CBTU COMMENTARY

The February Jobs Report: “Don’t Be Fooled: Dark Clouds Gather.”

Rev. Terry L. Melvin, President of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists,

The Labor Department’s announcement that the U.S. economy added 235,000 jobs in February, while the unemployment rate dipped to 4.7 percent was universally hailed as good news – on Wall Street, in the White House, and in the media. The so-called “Trump bump” was credited for the jobs rally, leading commentators to speculate that the president might actually be able to deliver on his campaign promise of “huge” job growth, far better than under President Obama, whose legacy haunts him daily.

But tucked inside the report are more troubling figures that could portend an economy becoming even more inequitable to black workers than to their white counterparts, a trend that could have far-reaching implications. The number of black workers employed last month dropped by 67,000, while white workers experienced a stunning surge of 429,000 new jobs. That reversed a pattern of upward job growth for black workers under President Obama. Similarly, while the number of unemployed white workers declined by nearly 250,000 last month, black unemployment reversed its downward trend under President Obama, spiking up by 72,000 people in February.

This is not an encouraging sign for black folks in a Trump-led economy. He has promised to slash public sector jobs (excluding the military). He has scorned advocates of a minimum wage hike. He has condoned the venomous bigotry of the alt-right.

There will be those who casually dismiss our concerns. As one writer said today, “There just aren’t that many people left unemployed.” Wrong! They are just too black or brown, and they live in overlooked zip codes. Indeed, the failure to recognize that the black working class is, indeed, a central component of the larger working class -- and not some marginal sub-category – has led many to ignore persistent disparities.

  • 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 2010, the wealth of white households was eight times black household wealth, but it jumped to 13 times the median wealth of black households in 2013 – an astounding 50 percent jump in only three years.

Such entrenched disparities (even worse for black women) have given rise to divergent views of the economy. From the black perspective, the jobs crisis, persistent low-wages and racial bias are the crux of the economic calamity ravaging many black communities.

For millions of white workers, though, the rising economic tide, even if late and unsteady, has lifted their boats. That’s why Trump’s coded appeal to racial identity and nationalism (“Take Our Country Back,” or “Let’s Make America Great Again”) caught so many Democrats off-guard in the last presidential election.

Yet, in spite of the long-term economic recovery that started under President Obama, the jobs crisis in Black America is still real, still killing dreams and still handcuffing too many of our young men and women. Though we might pretend to be hopeful about Trump’s hand on the economy, history teaches us to believe what our eyes see.

Don’t be fooled: dark clouds gather.


Betsy DeVos Needs to Be Educated


CBTU President Criticizes Education Secretary Comments on HBCs


Statement of Rev. Terry Melvin
President, Coalistion of Black Trade Unionists

On February 27 Education Secretary Betsy DeVos held a listening session with Historically Black College (HBC) Leaders. We commend Mrs. DeVos for taking time to listen to the numerous constituents she represents. As someone with little to no experience in the education system it is imperative that she meet with leaders and enlighten herself on the machinations of the Department of Education. We hope she continues to better prepare herself for the job at hand. Sadly, while we commend her for her listening skills, we wish she would stay silent on subjects until she has been fully informed and educated on the materials.

After her meeting with leaders from HBCs she released a statement that was both inaccurate and insulting at the same time. The statement lacked any insight into the history and conditions that necessitated the rise of HBC’s throughout this country, and instead sought to exploit institutions founded on fighting exploitation to advance her political agenda.

As an advocate for the destruction of public education, Mrs. DeVos has championed “school choice” over providing the necessary resources and support that would make our public schools function efficiently and effectively. In her biased pursuit of privatized education she continues to find ways to validate her destructive viewpoints. She made such an attempt by claiming HBC’s were “pioneers for school choice.” Saying HBCs were about school choice is like saying fleeing slaves picked the North because of the climate. HBCs were established not to provide Black kids with a choice on how to get away from public education, but instead to offer them the only option available for higher education.

HBCs were founded due to Black students being denied access to higher education opportunities offered to white students. Calling HBCs a school choice implies there were other options, which is not only a falsehood but a sign of ignorance that whitewashes the struggles of millions of Blacks who had to fight to be educated. Trump’s Education Secretary needs to be educated. The Department of Education is meant to serve and support our Public Education System and not a consumerist education system. Mrs. DeVos needs to understand that Trump University is a school choice but HBCs are a necessity for a historically disenfranchised population. Mrs. DeVos needs to speak on behalf of all the kids in public education. But before she opens her mouth she needs to go back to school.

CBTU, which was founded in 1972, is the largest, independent voice of more than 2.2 million African American workers in labor unions today. With more than 50 chapters in major U.S. cities and one in Ontario, Canada, CBTU is dedicated to addressing the unique concerns of black workers and their communities. CBTU is a strong supporter of low-wage workers who are fighting for respect and the right to have a voice on their jobs.

In 2007, CBTU provided critical early union support for Barack Obama’s historic campaign for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in 2008, introducing him to black voters who were very skeptical then that an African American could ever reach the Oval Office. CBTU went on to galvanize tens of thousands of African American voters and union households in key states on behalf of President Obama’s victorious campaigns in 2008 and 2012.

Rev. Terry L. Melvin, who was elected to lead the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists in 2012, is also the secretary-treasurer of the powerful New York State AFL-CIO. He succeeded CBTU President Emeritus William (Bill) Lucy, the iconic labor leader who co-founded CBTU in 1972.


Puzner

CBTU Celebrates Withdrawal of Puzder Nomination


CBTU President Statement on the Withdrawn of Andrew Puzder as Labor Secretary


Activists, Laborists, and workers all over this country celebrated the victory yesterday of the withdrawal for nomination for Labor Secretary by Andrew Puzder. We at CBTU are overjoyed to see such a person, so hostile to working men and women, decline to take the post he was nominated for. While we commend our Senators, both Democratic and Republican, for taking such a strong stance again him, it was through the collective voice of the people that we were able to force him to step aside. This is ray of sunshine through the clouds proving our voice has value and our actions merit.

Mr. Puzder is the CEO of CKE Restaurants, the owner of Carl’s Junior and Hardy’s Restaurant chain. As CEO he has faced numerous labor violations for wage theft and has used gratuitous sex iconography and the vulgar exploitation of women in promoting his products. Additionally it has come out that he has employed an undocumented worker and then never reported her wages. Once again Trump nominees’ stands in diametric opposition to their nominated positions and are living hypocrisies of the President’s statements. Working men and women have won a small victory for protecting the dignity and respect they deserve on the job.

But moving forward we have much work to do and more challenges. The appointment of Jeff Sessions to Attorney General and Betsy DeVos to Education Secretary are still deeply disturbing and troubling. A man who was too racist in the 1980’s to hold a judgeship will now be overseeing the enforcement of laws that are historically biased to Black, Brown, and low income areas. Mrs. DeVos walked into a public school for the first time in her life a few days ago. She has no concept or firsthand knowledge of how public education works and the value it provides our future generations.

CBTU is pleased to know we will not have to combat Mr. Puzder what we can assume would be archaic and exploitative practices as Secretary of Labor. Yet all this means is that we will face another person who scorns working people, as that is the caliber of nominee this President has chosen. The battle is far from over but for today let us be reminded of the voice and will of the people. Let us not forget that we are the change agents of society. Let us continue to make America work for all people again


2017 46th CBTU International Convention Call

January 2017

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am pleased to issue the official convention call to the 46th International Convention of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU). This year the convention will be held in New Orleans, LA at the New Orleans Hilton Riverside, 2 Poydras St, New Orleans, LA 70130 from May 24-29, 2017. The theme is “Organizing for Change - Building Our Future”. All general convention sessions will be held at the New Orleans Hilton Riverside, but there is also housing at Loews at 300 Poydras St, New Orleans, LA 70130.

We face some serious challenges ahead and there is no guarantee what the world will look like come May, but it will definitely be different and it will definitely require us to be prepared and trained to face these hurdles. Last year showed us that participants were invested in the skills building pieces and so we are focusing this year on organizing. On providing the skills and trainings many of us need to do this work.

Beginning on Tuesday, May 23rd we will be offering Leadership Training as well as Common Sense Economics - Criminal Justice Train the Trainer. Both trainings require certain criteria, commitments, and pre-registration. Please get the special registration form in if you’re interested in attending. On Wednesday, May 24th, back by popular demand, our Brother Bill Fletcher will be hosting an all day workshop/seminar. 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. We need to be better organized, better trained, and better prepared. These are not friendly times and we must be organized to ensure our jobs and our future are preserved for the next generation. I hope you join us and be part of this.

Registration for the 2017 convention can be done by downloading forms online at the CBTU website, www.cbtu.org.

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

See you in New Orleans

Rev. Terrence L. Melvin


The Passing of CBTU Founding Member William “Bill” Simons III

Another pillar of CBTU has passed away. Bill Simons, beloved and revered and one of the founding members of CBTU, died peacefully Wednesday, December 7th, in Atlanta, where he lived with his daughter. At this time, no details are available about funeral arrangements or where to send condolences to his family. As soon as such information is confirmed, we will share it with Brother Simons's CBTU family and friends.

To say William H. Simons III is a legend shortchanges his immense influence on CBTU, the DC labor labor movement and public education in the District of Columbia. Bill was always at the center of effforts to empower workers and advance racial equality. He joined William (Bill) Lucy, Charles A. Hayes, Cleve Robinson and Nelson Jack Edwards in calling for the historic gathering of black trade unionists in 1972 that launched the Coalition of BlackTrade Unionists and thereby ensured African Americans would have their own independent voice heard inside the labor movement.

Brother Simons was a key architect of CBTU's policy and parliamentary framework, and he served as CBTU's first national secretary. He also was elected the first president of the Washington Teachers' Union. He held the position for 25 years, leading two teacher strikes and negotiating landmark contracts.

Brother Simons took great pride in having his life and career chronicled in Christine Easterling's definitive biography entitled, "A Giant for Justice: Inspirational Biography of William H. Simons III." Even after turning 90 years old, Brother Simons still attended CBTU's annual convention in 2015 (Atlanta).

Bill Simons' effervescent smile, robust laugh and deep humility will be sorely missed by those of us who were touched by his presence and his wisdom.

He was 92 years old. His death leaves CBTU President Emeritus William "Bill" Lucy as the last living founding member.

We send our deepest condolences to the Simons family and offer CBTU’s help in any way possible during this difficult time.


President Terry Melvin

US Elections – Where Do We Go From Here?

The United States Electoral College has deemed that Donald Trump is the President Elect. After a contentious and at points despicable election cycle, we have ended up with a president that has children crying in fear for their future and a nation badly divided where half of eligible voters did not participate and a deceased gorilla got 11,000 votes. Now the analysis and dissection of this process has been done by scholars and thinkers far beyond our scope. But we do not need a PhD to know the truth is we are a deeply divided country where wealth continues to exploit the working.

The conditions we will face under a Trump Presidency will be similar to the challenges we face now. Unemployment will still be crippling to our communities. Access to affordable and adequate healthcare will still be a problem. Our education system will still be designed to fail our urban and low income youth. Racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and xenophobia will still be a social pariah that inhibits our growth as a nation and oppresses millions leaving scars for generations. This is what we are fighting today, and what we will be fighting tomorrow.

The problem of course is that conditions will be worse, resistance harder. For those who want to give the president elect an opportunity to lead, his current cabinet and staff selections are disheartening at best and frightening at worst. Jeff Sessions has gone on record saying Dominican Americans provide nothing to this country. Steve Bannon has built his career on white nationalism and attacking the melting pot of the US. Gen. Mathis wants more war, Rep. Tom Price wants to end the ACA, Wall Street got head-hunted for cabinet positions, and the Vice President thinks torture masked as therapy can convert a person. These are the people tapped to lead our nation. Their past positions inform us of their future decisions and currently their actions have a disdain and overt aggression against those they deem as the “Other.”

So where do we go from here? No one ever said this road was easy. The answers for next steps are the same answers as to how we ended up at this point. We need to invest in building infrastructure in our communities. Not just roads and jobs, but community alliances, and social bonds that tie each other to mutual success and accomplishments. We must demand good jobs along with good schools along with fair treatment for all. We can no longer rely on a friendly government to stand on the side lines. We know what we have to do. We just have to do it.


AFL-CIO Constituency Groups Stand with Native Americans to Stop the Dakota Access Pipeline

Washington, DC - Together, the Labor Coalition for Community Action, which includes the A. Phillip Randolph Institute, the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, the Coalition of Labor Union Women, the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, and Pride at Work, rises in solidarity with Native Americans and our allies in protesting against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and defending Native lands from exploitation by corporations and the U.S. government. We advocate for a progressive labor movement rooted in dignity and respect of all peoples, including Native Americans and their families.

Though cited to bring 4,500 jobs, the Dakota Access Pipeline seriously threatens tribal sovereignty, sacred burial grounds, and the water supply of the Standing Rock Sioux and potentially 17 million others. As organizations dedicated to elevating the struggles of our respective constituencies, we stand together to support our Native American kinfolk – one of the most marginalized and disenfranchised groups in our nation’s history – in their fight to protect their communities from further displacement and exploitation. We recognize this systematic oppression that so intimately resonates with many communities of color and marginalized populations, whether it be fighting for lead-free water in Flint to uncontaminated water in North Dakota.

We remain committed to fighting the corporate interests that back this project and name this pipeline “a pipeline of corporate greed.” We challenge the labor movement to strategize on how to better engage and include Native people and other marginalized populations into the labor movement as a whole. Lastly, we applaud the many labor unions working to create a new economy with good green jobs and more sustainable employment opportunities for all. We also encourage key stakeholders — labor unions including the building trades, the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and others who would be impacted — to come together to discuss a collective resolution.

As we just recently recognized Native American Women’s Equal Pay Day and as we approach November – a time that marks not only a significant change in our country’s leadership but also the celebration of Native American Heritage Month – we will continue to campaign and organize for a broader agenda that secures the rights for all working people in all communities.


Peace Deal Reached in Columbia

For over 50 years the country of Colombia has been embroiled in a violent and ugly civil war. Throughout this time there have been many allegations, accusations, and assassinations on both sides of the conflict. The Colombian government had been in armed conflict with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (aka FARC). CBTU is elated that after 50 years of war a peace agreement was finally been reached. We commend the government of Colombia and the leadership of FARC for putting down their weapons and striking a truce. This much needed peace will hopefully provide the safety and security millions of Colombians have been hoping for over the last five decades.

On October 2nd the citizens of Colombia will vote on the referendum regarding the peace agreement. The people will have a say on the matter, but until then an armistice has been reached and a truce has been enacted. There are still many open wounds, many broken families, and many funerals to be remembered between now and then. But, this is a step in the right direction. This civil war has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of lives and displaced millions of people. It has destroyed communities and families. It has enriched the cocaine drug cartels as both sides used narcotics as a means to generate revenue. It has left blood on the hands of many, including those within our own government.

One demographic that has been targeted and has suffered some of the worst casualties from both sides of the conflict are the Afro-Colombians. Making up 2 million of 6 million people, this group has faced some of the worst displacement, violence, and unemployment of any other major constituency in the country. In October CBTU joined a delegation to begin building bridges and bolstering solidarity with them. In May, a delegation of Afro-Colombians attended our Convention and spoke with not only our leadership, but with our members as well. This led to the passage of Resolution 11: Support Afro-Colombian Participation in the Peace Process at our convention and empowered CBTU to take a more public and vocal stance on the fighting in the country and the oppression of our brothers and sisters.

CBTU does not want to get into the politics of blame but rather commends all parties for finally finding a way to end this conflict and bring stability back to the country. CBTU supports our Afro-Colombian brothers and sisters who were harshly targeted in the fighting. We also support our union organizing brothers and sisters who were falsely labeled Communists and became some of the biggest casualties of this war. But most importantly we at CBTU support the people of Colombia. We hope that this truce will allow them to rebuild from almost a half-century of war. CBTU commends the governments of Colombia and FARC, we endorse this peace treaty, and we hope that no more lives have to be lost.


FLINT NOW: WHO AND WHAT ELSE IS OUT THERE KILLING US SOFTLY?

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 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