COVID-19 Statement & CBTU Convention

To My CBTU Family,

Our nation is confronting a global pandemic, and we are behind. Every aspect of our life, every loved one in our family, and every occupation we hold has been affected by the coronavirus or the disease COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease-2019). All non-essential jobs have closed. Most states have imposed mandated quarantines and self-isolation. Trans-continental travel has largely been banned and social distancing has replaced socializing. These times are scary, confusing, and deadly. As CBTU President, I feel compelled to speak to this situation and its impact on CBTU activities in the near future.

First and foremost, I ask, implore, and beg all of you to practice self-isolation and social distancing, even if your state or has not ordered you to, yet. This is the globally recommended course of action prescribed by all legitimate healthcare professionals. The economy can only recover if there are enough healthy people to return to work. Therefore, you must stay safe to stay healthy. If you do not have to be outside, then don’t. If you feel the urge to visit a friend or relative, don’t do it. This situation is going to get worse before it gets better. Please, be smart.

After deep deliberation about the lingering effect this health crisis could have, we are suspending our 2020 CBTU International Convention. It would be reckless of us to convene a gathering of over 1,000 people from all over the country into one space. It would be arrogant of us to assume anyone would use valuable disposable income for travel and hotel lodging while this economy is sputtering. It would be negligent of us to ask our retirees, our most vulnerable members, to travel and jeopardize their health. And it would be absolutely unforgiveable for me, as your President, to take no action to preserve the life and safety of all CBTU members as well as the integrity of this organization. I know CBTU only exists because of loyal members like you. We only survive if our members – all of you -- survive. So, we will do everything in our power to protect our members.

All registration for convention will be returned within 30 days of us being allowed back into the CBTU office. Currently we are quarantined from entering the building. If you have paid your registration, you will be given the option to donate those funds to the CBTU Scholarship if you chose to. We are still raising funds for the scholarship and our intent is to still provide an award this year. If you have booked your hotel, you need to cancel that reservation personally. Make sure you get a cancellation receipt.

I am also suspending all face-to-face CBTU meetings. No CBTU chapter executive board, even if under 10 people, should be meeting face-to-face during this emergency. Any meeting that cannot take place through video or phone conferencing should not be scheduled. Technology has advanced to the point where distanced meetings can take place. Chapters or regions that need technological assistance in setting up distanced meetings can contact CBTU headquarters and we will assist you.

Beyond CBTU business, the coronavirus has shaken our nation to its core and thrown a spotlight on the unequal burden of America’s wealth gap. The heroes saving us on the frontlines of this crisis aren’t corporate executives or billionaires or Wall Street traders. They’re everyday people, defined as “essential workers” who treat the sick, drive the buses, deliver the mail, haul away trash, stock the grocery shelves, sanitize restrooms and leave their families so we can stay home safely with our own. These hard-working people, who society relies on the most in crises, are often Black and Brown and the least rewarded – denied a living wage, healthcare, sick leave, pensions and respect. With fresh urgency, we must critically question systems that devalue our labor and leave our communities to be the hardest hit after a disaster strikes. Our economy is out of whack and the wealth gap has become a racial canyon. But when the dust settles, it won’t be forgotten who got us through this.

No praise, in my opinion, should ever reach the ears of this narcissistic president who cares more about the stock exchange than the human death count. His lies and life-threatening decisions make him a public health threat. His obsession with President Obama has led him into a dangerous “one-upmanship.” He has crossed the line from being incompetent to being deadly. His coronavirus advice has gotten someone killed and his Easter call to end social distancing will lead to even more unnecessary deaths. We can’t vote yet, but we must – MUST – mobilize our unions, our churches, our co-workers, relatives, friends, barber, hairdresser, and artists to remove this unfit man from office. Trump has made this a life-and-death election. The stakes can’t get any higher than that.

In the present, though, we must focus on what each of us can do to help all of us get through this crisis together. Although we might be physically isolated, we can still be connected both socially and emotionally. Create a phone or text message tree to check on people outside your immediate family. Offer to pick up groceries or prescriptions for highly vulnerable people. Share videos that can lighten the day or inspirational messages that can replenish the spirit. Start a petition drive in your city to freeze rent, mortgages, utilities during this crisis.

We are not helpless or clueless! We have the power – with phone calls, text messages, online actions – to force decision-makers to do the right thing with the $2 trillion bailout money coming soon from Washington.

• Demand emergency money go to the people first and continue until this crisis ends.
• Support funds for the poor, the homeless and for domestic workers – house cleaners, home care workers and hospice caregivers – who are jeopardizing their health every day for poverty wages and no sick leave or health insurance.
• Ensure adequate safety precautions for incarcerated citizens who can not practice social distancing in overcrowded facilities, but yet are subject to forced labor behind prison bars.

There is also something else very important we can all do at home during this crisis – complete the 2020 Census form on your computer in five minutes. No Excuses! Communities that are undercounted get underfunded. More than 800,000 black people were not counted in 2010 census. That undercount cost black communities millions of dollars in funding for important programs and services. We cannot let that happen again. CBTU is an active partner in Unity 2020 Black Census Week, March 23-29, 2020. I strongly urge all CBTU households to participate in census activities and to complete the form NOW! Submit online at

Finally, CBTU has a long history and tradition of having diligent, honorable and brave members. I know many of you who are on the front lines of this crisis have suffered and your families have had their lives turned upside down. I want to personally thank all of you. Your CBTU family appreciates you, too. I know most of us are having a hard time trying to hold it together, sometimes alone, sometimes on a limited income, sometimes with a precarious health condition. But if our history has shown us anything, it’s that black people across the diaspora are resilient. We always find ways with our determination and genius to weather storms of adversity. So, we WILL get through this moment, too, with faith, dignity and grace.

CBTU & Solidarity Center in Liberia

CBTU Statement on Liberian Labor Congress Training

From Tuesday, November 12th to Thursday, November 14th CBTU and the Solidarity Center conducted a 3-day training with the Liberian Labor Congress (LLC). Under the leadership and facilitation of CBTU President Terrence Melvin, staff of both CBTU and the Solidarity Center, worked with leaders of the LLC and their affiliates to assist them in refocusing and revitalizing their national labor movement. It was an intense and extensive training that challenged norms, confronted grievances, and laid out a road map for the Liberian labor movement to harness their collective strength and build a powerful institution.

Since the end of their civil war and democratic elections in 2005, Liberia has been rebuilding their nation, their infrastructure, their economy, and their labor movement. Faced with over 90% unemployment, Liberia has many economic and structural issues, exacerbated by colonial influence and foreign exploitation. Yet even in the face of all this their Labor Movement and Labor Leaders have successfully organized, united, and advocated for their members and all workers of the nation. A few years ago they merged three different councils into the LLC. As with any merger, there have been some bumps and bruises as they iron out this new relationship. To assist in this endeavor and build a cohesive front, they asked for guidance from CBTU and the Solidarity Center. Together they were able to build a road map for success and a plan to grow their movement for years down the road.

CBTU and President Melvin are committed to working with labor movements all over the world and specifically in the motherland. When the LLC asked for assistance CBTU staff and leadership traveled to the other side of the world to work hand in hand with the LLC to help them figure out the solutions they needed to solve their problems. President Melvin has stated repeatedly that the US Labor Movement is in no place to tell any country how to operate, but rather can provide guidance, advice, assistance, and resources. In three days all those goals were met in intensive workshops and brutally honest dialogue. This work has helped build strong and lasting bonds between CBTU and the LLC and serves as a model of how CBTU can help build movements around the world as an ally, and in now way a patriarchal manner. CBTU honors and respects the brave and courageous leaders of the LLC and will continue to work with them as they move forward.

Passing of ATU Secretary-Treasuer and CBTU Trustee Oscar Owens

CBTU President Statement on the Passing of Oscar Owens

On October 25, 2019, the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) and the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) lost a revered leader and tireless activist with the passing of International Secretary-Treasurer Oscar Owens after a brief illness. Oscar Owens was a leader, a family man, a mentor, an advocate, an organizer, and a friend. He always put the needs of the many over his own, and always sacrificed for the greater good. CBTU sends his family our deepest love and sincerest sympathies as we honor Oscar passing on to the next phase.

Oscar was on the CBTU Executive Committee as a Trustee. He held guide both the mission and the soul of the organization. He aided in the transition in leadership and was instrumental in advancing the agenda of CBTU. In addition to his work with CBTU, Oscar was also a fearless leader at ATU where he worked and was a member for over 53 years. He was always a steady voice, and fierce advocate for justice, both within and outside of his union.

Oscar will be missed by many. He is survived by his wife Betty, his beloved children, Damon, Shuron, DaShawn, Charity, eight grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. He will be missed, but his legacy will never be forgotten. We love and honor Oscar Owens at CBTU and vow to continue his work and life mission.

Support Striking GM Workers

CBTU President Statement on the GM Strike

On Monday, September 16, nearly 50,000 members of the UAW who work for General Motors went on strike for a fair and adequate contract. Both sides appear to be dug in for the long haul. But only one side has right and momentum on their side. Our UAW sisters and brothers made sacrifices for the company during their bankruptcy and bailout. Now,11 years later, their sacrifice has been rewarded with an increase in temporary workers, implementation of a two-tier pay scale, increased health insurance costs and no pay raises. Meanwhile, GM racked up $8 billion in profits worldwide last year and has the gall to pay a CEO over 20 million dollars a year. They wanted UAW members to accept their scraps at the bargaining table. Justifiably, the GM strikers rejected the company’s offer. It is time for these union families to be made whole for their sacrifice and the workers to be compensated properly for their hard, skilled work.

The greed of companies like GM is an outrageous affront to all working people as income inequality in this country skyrockets. But the tide has turned in favor unions standing up for fair pay and fair treatment on the job. The public has strongly supported strikes by teachers, hotel workers, health care workers and others, because Americans are fed up with stagnate wages and soaring CEO pay. Momentum is on the side of UAW strikers. But they need consistent support from the entire labor community to endure and win a just contract that will set the tone for other industries and workers. CBTU calls on all of our chapters, other union members and all workers to stand up in support of the UAW strikers. Show solidarity. Offer assistance where needed. Walk a strike line. Post on social media. Donate supplies.

Remember, not only is an injury to one an injury to all, but a victory for one is a victory for all of us.

Census Will Not Include Citizenship Question

CBTU President Statement on Supreme Court Ruling

On Thursday, June 27, the Supreme Court passed a 5-4 decision blocking the citizenship question from being added to the 2020 Census. This was a major decision, a crucial victory in ensuring that all people are counted in this country, and resources are properly allocated to the localities that need them. This administration has attempted every trick and antic to deny, disenfranchise or delegitimize the vote and voice of Black and Brown people. This decision has shaved off one of many damaging and detrimental policies put forward by this white house.

The US Census has always been political in nature. Its original basis of counting bodies and not citizens was founded on slavery and taking body count regardless of freedoms. Once again, we find a US government willing to utilize the census as a way to disenfranchise people of color. The recently revealed documents of notable Republican strategist, Thomas B. Hofeller, show that the driving force behind the citizenship question was to preserve a white majority and a white male conservative political strong hold. The intention, motivation and premise was entirely based on racism and racial disenfranchisement; and in a rare move, a conservative Supreme Court ruled in our favor.

The 2020 US Census is an important and crucial tabulation of this nation’s residents, regardless of status. So many political and economic decisions are made based on the outcomes. By adding the citizenship question, an attempt was being made to discourage participation. The overall motivation is to dissuade us from participating, from being counted, from being heard. We must be involved and engaged in the census and we must ensure all people are counted and protected.

CBTU lauds the decision of our 5 justices who prevented a potential crisis, but the reality is that we cannot rely on these justices for everything. While ruling against the citizenship question, they allowed racial gerrymandering to stay in place, placing the burden on a rigged election process to right these wrongs. The assaults on our voting rights, our voice and political will are all in jeopardy. Every tool must be used in preserving our liberties and fighting for more. We have not achieved equality and must battle constantly to maintain the gains we have. We have been losing ground over the past two years. This decision was a victory, but we must continue on.

Joe Biden Notches Win in Straw Poll of Black Working-Class Voters - But They’re Still Looking

Sanders Polls in Single Digits and Harris Leads VP Sweepstakes with Black Workers

Atlanta, GA

Presidential candidate Joe Biden scored a decisive victory over his two dozen Democratic rivals today in a straw poll of 800 black working-class voters who are gathered in Atlanta for the 48th International Convention of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU). More than 60 percent of the 616 CBTU members who voted chose Biden over Sen. Kamala Harris (10%).

Notably, Sen. Bernie Sanders polled poorly among this group of voters, a key constituency for the Democratic Party. The Vermont progressive failed to break double digits (9%). Sen. Cory Booker, another presidential contender, also registered an uninspiring 7%.

Even though former Vice President Biden easily lapped his competitors, 30 percent of the black workers who voted in the CBTU poll chose not to pick a candidate, suggesting they are still looking, giving hope to other candidates trying to capitalize on labor’s growing popularity. CBTU President Terry L. Melvin said the high percentage of undecided members indicated “Biden still has to close the deal with black working-class voters, like CBTU members, if he hopes to secure the Democratic nomination.”

Melvin, who is also the secretary-treasurer of the New York state AFL-CIO, said CBTU conducted the poll to counter the one-sided characterization of the American working class. “To many, it looks like black workers have been virtually whitewashed out of mainstream conversations about working class voters,” he said. “We struggle, too. Yet, most narratives centering on so-called ‘blue collar voters’ exclude the concerns, the hurt, the setbacks that African American workers and other ethic workers experience. That racialized blind spot is growing, unfortunately.”

The CBTU poll also added fuel to the hope of a Democratic “Dream Ticket” – Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, who received the highest percentage and number of votes for vice president [31%/184 votes]. Cory Booker finished behind Harris in the VP voting.

Melvin said the strong showing of Harris and Booker for the VP spot sends an important message to the Democratic Party. “There better be some color on the Democratic ticket if you want to fully energize and maximize black voter turnout in 2020.”

The CBTU poll also ranked issues that resonate the most with black working-class voters. The top five issues of concern were: 1. Earning a living wage (61%) 2. Criminal justice reform (55%) 3. Voter suppression (52%) 4. Gun violence (46%) 5. Protecting Medicare (45%)

“How often,” Melvin asked, “do you see criminal justice reform or gun violence or voter suppression mentioned in the concerns of so-called “blue collar voters? That’s why CBTU’s voice is relevant and timely.”

CBTU, whose membership comes from 77 international unions, has been the independent voice of black union workers since 1972, when 1,200 activists bucked the “neutrality” stance of the powerful AFL-CIO and endorsed progressive Democrat George McGovern for president. In 2007, CBTU was the first labor organization to endorse then-Senator Barack Obama when he launched his long-shot bid to win the Democratic nomination for president.

One of every seven union members is African American, making black labor an influential voice in the 2020 conversation.

Black Workers Vote on Candidates and Issues


CBTU Straw Poll on Primary Candidates and Top Issues
  At the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists 48th International Convention, held at the Hyatt Regency, the first Black Straw Poll of 2019 was conducted. Attendees from all over the country were asked to weigh in on which primary candidate would they vote for President and Vice-President, and what are the top 5 issues. By a resounding margin, a Joe Biden-Kamala Harris was the preferential choice. The top issues were Jobs with Living Wage, Criminal Justice Reform, Voting Rights Protection, Ending Gun Violence, and Medicare/Social Security. Click on each link below to see the graph of top results.
President Graph VP Graph Issues