Today and throughout the month of February, the Teamsters Union celebrates Black history, a history that is deeply bound together with the history of the American labor movement and the history of our union. While Black history has been long ignored or outright suppressed throughout much of our nation’s existence, during Black History Month, we honor the contributions Black Americans have made to this country, to organized labor, and to working people everywhere.
Early in our union’s history, Teamsters advocated for “no color lines” within the labor movement and would not tolerate the practice of separate unions for Black members. Women and people of color were part of the membership from the very beginning of the Teamsters Union, with Black members attending the founding convention in 1903.
As early as 1917, Teamster contracts included provisions for equal pay regardless of race. In the 1960s, Teamsters marched alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as part of the civil rights struggle for racial equality and economic justice.
While some progress has been made over the last half-century to combat racism in America, our society still has a long way to go to erase the institutional prejudices that continue to oppress Black Americans. As we carry on the fight for equality and justice in America, Black History Month is about recognizing the countless Black Americans who – despite systemic racism – have helped move this nation forward in so many ways.
The Teamsters will continue to uplift these stories. We will continue to listen and learn from the legacies of Black Americans who have shaped our union, the trade union movement, and human progress all over the world.