Monthly Archives: January 2016

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Saluting Black History & The Labor Movement

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In 1867, Chicago industrialist George Pullman revolutionized rail travel with his famous Pullman Cars.

When a Pullman Car was leased to a railroad, it came “equipped” with highly-trained porters to serve the travelers. The cars were staffed with recently freed slaves, whom Pullman judged to be skilled in service and willing to work for low wages.

Soon, The Pullman Rail Car Company was the largest employer of blacks in the country, with the greatest concentration of Pullman Porters living on Chicago’s South Side.

In their home neighborhoods, to be a Pullman Porter was considered a prestigious position. The job offered a steady income, an opportunity to travel across America, and a life largely free of heavy physical labor, rare for blacks in that era.

Historian Timuel Black recounts, “They were good looking, clean and immaculate in their dress, their style was quite manly, their language was very carefully crafted, so that they had a sense of intelligence about them … they were good role models for young men.”

But the porters were also mistreated, underpaid, overworked and subjected to countless indignities on the job. “A Pullman Porter was really kind of a glorified hotel maid and bellhop in what Pullman called a hotel on wheels,” explains former porter and historian Greg LeRoy. ”

The Pullman Company just thought of the porters as a piece of equipment, just like another button on a panel – the same as a light switch or a fan switch.”

Pullman demanded 400 hours a month or 11,000 miles – sometimes as much as 20 hours at a stretch — and paid ridiculously low wages (in 1926, an average of $810 per year — about $7,500 in today’s economy). “It didn’t pay a livable wage, but they made a living with the tips that they got, because the salary was nothing, ” says Lyn Hughes of the A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum.

The company expected its employees to pay for their own meals, supply their own uniforms and shoe polish, and allowed them only short naps on couches in the smoking car. Disgruntled porters began to question their situation and decided to take on the enormously powerful company.

In 1925, the porters formed a union called The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. This marked the beginning of a twelve-year struggle for dignity, better working conditions, and fair pay. (Its leaders were charismatic black activist A. Philip Randolph and former porter Milton Webster, head of the Chicago union local.)

Their eventual triumph marked the first time in American history that a black union forced a powerful corporation to the negotiating table. It was a significant step forward for black equality.

The union members learned how to organize and negotiate. They discovered that even in a time of great prejudice in America, blacks could effect change if they stood together and persevered. They would later apply these techniques to the civil rights movement.

A. PHILLIP RANDOLPH INSTITUTE
The Senior Constituency Group of the AFL-CIO
COALITION OF BLACK TRADE UNIONIST
CBTU President Speaks At Human Relations Conference

CBTU HISTORY

A Sleeping Giant Awakens…….In September of 1972, more than 1,200 black union officials and rank and file members, representing thirty-seven different international and national unions, met in Chicago for two days to discuss the role of black trade unionists in the labor movement.

Five black labor leaders, alarmed that the AFL-CIO Executive Council had taken a “neutral” position in the 1972 presidential election between incumbent Richard Nixon and challenger George McGovern, called this founding conference of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists. They believed AFL-CIO President George Meany had ignored the voice of black trade unionists. Neutrality, they believed, would contribute to the re-election of Nixon.

The call they issued for the conference noted: “We are concerned that the re-election of Richard Nixon will almost certainly result in four more years of favored treatment for the rich and powerful; continued unemployment; frozen wages; high prices; appoint- meant of additional members of the U.S. Supreme Court who are conservative and insensitive to the rights of workers, minorities, and the poor; more repression and restriction of civil liberties; and the reversal or total neglect of civil rights.”

These five leaders, who formed the initial steering committee of CBTU, were:

• William Lucy, international secretary-treasurer, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees

• Nelson “Jack” Edwards, vice president, United Auto Workers • William Simons, president, Washington Teachers Union, Local 6

• Charles A. Hayes, vice president, United Food & Commercial Workers Union • Cleveland Robinson, president, Distributive Workers of America, District 65 Turnout at the initial meeting, which took place September 23-24, 1972, at the LaSalle Hotel, constituted the largest single gathering of Black unionists in the history of the American labor movement. It was a bold, empowering action. While the impetus for the Chicago conference was the presidential campaign, the most significant development was the establishment of a permanent organization the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists.

The delegates made it clear that black workers were ready to share in the power of the labor movement at every level of its policy-making process. CBTU would be a progressive forum for black workers to bring their special issues within unions as well as act as a bridge between organized labor and the black community.

Independence………..The most electrifying moment at the Chicago conference came when Nelson “Jack” Edwards’ introduced Bill Lucy, the tall, young, charismatic international secretary treasurer of AFSCME, who also was then the highest ranking black elected labor leader in the world. Lucy succinctly expressed CBTU’s fundamental characteristic is its independence in his remarks: “At the present time, we occupy a very important and critical position in the politics of this nation, both in terms of the trade union movement as well as the political parties of this country. We are in nobody’s pocket, do not intend to get in anybody’s pocket, and we are going to assume a position of full partners. You see, we don’t want anybody to be making decisions for us any longer, because we are quite capable of making decisions ourselves. We don’t want to be a thorn in anybody’s side, but we don’t want to be a pivot for anybody’s heel.”

Leadership……..Since its founding, CBTU has enhanced the influence and power of black workers in the trade union movement and in their communities. CBTU has led efforts to open more union leadership positions to women, African Americans and other minorities. In the AFL-CIO elections for new leadership in 1995, CBTU challenged the federation “to reorganize itself to reach out to those who need it most” women and minorities. Subsequently, the AFL-CIO enlarged its Executive Council. Today, African Americans, women, Asian Pacific Islanders and Hispanic leaders hold 13 of the council’s 51 seats. This infusion of diversity is helping to energize the labor movement in the new globalized American economy.

Women………….The influence of women on CBTU’s development has been indispensable, from day one. Between 35 and 40 percent of the 1,200 delegates who attended the first CBTU conference were black women; five women served on CBTU’s first executive committee; and leaders like Alzada Clark, Rev. Addie L. Wyatt, Ola Kennedy, Agnes Willis, Lillian Roberts and Geraldine Johnson made sure the new labor organization focused on the needs of all black workers. In 1982, the CBTU Executive Council organized the National Women’s Committee, whose first chairperson was Rev. Addie Wyatt. The current chairperson is Anita Patterson. The CBTU Women’s Committee conducts conferences and workshops that empower participants to improve their unions and uplift their communities.

Political Action……………From CBTU’s inception, countless elected officials and appointees-from mayors, judges and governors to members of Congress, U.S. Presidents and cabinet appointees-have benefited from the Coalition’s commitment to political action and empowerment. CBTU was an early supporter of the Congressional Black Caucus; the backbone of union support for the late Harold Washington’s victorious Chicago mayoral campaign in 1983; the catalyst for the appointment of U.S. Labor Secretary Alexis Herman, the first African American to hold that cabinet position.

Solidarity………..CBTU is justifiably proud of its history of solidarity with human rights fighters and freedom movements here and around the world, especially in Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean. CBTU condemned the Pinochet military junta in Chile and the Abacha junta in Nigeria; supported Caribbean workers exploited by anti-union American monopolies; fought for diplomatic recognition of liberated nations in Southern Africa; consistently supported self-determination for residents of the District of Columbia, who are denied full voting representation in Congress, even though they live and pay taxes in the nation’s capitol.

South Africa……………..Long before black freedom fighters finally uprooted white minority rule throughout Southern Africa, CBTU was relentlessly attacking the violent exploitation of black workers. In 1974, CBTU was the first American labor organization to pass strong resolutions calling for an economic boycott and a change in U.S. policy toward Southern Africa. CBTU President Bill Lucy was one of the founders of the Free South Africa Movement in 1984, which conducted the most effective grassroots anti-apartheid campaign in the U.S. with substantial participation from black workers recruited by CBTU. CBTU also played a major role Nelson Mandela’s historic 11-day visit to the United States in 1990, four months after he was released from a 27-year prison term. Lucy spearheaded an unprecedented fund-raising effort that netted $250,000 from American unions to finance Mandela’s tour and help the African National Congress ease the transition to black majority rule. The late Cleve Robinson, a CBTU founder and long-time opponent of apartheid, served as co-chairman for the official Mandela visit to New York.

A Proud Legacy…….So many achievements and so many more heroes As 21st century dawns, CBTU is proud to have existed longer than any other African American labor organization in history. We are also proud that our legacy-empowering yet unfinished-has enriched the American labor movement.

 


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North Carolina Voter ID Requirement

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North Carolina’s Voter-ID Law Goes on Trial in Federal Court

By Christopher M. Matthews… The WSJ Jan. 23, 2016 5:30 a.m. ET

The legality of a 2013 North Carolina law requiring identification to vote will be challenged in a trial set to begin in federal court Monday ahead of March U.S. presidential primaries in the state. The trial in Winston-Salem, the second to stem from the law, is one of several closely watched voting-rights lawsuits unfolding as the election season gets under way. In 2013, Republican Gov. Patrick McCrory signed a law barring people without photo identification from voting. The move sparked a number of lawsuits by the U.S. Justice Department, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and others that were eventually consolidated into one suit claiming that the law disproportionately affected black and other minority voters who are less likely to have access to birth certificates and other documents needed to obtain photo identification. “Because of lingering socioeconomic effects resulting from the long history of discrimination in North Carolina, African-American voters will, on average, bear a materially heavier burden than white voters when attempting to obtain photo identification that satisfies the requirements of [the law],” lawyers for the Justice Department said in court papers. The North Carolina law was one of a number passed by states after the U.S. Supreme Court said in 2013 it was unconstitutional to require states to get federal approval before changing voting laws based on historical data of discrimination. It is unclear whether the challenge to North Carolina’s law will be resolved in time for the March vote. A two-week trial in July examined some provisions of the law including the elimination of same-day voter registration during early voting and a reduction in the number of early voting days. But the key question of voter identification was set aside for the trial starting Monday. The judge hasn’t ruled on the earlier trial. Defenders of the law, including lawyers for Gov. McCrory and the North Carolina Department of Justice, say the 2013 law was necessary to prevent voter fraud and that an amendment made in June of last year resolved potentially discriminatory effects. The amendment allowed voters to cast provisional ballots without one of six specified forms of identification if they could claim there was “reasonable impediment” to showing the ID. The Justice Department and NAACP have argued the fix wasn’t enough because state officials haven’t properly educated the public and poll workers about what ID is needed to vote, and because the “reasonable impediment” exception will be left entirely to poll workers’ discretion. Irving Joyner, one of the lawyers challenging the law, said the state board of elections hasn’t provided any information on the “reasonable impediment” exception. “We want the reasonable impediments to be broadly construed in favor of the voter,” he said. A spokeswoman for the North Carolina Department of Justice said she couldn’t comment on a pending case.

Write to christopher.matthews@wsj.com

From website administrator……The fight continues but as for now it looks like North Carolina citizens will be required to show an acceptable form of identification beginning this March in our statewide primary elections. I hope this posting gives you sufficient information so that your vote and your voice is documented on Tuesday, March 15, 2016 and beyond. Labor will never stop our efforts to repeal this voter suppression legislation. For more details on ID requirements go to voterid.nc.gov/

 


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Fighting for a Better Life: AFL-CIO Releases ‘Raising Wages’ Report

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Thu. January 21, 2016…Marking nearly one year since the first ever Raising Wages Summit, the AFL-CIO released a new report detailing the successes, struggles and path ahead to raise wages for working people.

THE REPORT finds that over the past year income inequality has shifted from a topic of discussion to a problem that can be solved. It points to clear steps forward and outlines solutions.

“One year ago, we made clear that raising wages for all working people was our number one priority,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “In 2015 we came together in collective voice and action, and made significant progress.”

The report goes beyond direct wage increases to demonstrate the all-encompassing nature of the raising wages agenda. Numerous organizing victories, new paid leave laws in multiple states and cities, and new protections against wage theft are outlined as part of the effort to create a better economy.

The IAM’s organizing successes of 2,000 aircraft mechanics, technicians and maintenance workers in Texas and its ongoing campaign to help Boeing workers in South Carolina are cited as examples of how people in the South are defying stereotypes about unions.

The report also outlines hurdles to further victories, and challenges that remain as the raising wages agenda grows. The release also shows in December 2015, President Obama and Congressional Democrats were forced to fight off six amendments to the budget that would have rolled back protections for working people. And while the unemployment rate continued to fall last year, wage growth showed only modest improvement before grinding to a halt.

“Although the victories and the momentum of the Raising Wages movement in 2015 demonstrate that collective action works, we are still far behind where we need to be and where we can be,” said Trumka. “In the year ahead, we will continue to push for a comprehensive economic agenda that puts working people first. Raising Wages is not a hobby, it is our mission.”

The central conclusion is that America is ready to move beyond just a discussion of income inequality and is beginning to write new rules that will shape the economy. Click Below To Read:

“Fighting for a Better Life…People…Are Organizing…Raise Wages…Improve Work”


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AFL-CIO NC Committee on Political Education (COPE)

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Posted by Jeremy | January 19, 2016
N.C.’S UNIONS ENDORSE DEBORAH ROSS FOR U.S. SENATE & ROY COOPER FOR GOVERNOR
Working families... back Charles Meeker for Labor Commissioner

Author-Jeremy Sprinkle, Communications Director, jeremy@aflcionc.org                                                                RALEIGH, N.C. (January 19, 2016) – A committee of over sixty women and men representing union members in both the private and public sector from across North Carolina met to review completed questionnaires and interview candidates for statewide elected office in Raleigh last Friday. This Committee on Political Education (COPE) recommended the North Carolina State AFL-CIO endorse Deborah Ross for U.S. Senate, Roy Cooper for Governor, and Linda Coleman for Lt. Governor as well as Josh Stein for Attorney General, Dan Blue III for State Treasurer, and former Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker for Labor Commissioner.

COPE also recommended Elaine Marshall, Wayne Goodwin, Beth Wood, and June Atkinson for re-election as Secretary of State, Insurance Commissioner, State Auditor, and State Superintendent, respectively, and Judge Linda Stephens for Court of Appeals.

The North Carolina State AFL-CIO Executive Board approved all the committee’s recommendations by the requisite two-thirds vote, completing the endorsement process.

“With new representation in the U.S. Senate and new leadership at the helm of state government, we can raise wages and provide economic stability for North Carolina’s working people – and make sure they get paid for the work they do,” said state AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer MaryBe McMillan.

Deborah Ross was a champion for working people during her 10 years in the state legislature, and unlike the man she hopes to replace, Ross supports increasing the federal minimum wage, providing paid leave for U.S. workers, ending gender pay discrimination, and expanding – not cutting – Social Security and Medicare benefits.

Roy Cooper has been a long-time friend and advocate for working people and consumers in his service as Attorney General and as a state lawmaker before that, standing up to corporate bullies and their bought politicians in court and on the campaign trail. Cooper will be the strong, principled governor North Carolina needs to stand up to an out-of-control legislature that has undone decades of progress for working families.

Charles Meeker served five terms as the popular Mayor of Raleigh by dedicating himself to the role, and that dedication to duty is sorely needed at the helm of the North Carolina Department of Labor, where the current Labor Commissioner turns a blind eye toward rampant wage theft and payroll fraud, refuses to crack down on child farm labor, and routinely discounts the severity of workplace safety violations.

North Carolina’s unions commit to doing their part to educate and mobilize union members and their families in support of candidates who seek to uphold the law, not undermine it, and who stand for fairness for all North Carolinians, not just a privileged few.

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The North Carolina State AFL-CIO is the largest association of local unions and union councils in North Carolina, representing union members fighting for good jobs, safe workplaces, workers’ rights, consumer protections, and quality public services on behalf of ALL working families. PO Box 10805, Raleigh, NC 27605.

 


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THE DREAMER THAT CHANGED A WORLD

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WE REMEMBER MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.

This article……..Published on Aug 28, 2013 courtesy of YouTube

Martin Luther King, Jr., (January 15, 1929-April 4, 1968)…was born Michael Luther King, Jr., but later had his name changed to Martin. His grandfather began the family’s long tenure as pastors of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, serving from 1914 to 1931; his father has served from then until the present, and from 1960 until his death Martin Luther acted as co-pastor.

Martin Luther attended segregated public schools in Georgia, graduating from high school at the age of fifteen; he received the B. A. degree in 1948 from Morehouse College, a distinguished Negro institution of Atlanta from which both his father and grandfather had graduated. After three years of theological study at Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania where he was elected president of a predominantly white senior class, he was awarded the B.D. in 1951. With a fellowship won at Crozer, he enrolled in graduate studies at Boston University, completing his residence for the doctorate in 1953 and receiving the degree in 1955.

In Boston he met and married Coretta Scott, a young woman of uncommon intellectual and artistic attainments. Two sons and two daughters were born into the family In 1954, Martin Luther King became pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama.

Always a strong worker for civil rights for members of his race, King was, by this time, a member of the executive committee of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the leading organization of its kind in the nation. He was ready, then, early in December, 1955, to accept the leadership of the first great Negro nonviolent demonstration of contemporary times in the United States, the bus boycott described by Gunnar Jahn in his presentation speech in honor of the laureate. The boycott lasted 382 days.

On December 21, 1956, after the Supreme Court of the United States had declared unconstitutional the laws requiring segregation on buses, Negroes and whites rode the buses as equals.

During these days of boycott, King was arrested, his home was bombed, he was subjected to personal abuse, but at the same time he emerged as a Negro leader of the first rank.

In 1957 he was elected president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization formed to provide new leadership for the now burgeoning civil rights movement. The ideals for this organization he took from Christianity; its operational techniques from Gandhi. In the eleven-year period between 1957 and 1968, King traveled over six million miles and spoke over twenty-five hundred times, appearing wherever there was injustice, protest, and action; and meanwhile he wrote five books as well as numerous articles.

In these years, he led a massive protest in Birmingham, Alabama, that caught the attention of the entire world, providing what he called a coalition of conscience. and inspiring his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”, a manifesto of the Negro revolution; he planned the drives in Alabama for the registration of Negroes as voters; he directed the peaceful march on Washington, D.C., of 250,000 people to whom he delivered his address, “l Have a Dream”, he conferred with President John F. Kennedy and campaigned for President Lyndon B. Johnson; he was arrested upwards of twenty times and assaulted at least four times; he was awarded five honorary degrees; was named Man of the Year by Time magazine in 1963; and became not only the symbolic leader of American blacks but also a world figure.

At the age of thirty-five, Martin Luther King, Jr., was the youngest man to have received the Nobel Peace Prize. When notified of his selection, he announced that he would turn over the prize money of $54,123 to the furtherance of the civil rights movement. On the evening of April 4, 1968, while standing on the balcony of his motel room in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was to lead a protest march in sympathy with striking garbage workers of that city, he was assassinated.

 

FILE - President John F. Kennedy stands with a group of leaders of the March on Washington on Aug. 28, 2013 at the White House. From left are Whitney Young, National Urban League; Martin Luther King Jr., Southern Christian Leadership Conference; John Lewis, Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee; Rabbi Joachim Prinz, American Jewish Congress; Dr. Eugene P. Donnaly, National Council of Churches; A. Philip Randolph, AFL-CIO vice president; Kennedy; Walter Reuther, United Auto Workers; Vice-President Johnson, rear, and Roy Wilkins, NAACP. (AP Photo)

 

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TALKING FROM THE HEART. A LEADER DEPARTS

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In his final video interview as IAM International President, Tom Buffenbarger talked about his years of service as the union’s top leader, its pressures and what he sees for the future.

“What I’m going to miss the most are the great people I have worked with,” said Buffenbarger. “I’ve been blessed in my entire career to have the best people to work with, to have them as a team to help me get the job done for our members.” Buffenbarger emphasized that, although he is looking forward to being able to set his own schedule, there are still unfinished tasks in front of him to save the jobs of members who are facing company closures. “I want to see that through and I am glad to do that,” said Buffenbarger. “Because in those plants I know those members and they’re friends… We have to save those jobs and I hope to always be able to lend my services to help protect peoples’ jobs.” Regarding incoming president Bob Martinez and the IAM’s future, he left no doubt about his confidence in his leadership. “You’re being left in very capable hands,” said Buffenbarger. “Bob has a very well-rounded idea of what the job entails… It’s time for me to step aside. It’s time for a younger person like Bob Martinez to take over and I have every expectation that Bob is going to do a fantastic job.” After more than 18 years as president, Buffenbarger admits there are certain pressures he will not miss in retirement. “There have been many, many nights you don’t sleep hoping you’re making the right decision,” said Buffenbarger. “Do the members benefit by it? Will they be better off? Are their futures secure? Their jobs secure? Are their families going to be okay? That goes back to Bob Martinez. Bob understands the value of caring for our members.”


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A NEW ERA BEGINS

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It had only happened 12 times in the IAM’s 127-year history, but this week it happened one more time. Tom Buffenbarger officially handed over the title of IAM International President to Bob Martinez, Jr., a 35-year IAM member who has held leadership positions up and down the ranks of the Machinists Union. At a ceremony at IAM Headquarters in Upper Marlboro, MD, Martinez took his oath of office and delivered remarks to IAM members and staff.

 

“Our fight and our work is noble and it is good,” said Martinez, a Texas native and U.S. Navy veteran. “Securing workplace fairness, dignity and justice – so it shall continue.” Watch the entire ceremony – which includes remarks from Buffenbarger, new Headquarters General Vice President Rickey Wallace, and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka  


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