WASHINGTON, D.C. - The A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI) and Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) today announced that the organizations have commissioned a study into issues affecting black communities across the country, including the circumstances that led to the tragic death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. and the protests that followed.
Due in 60 days, the report will also examine the ideal role of organized labor in addressing the problems that are systemic in some black communities, such as high rates of joblessness, inadequate educational opportunities and other matters of economic justice.
"The CBTU and APRI were formed to educate, mobilize and advocate for black workers both in and outside of the labor movement," said CBTU President Rev. Terry Melvin. "We have long been considered the conscience of organized labor for making otherwise voiceless workers heard and representing the disenfranchised."
Both organizations are looking forward to working with a broad coalition of unions, government agencies and other groups who seek social and economic justice to present the report and implement its findings when complete.
2014 has come to a close but the wounds it has left have not yet fully healed. In 2014 we as a global and national community suffered hardship and tragedy. Our brothers and sisters in Asia have been plagued by aviation calamities and disappearances. Hundreds of families have lost loved ones in airplane crashes or worst; have lost loved ones to mysterious disappearances. In the Middle East the rise of ISIL has proven how ugly and barbaric fundamentalists can be when empowered by weapons and social media. Youtube videos of their barbarous actions only further highlight how cruel we as humans can be to one another. Nationally we are still reeling from the violent deaths of Black males by law enforcement. To make matters worse a perverse few have retaliated against the police. This has left the national polarized, expanded distrust between the people and the police, and has left an air of uncertainty. The year of 2014 ended in turmoil, but it has also paved the way for the positive change we need.
Owning Our Future – Building Our Community is CBTU’s theme for 2015. It is our theme for our upcoming International Convention but it is also our mantra for the year. We have been victimized and disenfranchised to the point where we no longer feel in control of our lives. We have become reactionary to the conditions around us, but have not become proactive in confronting the issues. It is time we own of our future. It is time we control our destiny and direct our fate. We no longer need to list the symptoms that plague our communities, we need to develop and implement the remedies needed to cure these ills.
Our salvation resides within ourselves and must be manifested in our communities. It is within our communities that we raise the future, support our neighbors, and nurture our culture. It is also in our communities where we hold funeral services, watch families grieve, and see our youth underachieve. In 2015 we must be about taking back our streets, capturing our future, and enhancing our communities. The turmoil of 2014 must be seen as the tilling of soil for the seeds we must plant this year. Tilling the earth is an arduous, grueling, and laborious task. That is the nature of change. We have gone through the tilling but we now must plant the seeds, tend to the ground, allow it to heal from the chaos caused.
We are in a new year, with the hope for a new beginning, and the inspiration for a new course. We must take back the wheel of our destiny. We must control our fate, own our failures, and build on our success. In 2015, CBTU will Own Our Future by Building in Our Community.
On Nov. 24th a grand jury in Ferguson, MO decided not to file any charges against Officer Darren Wilson for the shooting of Michael Brown. In a case that has crippled the nation this is a sad turn of events. While a grand jury indictment of Officer Wilson would not presume any guilt on his part, what it would have done was allow a jury of his and Michael Brown’s peers to determine if the shooting was criminal. It would have offered the community a chance to see the legal system play out, evidence a chance to be shared publicly, and ultimately a conclusion reached in a case mired by racial tension. Instead we are left with an open wound still infected from the death of another Black youth.
We know that the rage and pain and disenfranchisement of the people of Ferguson will manifest itself at times negatively. When people feel trapped and hopeless they occasionally react violently and blindly. Already we are hearing stories of stores attacked and people harassed. But if you listen closely you will also hear about a community organizing, a community crying, a community pulling itself together in the face of another defeat. CBTU applauds and supports the people of Ferguson who are diligently working through their grief to make positive change from this tragedy. We cannot continue to let Michael Brown’s death be in vain.
Now it needs to be noted again that a grand jury indictment would not have meant Officer Wilson was guilty. A grand jury only determines if a case goes forward to trail. It would have meant someone was held accountable for the shooting death of this teenager. We need accountability now more than even. And while we must continue to demand our elected officials remain accountable to us, we also have to become accountable to one another. These are our kids and our streets in our community. We must be responsible for the well-being and welfare of all our brothers and sisters and especially our kids. We have to be accountable to ourselves, for only we have the solutions to our problems.
We as a nation will move on from this event. We as a people have to look inward while grieving. There is systemic injustice and imbalance and we are naive to think the system will fix itself. With calm heads and firm memory we must once again carve out our own solutions and make our communities safe for our youth. Grieve for Michael and support the people of Ferguson. We at CBTU stand with the people of Ferguson and the positive community organizing that is going on. That is how we must prevail, that is how we will truly honor the memory of Michael Brown.
On Nov. 20, 2014 President Obama announced he was signing an Executive Order to address the immigration crisis. He took this action based on a lack of any movement or resolution by the Legislative Branch of the government. CBTU President Rev. Terrence Melvin supports this action and stands with the President. For too long we have had a crisis at our border where families and children suffered as they hung in limbo with no resolution or hope. This is not what America stands for. This is not who we are as a country. CBTU supports this Executive Order and the 4 million families and children it seeks to help.
Immigration is a political subject with human consequences. With all the rhetoric thrown around many forget there are some facts that need to be considered. First, President Obama has deported more immigrants than both Bush Presidencies combined. Secondly, immigrants have paid more taxes than most major corporations in America. Immigrants pay their fair share more often than the very businesses profiting off our hard earned dollars. With those facts in mind, this Executive Order still increases border patrols and demands taxes be paid by immigrants prior to citizenship. What it also does is protect children, parents of US citizens, and those with long standing ties to this country from being deported and targets employers who exploit and hire undocumented workers.
4 million undocumented immigrants will be spared deportation by this action. There are roughly 12-15 million undocumented immigrants in the US. This Executive Order seeks to help the most vulnerable and committed immigrants become part of our great country, and it’s a step forward to fixing the larger problem but it is not the sole solution. We need the Legislative Branch to do their job and pass comprehensive immigration reform. President Obama has only thrown a Band-Aid on a gaping wound. There are still around 10 million undocumented workers to be addressed and no clear pathway to citizenship available.
We are a nation built on immigrant labor. We maintain a long standing tradition where immigrants overall work hard, pay their fair share, and aspire for the same dream we all have. It is time we treat them like people and not prisoners. CBTU applauds President Obama for taking the first step but we also challenge our elected officials to enact comprehensive reform and reach a resolution before things get worse.
On Oct. 16th Walmart workers and their supporters were arrested in Washington D.C. and New York City as they staged protests against the Walton family. Currently the Waltons hold the same wealth as 43% of all American families combined. While we at CBTU harbor no ill will towards successful business people, we do hold those in contempt who rake in huge profits while forcing their workers to suffer with substandard wages. That is the sad business model Walmart has employed for years to ensure this one family maintains obscene profits. Workers are paid below a living wage, forced to survive on public assistance. This practice has gone on for too long and needs to stop.
On Nov. 28th, workers, families, friends, and union members will be gathering throughout the country to protest Walmart on their highest profit day. Black Friday is a day usually associated with cheap prices, great sales, and mass consumerism. We at CBTU stand with our allies to change the face of Black Friday. This day should no longer stand for cheap prices but rather represent a day we stood up against cheap wages. Workers from Walmart will be uniting with allies throughout the US to demand better wages, better working conditions, and the right for Walmart workers to organize a union.
We call upon all our Regions, Chapters, and Members to join us on Nov. 28th as we take a stand against corporate greed and march towards social justice. The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union is leading the charge mobilizing workers and community members. For more information please visit their Walmart blog at http://www.ufcw.org/category/industries/retail/walmart-retail/. Additionally, to find a protest near you go to http://blackfridayprotests.org/ which has a map with various protest sites.
While as consumers we want cheap goods we must be aware nothing is for free. While Walmart may offer products at a reduced rate, we are paying more as our taxes go to subsidize the wages and health care of their workers, as our communities suffer from local business being forced out, as our local government goes broke due to Walmart tax breaks, and our families are pulled apart by parents needing to work extra jobs to compensate for the low wages they make. There is no free lunch. We have paid the price for Walmart to reap huge profits for too long. It is time we roll back their abusive ways. Join us and others on Nov. 28th to stand with workers.
Currently our brothers and sisters up north are debating a potential $15 an hour minimum wage. If implemented, this would truly be an historic and momentous event. Currently too many workers in North America are struggling to get by. With unskilled, highly replaceable jobs being the largest industries, we find citizens subject to the whimsy and wage scale of employers. These jobs are largely non-union and pay their works the bare minimum. By increasing the minimum wage, the standard of pay elevates across the board.
We support the bold leadership of Canada that is pushing the minimum wage issue. Their bravery in the face of austerity cuts is inspiring and motivational. Keynesian economics looks at how an influx of monies to the lower classes helps ends recessions and depressions. It takes the view point that the average worker will spend their money locally, on local goods, in local businesses infusing much needed revenue into depressed areas. By increasing the minimum wage, Canada would be infusing a hurt amount of disposable monies onto working people who in turn will spend it on their local economy. This will not only enrich Canada, but also provide them with additional revenue to spend potentially infusing more money into the economies of North America.
A rising tide lifts all ships. CBTU supports the efforts in Canada and sees the potential impact it will have on workers there as well as the potential it will have in the United States. For too long Canada has been victimized by a growing US Conservative movement. Hopefully if they succeed US progressive leaders will get the hint and also push to further increase the minimum wage in the States. We support all efforts and encourage our chapters and members to further be involved in the campaign. A win for one is a win for all.
For more information regarding the investigation we recommend you go to http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2014/September/14-crt-937.html which is the department of justice website. Educate yourself on the details and process, get involved for sake of your family and conscience.
We are living once again through the tragic serial drama of America. It is the depressing reality TV we get exposed to every few months. Every episode is different in the details. The actors change, the location is different, the facts vary – but the theme remains the same. An unarmed colored youth (either black or brown) under the age of 18 is tragically murdered by an armed law enforcer. The enforcer can be a cop, a community watch advocate, or a zealot vigilante. That title of the law enforcer isn’t as important as the fact that they are offered a shroud of vindication for attempting to enforce laws. The victim is always unarmed, physically intimidating though still a minor, and engaged in some questionable behavior. The community is always outraged at the murder, committed to demanding justice, and routinely labeled as rioters.
This is the American narrative. As stated earlier, the actors change: from Trayvon Martin to Michael Brown. The law enforcer varies from police officer to vigilant citizen. The neighborhoods range from down south to mid-west. But the narrative is always the same. An unarmed youth is left dead, society vehemently picks sides, and nothing changes. From Trayvon to Michael what have we really learned as a society? What is different beyond the details? Families are still suffering, communities are torn apart, politicians have jostled for position, organizations have ramped up fundraising, and bodies keep coming. It is no longer enough to just ask about Ferguson, MI we have to ask about our society.
These violent incidences are no longer circumstantial. There have been too many for far too long for us to act as if this is unique. These are not isolated incidents; they are endemic results of a societal failure. We are failing our youth when we disregard their deaths. Black or white, big or little, when youth are murdered it is a tragedy. We still mourn Colombine for the deaths of all those kids in that school shooting. We never ask if any victims were physically intimidating, or deserving to be killed, or if they bullied the murderers. We mourned their loss because kids should not be killed. Sadly, when we remove the youth from the school and put them on the streets and change the killer from an unknown to a title we respect, that murder takes on a different shape. We no longer cry for the dead but instead demand evidence.
When our youth die we need to stop running to our camps. Cops need to stop blindly defending their own and the community needs to own up to its members behavior. We need to be honest and upfront. We need to stop seeing this as adversarial and treating it for what it is: a national tragedy. When the dust settles in Ferguson we will be left with a torn community but no lessons moving forward. We will cry for Michael while we wait for the next victim. This needs to stop. Communities need to take back control of their streets. Police need to remember they are community members first. Only cooperation will lead to salvation. No more dead bodies of our babies but rather babies being brought up by their community. We can do this. We have done this. It is time to stop picking sides and build one road for us all to walk down together.
Welcome to the website of CBTU, the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists. CBTU is the fiercely independent voice of Black Workers within the Trade Union Movement.
Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA)
A. Phillip Randolph Institute (APRI)
Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW)
Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA)
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