Labor and Civil Rights, Building One America

Restoring the Historic and Powerful Alliance

of Labor and Civil Rights

for Racial Justice

and Economic Opportunity

Friday, May 6, 2016 

Cleveland State University, Cleveland, Ohio

The Labor Civil Rights Forum at Cleveland State University was a powerful demonstration of the passion and commitment to build and strengthen a revitalized and unified labor and Civil Rights movement in Ohio. The conference, attended by over 120 prominent labor and Civil Rights leaders from building trade, manufacturing, public sector, and service unions across the state, was ably moderated by Pierrette “Petee” Talley, Secretary-Treasurer of the Ohio State AFL-CIO and Professor Rob Kleidman of CSU.The conference was framed as a conversation to explore the overlapping themes of racial injustice and economic inequality in an effort to create a unifying narrative around issues that impact all working people, families, and communities.

See the opening presentation and Rusk's analysis and presentation here.

Read the BOA Labor/Civil Rights Document here. 

It began with a reminder from A. Philip Randolph Institute President, Clayola Brown of how the historic relationship between organized labor and Civil Rights produced some of the nation’s most important advancements for working people of all colors.

David Rusk, of Building One America showed how, despite gains since the March on Washington, dangerous civil and labor rights reversals have harmed many Americans and weakened both movements. Using demographic and fiscal data, Rusk reveled how deepening segregation by race and class was at the heart of many of the most pressing issues impacting working families of all colors in cities and in suburbs, and how these same trends are used to weaken and attack organized labor in both the public and private sectors.

Marc Bayard, director of the Institute for Policy Studies’ Black Worker Initiative, highlighted the important role of African American workers and leaders in the labor movement historically and how black workers, especially women, are key to a revitalized Labor Movement today.

Two panels of local leaders powerfully illustrated the relevance and validity of all three presentations and the urgency for a new narrative that unifies all three themes. 

A powerful example of that unity was the recognition of Robert E. Richardson Sr., a national Vice President of LIUNA and President of the Cincinnati branch of the NAACP with the E.D. Nixon Crossroads of Leadership Award. Edgar D. Nixon was the powerful NAACP leader in Montgomery, Alabama who recruited Rosa Parks and helped recruit the young Dr. King to lead the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Less well known was his leadership of A. Philip Randolph’s Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters Union in that city. Like Robert Richardson, E. D. Nixon stood at the powerful intersection of labor and Civil Rights and when the time was right helped light the spark that transformed America.

We also recognized the work and celebrated the life of Mayor Rich Bonde, a dedicated and steadfast friend and leader of Building One Ohio and a courageous champion of social justice. 

Building One American and Building One Ohio want to thank the generous sponsors who made this forum possible: Cleveland State University, The Laborers’ International Union of North America, Laborers’ Local 860, Ohio Education Association, Communications Workers of America District 4, The Laborers’ Local 265, The Ohio Laborers' District Council, Ohio AFL-CIO, Ohio Federation of Teachers, United Steel Workers of America District 1, Greater Cincinnati Building and Construction Trades Council, North Shore AFL-CIO Federation of Labor, Cincinnati Labor Council, A. Philip Randolph Institute, Municipal Foremen & Laborers Union Local 1099, Urban League of Greater Cleveland, Coalition of Black Trade Unionist. 

Restoring the Historic and Powerful Alliance of Labor and Civil Rights for Racial Justice and Economic Opportunity

Building One America held its first in a series Labor / Civil Rights forums in New Jersey on December 17, 2015 with national speakers and local union leaders joined by prominent clergy, civil-rights and civic leaders from across the state.

The forum, expertly moderated by Dr. Diane Campbell and Rev. John Scotland of Building One New Jersey, was opened by Rev. Dr. Guy Campbell, President of the General Baptist Convention followed by a moving primer on the all too forgotten history of organized labor and the civil rights movement by A. Philip Randolph Institute President, Clayola Brown.

After a sobering presentation (the Architecture of Segregation) about the shameful continued existence and dramatic growth of racial segregation in American and the tragic consequences of concentrated poverty by Paul Jargowsky of the Center for Urban Research and Urban Education at Rutgers University, a panel of local leaders provided meaningful context. 

Each offered powerful insight from their own stories and discussed the real-life implications for their organization’s members, families, and communities.

Panelists included Sherryl Gordon of AFSCME Council 1, Sean Spiller from the New Jersey Education Association, Milly Silva with 1199 SEIU, Richard Tolson of the Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers and Lionel Leach of the Communication Workers of America Local 1039.

After a stirring call to actionfrom Rev. Terrence Melvin, president of the International Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, leaders from each of the participating labor, religious and civil rights groups committed to participate with Building One New Jersey to build on the day’s success.

They committed to reconvene early in 2016 to initiate a program of leadership training and action to advance and promote economic opportunity and racial inclusion around the issues of housing, schools, jobs and justice.

The day closed with a message of support and solidarity from prominent national NAACP board member, Ambassador Philip Murphy.

Building One New Jersey and Building One America want to thank the generous sponsors who made this forum possible: Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of NJ, Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters, IUOE Local 68, LIUNA Local 55, Local 195, IFPTE, Senate President Steve Sweeney, NJ Education Association, PBA Local 105, SEIU 1199, AFSCME Council 1, Shiloh Baptist Church, Isles, Inc, Community Presbyterian Church, CWA Local 1039, CWA Local 1084, Murphy Endeavors LLC, PA Conference of Teamsters