Black Worker Initiative
“The two most dynamic and cohesive liberal forces in the country are the labor movement and the Negro freedom movement. Together we can be architects of democracy.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr., at the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations National Convention, Miami Beach, Florida, December 11, 1961
The Black Worker Initiative is a bold and exciting new effort launched by the Institute for Policy Studies, which is deeply committed to helping achieve both the historic and contemporary aims of the labor and civil rights movements. Black workers have been particularly hard hit by the rising tide of inequality in today’s economy.
We hope our Initiative will be a part of the solution to helping expand opportunities for black worker organizing and thereby greatly aid the revitalization of the U.S. labor movement as a whole. Indeed, the Initiative operates under the belief that black workers hold a key role in union revitalization. Without a platform for their voices and perspectives, a vital piece of the progressive movement is absent from the greater public discourse on race and economic and social justice. The Initiative seeks to be a forum for these important conversations, allowing relationships, ideas, and projects to develop.
The Initiative will use conferences, published reports, public education materials, and mainstream and social media in framing a road map to how black worker organizing can be an ongoing vehicle for the preservation of the labor movement and the promotion of civil rights and racial and economic justice.
And Still I Rise: Black Women Labor Leaders’ Voices, Power and Promise is the flagship report of the Black Worker Initiative. The report profiles 27 amazing black women activists from across the country who are in different stages of their careers and work in a range of different sectors. The report also features the results of a national survey of over 450 black women in the labor movement about their experiences. The main purpose of the report is two-fold:
– to stimulate investment in organizing black women because they are the most receptive group of workers to forming unions and have the highest union election win rate of any other group (nearly 90 percent when organized by other women of color);
– to bring the expertise of black women more fully to bear in strategies to advance economic justice within organized labor and the broader progressive movement.
The Initiative is also very proud to be a part of the #BlackWorkersMatter report of the Discount Foundation and Neighborhood Funders Group. Marc Bayard’s article, Partnership between the Labor Movement and Black Workers: The Opportunities, Challenges, and Next Steps, argues that a partnership between black workers and the labor movement holds potential as a vehicle for civil rights activism that could tear down barriers to structural inequality that keep many African Americans in low-wage jobs with little to no opportunity for advancement. Such a partnership would not only promote economic opportunity for blacks and for all Americans, but also revitalize the labor movement at a time when they are widely perceived to be losing their influence and relevance.
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June 27, 2016