Black Trade Unionists Open New Era with the

Election of Terry L. Melvin to Lead CBTU

William (Bill) Lucy ends his historic tenure at the helm of CBTU after redefining the role African American workers in unions over four decades.

President Terry Melvin

Washington, DC

A new era has dawned in the American labor movement with the election of Terrence (Terry) L. Melvin as the new president chosen to lead the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists. Melvin, who is also the secretary-treasurer of the powerful New York State AFL-CIO, succeeds William (Bill) Lucy, the iconic labor leader who had held the position since he co-founded CBTU in 1972. Melvin was elected unanimously over the past weekend by delegates who attended CBTU’s international convention in St. Louis, MO.

 In his final keynote speech as CBTU president, Lucy told delegates “I believe it’s time for a new leader to step into these shoes and connect with young workers who need their generation out front in more leadership roles.” He then endorsed Melvin. “I believe Terry Melvin is ready to step into these shoes. He’s paid his dues. As secretary-treasurer of the New York state AFL-CIO and as a member of the CBTU Executive Council, Terry has shown me and others in this room that he’s the right person to lead CBTU through the challenges we face as an organization.”

 Lucy’s 40-year tenure at the helm of CBTU makes him the longest-serving president of a national labor organization in U.S. history. Under his leadership, CBTU became a reliable voice for progressive change within the labor movement and a key player in mobilizing black voters on the local and national level – from helping Harold Washington become Chicago’s first elected black mayor in 1983, to helping Barack Obama secure the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in 2008.

 Melvin, who was already a member of the CBTU national executive council and a founding member of the CBTU Buffalo Chapter, acknowledged Lucy’s towering legacy. “Nobody can ever replace Bill Lucy. He is a beloved icon around the world. That’s why I am so humbled to have the privilege of holding the office he defined for so many years with brilliance, guts and grace.”

Melvin began his union career in 1980 as a member of CSEA Local 427 in Western New York. He quickly rose through the ranks of CSEA, a statewide union representing over 250,000 public and private sector workers throughout New York. He became the youngest CSEA local president in December 1983, when he was elected to lead CSEA Local 427 at age 21. In 1996, CSEA President Danny Donohue appointed Melvin as his executive assistant, making him responsible for the day-to-day activities in the president’s office.

Since being elected secretary-treasurer of the 2.5 million-member New York State AFL-CIO in 2007, Melvin has championed the development of strong ties between labor, religious organizations and community partners. With this, in December 2008, he spearheaded the development of the NYS AFL-CIO Community Outreach Department, which he oversees the day-to-day operations.

In the political arena, Melvin has worked continuously to increase voter registration as well as to promote get-out-the-vote drives. He is also active in national, state, local, city and school board elections.

After starting the CBTU Buffalo Chapter, Melvin was elected in 1996 to be director of CBTU Region One, which represents trade unionists in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Ontario, Canada.  Since then, he was regularly re-elected due to his tireless work to increase communication and activism throughout Region One.  He was also focused on creating sustainable chapters in the region.   During his tenure, CBTU Region One grew from five to nine active chapters.

In his acceptance remarks after taking the oath of office, Melvin warned CBTU members not to fall into the trap of nostalgia or complacency.   “We cannot rely on CBTU’s golden legacy to protect our collective bargaining rights today. We must fight like hell now – again and again.

Our place in the voting booth is not reserve, either. We must fight voter suppression tactics all over the country.”

Melvin, who was born in 1962, said, “We must continue to do the work of keeping CBTU relevant, if we intend to hold onto the gains we’ve made over the years. Doing the work means getting back to basics – constantly recruiting new members, building stronger chapters and becoming self-sufficient financially.”

 Melvin got a standing ovation when he pledged “CBTU is going to re-elect our brother, our cousin, our brilliant President, Barack Obama, by doing whatever is necessary!”

Melvin is an ordained Baptist Minister.  He serves as Associate Minister and Assistant to the Pastor at Second Baptist Church, Lackawanna, New York.

He is a graduate of the Rochester Center for Theological and Biblical Studies with a Bachelors Degree in Ministry.  He is married to Sonja Marie Melvin, and has three children:  Candice, Terrence II and Crystal; and one granddaughter, Cadence.

CBTU, which is dedicated to addressing the unique concerns of black workers and their communities, has 50 chapters in major U.S. cities and one in Ontario, Canada.

To read the full text of Terry Melvin’s acceptance remarks or to see his full bio, visit

For More Information Contact:

Monday, May 29, 2012                                      
Dwight Kirk (202) 257-3966

William Lucy, President, CBTU

William (Bill) Lucy is a founder and the first President of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU), which was formed in 1972. He is one of the most revered and highest-ranking black labor leaders in the world. Under his leadership, CBTU has earned global and grassroots respect as a catalyst for progressive change. He has guided CBTU's rapid expansion in the last decade, from 27 chapters in 1991 to more than 50 chapters today, including a chapter in Ontario, Canada.

In addition to his pioneering role in CBTU, Lucy is the elected International Secretary-Treasurer ­ the second highest ranking officer ­ of the 1.3 million-member American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), and he has served in that position continuously since 1972.

Lucy also is an important leader of the AFL-CIO. In October 1995, he was named a member of the AFL-CIO Executive Council, the highest decision-making body in the powerful labor federation. He is also vice president of AFL-CIO's Industrial Union Department, Maritime Trades Department, and Department of Professional Employees.

After nearly three decades of involvement in international affairs, Lucy is recognized as the consummate labor statesman. He was one of the founders of the Free South Africa Movement, which spearheaded the decisive anti-apartheid campaign in the U.S. in the mid-1980s. He later led the AFL-CIO delegation that monitored the first democratic elections ever held in South Africa. In November 1994, he became the first African American elected as president of Public Services International (PSI), the world's largest union federation.

In 1968, Lucy worked closely with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during the historic Memphis sanitation workers strike. In the tumultuous aftermath of Dr. Kingšs assassination, Lucy helped maintain the labor-civil rights-community coalition that sealed the workers' victory and became the model used throughout the nation.

A native of Memphis, Lucy attended the University of California at Berkeley. A civil engineer by trade, he was an assistant materials and research engineer for Contra Costa County, California. In 1965, he became President of AFSCME Local 1675, Contra Costa County Employees. Lucy joined the AFSCME International staff in 1966 and later became executive assistant to AFSCME's late president, Jerry Wurf.

Lucy serves on numerous boards, including the NAACP, TransAfrica, Black Leadership Forum, the Africa America Institute, and the Council of Institutional Investors. He also has received numerous honors. Last year Ebony magazine once again named Lucy as one of "The 100 most Influential Black Americans."


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