More than 400 members of the Teamsters National Black Caucus (TNBC) rolled into the Motor City for the 36th Annual TNBC Conference today. Members and leadership drew on the city’s unique history to focus on turning dreams into reality.
Part of that history belongs to Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa, who calls Detroit his hometown. Hoffa opened the conference by emphasizing the importance of unions in America today, especially for black and minority workers.
“It’s no surprise that these are hard times for everyone. But we all know that our black brothers and sisters face great difficulty. They are the first to be fired and the last to be hired,” Hoffa said. “That’s why this union is so important. A Teamster contract ensures all workers have the dignity, the respect and the job security they deserve.”
Detroit’s rich and vibrant history was further memorialized when Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) addressed the conference.
A personal friend of both Martin Luther King Jr. and former Teamsters General President James R. Hoffa, Conyers has been an influential figure in both local and national politics. He personally witnessed the civil rights struggles of the 1960s and reminded TNBC members that the corporate-backed war on workers is not much different.
“You must understand that the struggle goes on. It just has taken a different form,” Conyers said. “We stand in the shadows of great accomplishments in the civil rights movement, in the labor movement, and in the struggle for justice everywhere.”
Conyers called on TNBC members to continue pursuing King’s dream, as did TNBC President and International Vice President Albert R. Mixon.
“There is an attack on workers, but we can’t let that get us down. We need to be proud to be Teamsters,” Mixon said. “We need to be proud to be black Teamsters because a collective bargaining agreement is the greatest equalizer in this country today.”
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 1, here.