Although big business has launched an orchestrated attack on working Americans, there is hope.
That hope is found in active union members, like those at the 36th Annual Teamsters National Black Caucus (TNBC) Conference in Detroit. The third day of the conference was started with a rousing chant led by TNBC Chairman and International Vice President Al Mixon to remind members of who they are.
“In these tough times, we need the biggest and the toughest union standing behind us,” Mixon said. “Brothers and sisters, we are that union! We are the Teamsters!”
Members were reminded of just how important it is to vote, especially given the upcoming 2012 presidential election. More than 400 members listened to messages of encouragement from prominent labor leaders, including Benny N. Napoleon, the Sheriff of Wayne County, Mich.
Born into a union family, Napoleon has supported labor his entire working career, which spans more than 26 years.
“Without folks like you, without the leadership of labor, we would have no middle class in this country. There are those who would prefer to pay all of us minimum wage,” Napoleon said. “But if at any point you decide you’re going to give up or you decide it’s too hard to vote, you have let the other side win.”
William Spriggs, Assistant Secretary of Policy at the Department of Labor under Hilda Solis, also touched on the importance of voting.
“The lines are clear. They couldn’t make it plainer what this issue is about,” Spriggs said. “It is about us as a nation reinvesting in our country, in our children, in our roads and in our future.”
To do that, Spriggs said middle-class Americans must put into office people who think like them and believe in working-class values.
“Labor Sectary Hilda Solis grew up translating grievances for her dad at the kitchen table so he could best represent his Teamster brothers and sisters. You have a Secretary of Labor who doesn’t have to look up the word union—she grew up in the union,” Spriggs said. “She is in office because of voters like you.”
The conference will continue through Saturday. While in Detroit, TNBC members will have the opportunity to explore more of the city’s labor and civil rights history.
View the slideshow from Day 3, here.