBTU President Supports President Obamas’ Executive Order on Immigration Reform

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.

CBTU President Supports Walmart Protests on Black Friday

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 Additionally, to find a protest near you go to 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.

CBTU President Supports Minimum Wage Increase in Canada

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 which is the department of justice website. Educate yourself on the details and process, get involved for sake of your family and conscience.

Labor Leader Address Violence in Ferguson, MO

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.