This year’s Teamsters National Black Caucus (TNBC) kicked off its educational conference and banquet in downtown Philadelphia with hundreds of Teamsters from all over the world united to celebrate another year of accomplishments. This annual conference is also used to organize the unorganized with new goals and ideas. See more photos from this event.
Wednesday’s event began with Executive Director Antonio Christian introducing the TNBC executive board and national board officers. The morning session began with the Pledge of Allegiance and anthems presented by 82nd Airborne Hajdak/Mokan Philadelphia Chapter Color Guard, followed by an invocation by Rev. Stanley Hearst II, who is pastor of Jones Tabernacle AME Church in Philadelphia.
This conference is historic, not only because it takes place in the home of democracy and the birthplace of labor, but also because the TNBC Philadelphia Chapter has been finally established, resulting in TNBC chapters in every city in Pennsylvania.
Greetings from William Hamilton ignited the energy in the room. Hamilton is international vice president and principal officer of Philadelphia-based Local 107.
“The unity you show here today and throughout this conference will ring loud and clear throughout the country. The message is that this is just the beginning of growing the Black Caucus throughout this country, and making more people aware of its importance,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton praised the leadership of the TNBC for working together to get things done. Giving special recognition to International Vice President and TNBC Chairman Albert Mixon, Hamilton said “There is no better leader for your cause and for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.”
Mixon addressed the crowd with a letter from General President James Hoffa, in which Hoffa expressed his support for the TNBC and encouraged all members to get out and vote.
Educating members on voting is the main focus of this conference. Speakers reminded everyone of the slogan: “Access is a Key to Success.” This year is a crucial year to vote, they said, for there are people behind closed doors trying to rewrite history and roll back voting rights. “There is power in numbers,” they said.
Pennsylvania Sen. Anthony Williams spoke, giving honor to his grandfather, who was a postal worker for 75 years. He honored the hard work that led the way for Williams to be where he is today. “As ridiculous as some extreme Tea Party folks are, they’re still running this country because there’s a generation of young people who are not connected with our basic values,” Williams said.
There were also greetings from Jack Ferguson, president and CEO of the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau; Rick Staub, general manager of the Sheraton Philadelphia Downtown Hotel, and Linda Schaidt, customer service manager of the Philadelphia Passport Agency, who shared great tips on how to apply for passports.
Daryl Clarke, president of the Philadelphia City Council, welcomed the TNBC on behalf of the mayor. Clarke showed great gratitude to the Teamsters for maintaining a sustainable life in the city by presenting a token of the city’s appreciation, a replica of the Liberty Bell.
State Rep. W. Curtis Thomas was among today’s speakers. “You look north, south, east, and west in the United States, you will find a Teamster,” Thomas said. “People who serve as the anchor of good wages and good working conditions.”
“We must stand up and exercise our right, taking as many people as we can to get registered and vote,” said Thomas, who also credited Teamsters for his winning the primary with no opposition in the general election.
W.C. Smith, executive assistant to the general president, discussed the James R Hoffa Memorial Scholarship Fund that is available to help Teamster children further their education.
Smith recognized the leadership of the TNBC’s Executive Board and fellow officers for the great work.
“I enjoy the conference because you assemble to educate each other, you assemble to make a better union for all of us, and you should be commended for that,” Smith said.
Speaking on behalf of General President Hoffa, who was not able to attend the conference this year, Smith mentioned that the war on workers continues – but so does the fight to protect workers, especially since Michigan became a right-to-work (for less) state last year.
Smith also inspired the attendees to get out and vote by stressing the importance of the elections.
“There are analysts that believe that if 70 percent of the union members, of all the unions, will go to the polls and vote for a democratic candidate, we would win the White House, the majority of the Senate, the majority of House of Representatives,” Smith said.