Introduction: Union Membership And The Black Worker
Union membership translates into significant economic gains for blacks. At the beginning of this century, the full-time median weekly earnings of black workers, who were union members (male and female) was $603. This was about twenty-five percent (25%) higher than earnings of $463 a week received by black workers, who didn’t belong to unions. In addition to increased earnings, a union card brings other benefits including better health and welfare coverage, pension protection, and increased job security.
Blacks have been workers since they first arrived on the shores of North American continent. At first, they labored under the guise of indentured servants and slaves. Their skills and labor helped the country experience major economic growth. However, because of discrimination and national oppression, African-American families failed to reap the benefits of its growth. Despite the country’s economic upswings, African-American workers continued to labor under inferior wages, in deplorable working conditions and without needed benefits.
A major breakthrough for blacks in their quest for equal employment opportunity came under the leadership of the great labor and civil rights leader, A. Philip Randolph.
It was Randolph who organized the first "March on Washington" movement in 1941, demanding justice for black workers. From that historic march came the first Presidential Executive Order forbidding discrimination by federal contractors.
Randolph organized The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters in 1925. He was the first African-American elected to the AFL Executive Council, he was later recognized by the united labor movement, which elected him to a similar position with the merged American Federation Of Labor and the Congress Of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO).
Black workers represented by various unions total almost three million. This equals about one-fourth of all blacks in the workforce. Nearly one third of the Teamsters’ membership is black. This puts the number of Blacks in the Teamsters’ union at about 450,000 men and women in occupations and industries, ranging from airlines to zoos.
The Teamsters Union is not the only union which can trumpet a high rate of black members. Studies have shown that black workers join unions in proportionately higher numbers than all other segments of the general working population. The results one out of six black workers is a union member.
Today, blacks have assumed various leadership positions throughout the trade union movement. Members of the TNBC serve in many top elected offices within the Teamsters Union.
What is the TNBC?
The Teamsters National Black Caucus (TNBC) is an organization of black Teamster men and women, who are united by their special concerns for rights and conditions of workers. Working within the framework of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Constitution, the TNBC seeks to address pressing issues confronting black workers ranging from increased participation to outreach to the African-American community and other communities of color. The TNBC is not a separate union.
When Was it Formed?
The TNBC, formed in 1971 its initial meeting was held in Miami, Florida at the 20th International Brotherhood of Teamsters Convention. At that convention a small select group of black delegates, guests and friends attending the convention, met to discuss the lack of black participation in the convention. One of the most discussed items was the deplorable lack of people of color employed by of the International Union. In September 1975, black representatives from the four (4) area conferences met in the city of Chicago to officially form the TNBC and get the recognition from the Teamsters General President and his Executive Board.
What is TNBC's Purpose?
At its founding, the TNBC had four important goals. They were:
To organize and educate the unorganized in our communities throughout the United States,
To promote affirmative action in the work place and in our community,
To encourage political action and legislation, and
To increase black participation and uphold the principles of the Teamsters’ movement and to foster the opportunity for all Teamsters to serve in leadership capacities, throughout the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the affiliates.
How Do I Join the TNBC?
A Teamster in good standing with his or her local Teamsters union can join the TNBC for an annual fee of $50. There is also a one-time initiation fee of $10. If there, is a TNBC chapter established in your area join it now. If not, a chapter can be formed by the established procedures of the National Executive Board.
What Does the TNBC Mean for Me?
As a member of the TNBC, you become part of a nationwide organization working within the Teamsters Union to give a stronger voice in your work place, in your union and in running you government at all levels.
The TNBC gives you the facts you need to make informed decisions, the voice to create change and the added clout to be heard.
If you are interested in leadership, TNBC may help prepare and assist you along the way. As a member of the TNBC, you will help make a difference. You can join your many sisters and brothers across the United States in the fight for advancement of positions and eliminate discrimination of black Teamsters in your workplace.
For further information, please contact James (Curb) Curbeam at (615) 419-7126.
Teamsters National Black Caucus
P.O. Box 16707
Memphis, TN 38186-0707