The annual TNBC Conference has become a great meeting place for the leaders and members of the Teamsters Union. Caucuses were designed to gather members together to discuss issues and reform. Their purpose is to help resolve problems, as well as educate its members. The word ‘brotherhood’ means something to every member and every leader. For many, it’s like a family reunion. This week, members and leaders were recognized and rewarded for their dedication to the Teamsters National Black Caucus, locally and nationally. There were numerous honorees. View more photos from this event.
The entire week was about education and inclusion. At the conference, there was great diversity between gender, race, and even the geographical regions in which our members live. “We must get more youth involved. The future lies within the youth,” said TNBC Chairman Al Mixon. “The TNBC helps our members build their character and leadership, giving one the ability to work as a team to bring about changes that are needed, as well as develop skills to educate others.”
“I come here because of fellowship, relationships, networking and education. You learn a lot here,“ said Robert Butler, a member of Local 700 in Chicago. “Every time I come, I learn something new. This conference makes me a better union member.”
This year’s conference drew more than 500 guests who attended workshops, networked, fellowshipped and had the opportunity to visit the Martin Luther King Jr. historic site in Atlanta, the home of the civil rights movement.
This year, Atlanta holds so much significance because it marks the 50th year anniversary of the March on Washington, when Dr. King gave his empowering, motivational ‘I Have A Dream’ speech. Since its founding, the Teamsters Union has always been on the forefront of fighting for both labor and civil rights. The Teamsters Union was the first to secure a gender-blind, color-blind contract in 1917 and was the first major labor union to support Barack Obama for President.
The link between civil and labor rights came full circle on the last day of the conference. Attendees saw Joint Council 75 President Ken Wood receive the Pioneer Leadership Award. “He’s dynamic, he’s compassionate and he has convictions, not just for us, but for everyone in this country,” said Ken Williams, a TNBC member.
There were many other honorees during the week of the conference. Wood let everyone know he accepted the award on behalf of all the members and leaders of the union.
“We have a tendency to forget where we come from. We must continue to organize,” Wood said. “Teamsters are the most diversified union there is.”
The highlight of the evening was the keynote speaker, Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), who encouraged everyone in the room, more than 650 participants, to not lose sight of why we are here and to continue the fight for middle class and working people.
Participants locked arms and sang ‘We Shall Overcome’ as Lewis, a civil rights hero, stepped to the podium.
“If it wasn’t for this union, in particular, I wouldn’t be standing here as a state representative,” Lewis said. “I thank you.”
Lewis demanded that Teamsters continue to fight the good fight. “We sat at counters waiting to be served while they spit on us, put out cigarettes in our hair, and poured water and coffee on our backs, but we didn’t retaliate with violence,“ Lewis said. ”Teamsters! The wind may blow, the thunder may roll, the lightening may flash, but stay with the union, hold hands! We’ve come too far. We’ve made way too much progress to go back.”
TNBC conference attendees will leave Atlanta with more knowledge on where they started, where they are now and why they must continue to fight the good fight.
“We must first transform our minds and change from the inside out,” said Elder Waymon Stroud Sr., the first elected black President of Local 728 in Atlanta.
Mixon reminded the crowd that Dr. King said that the first black president would be elected within 40 years. To see his words come true and then to be able to march in his footsteps and help keep Dr. King’s dream alive was inspiring for the participants.