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.


Support the People of Zimbabwe

CBTU President Statement on the Situation in Zimbabwe

Statement by Rev. Terry Melvin

President, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists

When Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe was ousted in 2017, there was a question that was broadly asked:  was there now to be a return to democracy? Also, will the goals of the original Zimbabwean Revolution be finally realized? As such, and despite evidence of hostility to dissent, the government of Emmerson Mnangagwa, was given the benefit of the doubt by many both in Zimbabwe and in other countries.  It is now apparent that rather than creating a wider space for democratic debate and dissent, and rather than returning to the road of the Zimbabwean Revolution, Mnangagwa has chosen the route of the police state.

In response to a protest called by trade union leaders regarding the increase in fuel prices, the Mnangagwa government began open repression, including beatings and imprisonment of protesters and opposition figures.  This has included the jailing of members and leaders of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), the largest of the Zimbabwean labor federations and one with which CBTU has had a relationship for years.

The repression of the ZCTU is not new.  Under former President Mugabe, leaders and activists were routinely jailed and, in some cases, tortured for opposing various policies of the government.  ZCTU, like many other organizations in Zimbabwe, expected some relief from repression. Instead they have received repression once again.

One conclusion that we can draw from what is underway in Zimbabwe is that while former President Mugabe had a strong persona, the challenges facing Zimbabwe go way beyond that of an individual.  There is a regime in place that seeks to enrich itself and smash any and all opposition, always holding up the Zimbabwean flag when they do so. The time has certainly arrived where it needs to be made clear that such repression will not be excused away or ignored by anyone, including and especially those of us—organizations and individuals—who for so long supported the Zimbabwean Revolution.

Pressure external to Zimbabwe is very important but that pressure must come from African nations and progressive social movements rather than from rogue forces such as the Trump administration.  CBTU, therefore, adds its voice to others that insist that the African Union take an active role in bringing about a peaceful and just resolution of Zimbabwe’s conflict. We can no longer afford to allow charlatans to fly the flag of progressive nationalism and sovereignty while they are doing all that they can to support and reinforce the privileges of a small elite.

We support the Zimbabwean Revolution but we oppose the authoritarianism of the Mnangagwa regime.  The people must come to power!

CBTU Convention Call

CBTU Convention Call 2019

February 2019

Dear Members, Friends, and Family,

I am issuing the official convention call to the 48th International Convention of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU). The convention will be held in Atlanta, Georgia at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta, 265 Peachtree St NE, Atlanta, GA 30303 from May 21-27, 2019. Our theme this year is “Reclaiming our Country: United for a Better Tomorrow”. All general convention sessions will be held at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta.

It has been a tumultuous year. We have seen the moral fabric of our society torn apart like children from their parents at the border. We have the casualties of voter suppression in both Georgia, Florida, and other states. We have seen Labor attacked from all sides, and in the face of this we have seen success after success. We have witnessed new social standards that will not accept racism and wage oppression. With this in mind we will be gathering to layout the platform for the work ahead of us. Please note all of our activities as the calendar is full.

Preconvention sessions begin Tuesday, May 21st. We will be offering the Carol Anderson Leadership Training. This is for CBTU Leadership looking to advance their skills, their chapters and their regions. We will also be offering Common Sense Economics - Train the Trainer. This training will empowers members on how to explain and breakdown the economy. Special Registration is required for both.

Wednesday, May 22nd Bill Fletcher Jr. has agreed once again to host a dynamic session entitled: “Does the Labor Movement need to be Anti-Capitalist?” Special Registration is required.

The general convention begins Thursday, May 23rd where we will get the climate of our situation. May 23 - 26th is the general convention that puts a spotlight and microscope on the issues impacting our communities and ways to fight back.

Registration for the 2019 convention can be done by downloading forms online at the CBTU website, Should you have any questions or need additional information, please call the CBTU International office at 202-778-3318 or email us at

In Solidarity,

Rev. Terrence L. Melvin, President