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      




Public Works Legislation Good for Working Men and Women


CBTU President Statement in Support of NYS A1261/ S1947


The Coalition of Black Trade Unionists has long been a progressive voice within the American labor movement, advocating for the fair and just treatment of black workers across sectors. CBTU is unrelenting and unapologetic in our mission to ensure the labor movement is responsive to the needs of black workers. We also work tirelessly to raise the floor for all black workers, whether union or nonunion.  Therefore, our support for A1261/ S1947, legislation clearly defining public work, should come as no surprise to those who know us and are aware of the ideals that guide us.

The public works legislation pending before the New York State Legislature is clearly in line with the mission statement of CBTU. Requiring prevailing wages be paid to construction workers on publicly subsidized projects is a commonsense solution that addresses an epidemic in New York State. New York has for too long been in the business of dispersing public funds to create poverty-level jobs that do nothing to uplift communities of color. This bill will create a pipeline for black workers to have greater economic opportunities, including the potential to earn the prevailing wages and benefits they deserve and have long been denied.

The public works bill will benefit black men and women working in the construction industry in a multitude of ways. Although the legislation is not a union mandate, it creates increased opportunities for black workers to earn higher wages, and in some cases join a union. A 2017 Economic Policy Institute study highlighted the benefits unions provide to black workers, citing black workers in the unionized sector make on average $5 more an hour than their nonunion counterparts. Additionally, black workers are chronically underrepresented in the nonunion construction sector, representing only 18.8 percent of the total workforce, compared to 21.2 percent in the unionized construction workforce. Moreover, construction unions are continuing to make strides, nearly doubling the number of black apprentices in their training programs over the past twenty years. The public works bill will serve to further increase opportunities for black men and women in accessing higher paying jobs in the construction industry, as well as in the unionized construction trades.

Providing a comprehensive definition of public work is critical in creating greater economic mobility for black workers. We call on the legislature to pass A1261/ S1947 promptly. Our communities have waited too long for the wages and job opportunities they deserve.




Labor Movement Loses Great Leader


CBTU President Statement on Passing of ATU International President Larry Hanley


On Tuesday, May 7th, the Labor Movement lost a visionary and members of ATU lost a great leader. President Larry Hanley, International President of the Amalgamated Transit Union, passed away leaving a hole in the hearts of his family, his members and our movement as a whole. President Hanley was an honest and fair leader who prioritized the needs of his members and willing to tackle the greatest obstacles to advance the cause of working men and women.

 

For over 40 years of his life, Hanley devoted himself to the Labor Movement and ATU. He was a fierce advocate for his members, transit riders, and all trade unionists. Under Hanley’s leadership, the ATU was transformed into one of the fiercest and most progressive unions in the labor movement, aggressively advocating for more and better public transportation and fighting for social, racial, and economic justice for all working people. He also firmly believed that an educated member was a powerful one and made it his mission to develop one of the most far-reaching training programs in the history of organized labor. Because of his efforts and commitment, thousands of ATU members have been trained and inspired to engage in trade union struggle where they work and in the struggle for justice in their communities.

 

President Hanley was a beacon and an icon in the Labor Movement. He was a friend of CBTU and an ally of all working men and women in this country. His departure has left a void in many of our hearts and huge shoes to fill at his union. We honor the legacy of President Hanley and send our love to his amazing family, wife Thelma, his brother James, his daughter Monica, and his son Lawrence, Jr.




Prevailing Wages Are a Must


CBTU President Statement on Prevailing Wages


 

Unions have historically set the benchmark for what a living wage is and what the average person needs to make to survive in America. Without Unions we are left with a minimum wage system that takes decades to increase and never catches up to inflation. Without Unions, wages would be a race to the bottom, and continue to be the bare minimum we see in so many jobs today. Prevailing wages is a very complicated term that can be interpreted to mean a lot of things, but all it means is that it is the living wage for the Building and Construction Industry. Prevailing wages establish the benchmark employers need to meet to hire a competent and qualified worker. It sets the bar for the price of Labor and prevents sacrificing wages for higher profit. It is the contractual means for working people to get what they deserve on the job.

Of course, there is, and always will be, opposition to this. Any time employers are forced to pay workers what they deserve they will complain and fight and threaten. Never have the wealthy relinquished profits for the greater good. As contractors and corporations look to destroy and undermine prevailing wages, the cast a broad net of hate and fear looking for anybody to champion their greed. Sadly, this has led to the false narrative that prevailing wages hurts minority and women contractors. Unfortunately, the propaganda has been successful in fooling poor communities that denying a living wage will somehow benefit them in the long run. Much like the lie about cutting taxes, cutting prevailing wages will only hurt the most vulnerable and benefit the wealthiest. Amazon and Apple pay no taxes under this new take bill, but hundreds of thousands of Americans are paying more in taxes than ever before. This is what will happen when we destroy the benchmarks. Killing prevailing wages will only lead to further exploitation and wage gauging by employers.

The fight for good jobs, fair benefits, and a living wage is a fight that we must all be in. It is a fight against billionaires and multinational corporations. This is a battle against corrupt politicians and a corporate welfare state and there is no room or luxury to have allies fighting amongst themselves. We at CBTU support the Building Trades and Prevailing Wages. We at CBTU call on the NAACP New York State Conference and Branches and progressive allies to join this fight and demand our brothers and sisters on the job get the pay they deserve not the crumbs left over.




New Zealand Massacre- Trump Response and Ours

On March 15 a white supremacist armed with an assault rifle channeled his Islamophobia into violence. The New Zealand mosque massacre, which has resulted in 50 deaths, is yet another example of the virulent white supremacist & Islamophobic movements that have spread across this planet as part of right-wing populism. Though there are inevitably those who attempt to treat this massacre as simply an example of a mentally/emotionally disturbed, but otherwise good white person, we should understand that these murders are part of a phenomenon represented by political forces across the planet which are encouraging the delusional view that white people are threatened by immigration. In response to the massacre, President Trump expressed his condolences but, once again, never tied this act of racial terrorism to a social movement that encourages acts of violence in order to ensure white supremacy. In fact, Trump treated this act as only a tragic mass killing rather than a political action that draws its inspiration from individuals and movements that Trump tends to support. We can see time and again that Trump finds it nearly impossible to speak out against Islamophobia and white terrorism. When asked about the danger of white nationalists, he denied that this was a movement of any significance, a position that is contrary to all available facts. More importantly, Trump has sung from the same hymn book as these white supremacists when he warns of an alleged danger of immigrants from the global South crossing our borders. Trump, in other words, shouts fire in a theatre and then acts surprised when there is a stampede. We, in the CBTU, along with other progressive forces, realize that these acts of white terrorism may be the acts of insane individuals, but so was the Nazi persecution and genocide against the Jews. That it is insane does not mean that it can be minimized or treated as a matter for therapy. There is an irrationalist movement of the political Right that wishes to cleanse countries of the global North of people of color. That is their objective and they are very clear about it. We, on the progressive side of the aisle, must stand firm against such movements and join forces to crush them, politically speaking. There is no compromise with right-wing populists. While some of them may claim to not be racist but instead only wishing to restrict immigrants, we should be clear that their aim is the restoration of the idea that the USA in particular should be a white republic and that those of us who do not fit into the category of “white” are now encouraged to vacate the premises. African Americans should have no interest in vacating. Our ancestors, enslaved and suppressed, were the principal labor force in the building of US capitalism. We are not going to entertain the idea of being ‘vacating.’ If anything we should entertain the idea of a new discussion of reparations! We should also entertain the necessity for the elimination of white supremacist movements that seek to bring about a new phase of 21st century barbarism.




Gov. Northam must Resign


CBTU President Statement on Gov. Northam Blackface


Statement by Rev. Terry Melvin

President, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists

 

For too long Blacks in America have had to accept that the society around them is overtly and aggressively racist. From minstrel shows, to Blackface, to Back of the Bus, to Trayvon Martin we have been reminded time and time again that our ancestors were slaves and the legacy of slavery still exists. We have witnessed a new surge in the public consciousness that has made it clear this will no longer be deemed socially acceptable. We no longer have to accept Blackface as just a joke, and instead can demand reparations from these insults. Gov. Northam has been exposed as someone who found this behavior acceptable and for that he must resign as consequence for his actions.

Gov. Northam presents a challenge for the American consciousness. Overall he has done good work, and his deeds as governor were not detrimental to the Black population. We can commend the good deeds he has done in office, but we cannot look past his past. We cannot continue to turn a blind eye to the racism that exists in this nation. And so CBTU calls on his immediate resignation, in addition to the resignation of Representative and White Nationalist Steve King, who is far worse and more egregious than Northam.

Blacks have had to watch videos of our brothers being choked or shot to death by police, banned from the NFL for taking a knee, and our first Black president called every insult under the sun. Our role models are being torn apart, while our children are being criminalized and incarcerated. The least we can demand from our political leaders is to not be overtly racist. The one standard we should agree to is no mockery of any race or creed or color. For these reasons we need to draw a line in the sand and demand all these racists get purged from office, from Gov. Northam, to Steve King, to Mitch McConnell and his confederate flag loving support, down to the bottom of the barrel, Trump. All racists must go and our standard should be hypocritical if their party is the same as ours.