The Coalition of Black Trade Unionists is holding their 51st International Convention in Los Angeles. The event began Wednesday, May 25 and continues through Monday, May 30, at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in downtown L.A.
President Joe Biden will deliver a special video message to more than 800 delegates and guests on May 26, followed by the keynote address by Congressman Ro Khanna (D-17). Also, CBTU President
Terrence L. Melvin will deliver his report on the state of Black trade unionism in 2022.
Melvin, who will celebrate his 10th anniversary as CBTU president, said, “Black workers, Black communities, Black women, Black youth, Black seniors, Black incarcerated men and women are under siege from all directions.
“Our very humanity is in peril – stoked by anti-Black racism and by the monstrous Big Lie of a stolen presidential election. We must come together – now – in this embattled landscape to aﬃrm our beautiful humanity and to lead the way out of these dark, dark days. True, our plate is full, but we come to L.A. ready to work.”
Melvin, who is also secretary-treasurer of the New York AFL-CIO, said the run-up to the midterm elections would be front and center. “Everything is on the ballot in November,” he declared.
“Voting rights, civil rights, women’s reproductive freedom, control of Congress and statehouses across the country. The January 6 insurrection showed the world that the Radical Right has decided to take down democracy in order to hold onto power by any means necessary.
“CBTU will lead Black trade unionists toward developing an aggressive voter turnout strategy with our allies to counter this dangerous and reactionary power grab. Our message to ambivalent voters will be blunt: if they win, theyget more power to do more harm to more Black and brown people and to the nation. It can get worse and it will get worse, if we don’t show up in November.”
A cross-current of positive and negative labor trends underpin this year’s CBTU convention. Yet, according to federallabor statistics Black union numbers are at a record low, falling by 50,000 since 2019. Less than 2 million Black workers are in unions now (1.9 million). As a result, the Black union rate dipped to 11.5 percent in 2021.
Melvin called this steep pandemic drop in Black union membership “a crisis we must confront, not merely explain.” He said CBTU will launch a membership recruitment drive at the convention. “In 2022, every CBTU member can be a recruiter. There is a generational opportunity here to grow CBTU and rebuild the power of the labor movement. Weintend to leave this convention prepared to recruit and amplify the voice of Black workers at the national, state and local level.”
CBTU President Emeritus William “Bill” Lucy will take his first train ride to a CBTU convention.
Lucy, who will turn 89 years old in November, is the last living founder of CBTU. He retired as president in 2012 after 40 years at the helm of the organization that he lifted to international prominence with his visionary leadership.
CBTU was founded in 1972 and is the largest independent labor organization representing the views and values of1.9 million Black trade unionists in the United States and Canada. There are 50 diﬀerent international and national trade unions represented in CBTU and there are more than 50 chapters in the U.S. and Ontario, Canada.