Black trade unionists: Now is the Future.

ATLANTA — The first major gathering of Black trade unionists since the election of Barack Obama, the nation’s first African-American president, is taking place in this city this Memorial Day weekend under the theme of “Now is the Future.”

Standing before the 38th convention of the Coalition of Black trade unionists May 21, CBTU’s president, William Lucy, declared, “We embark on a sea of change for this country. With the election of Barack Obama you have rejected the outrageous policies of the last administration.”

Lucy noted that “the negative campaigning, the outright lies, the attack ads and all the tricks were not enough to sway voters away from this historic moment.”

He said, “Now we must focus on helping the new administration deliver on its campaign promises. We are concentrating this convention around what our working families need to be viable again.”

Lucy emphasized that, as far as labor is concerned, health care is a top priority. He said that labor intends to everything it can to fight the profit-hungry health insurance companies and he strongly endorsed “single-payer health care” as the best option available to replace the current system.

Most of the unions in both the AFL-CIO and Change to Win, including the ones who support single-payer insurance, have insisted that any health care plan that emerges from Washington should include the choice of a public option. Labor is also adamantly opposed to any plan that would tax employer based benefits that workers currently have.

CBTU’s president emphasized the need to create jobs. He noted that during the Clinton presidency there were more Americans working than ever before and that by the end of the Bush presidency the nation faced the worst crisis of unemployment since the Great Depression.

He applauded the Obama administration for its efforts to restore the nation’s “moral standing” abroad by shutting the torture prison at Guantanamo and he praised the “opening of new dialogues with Latin American countries.” He urged, however, that the “boycott against Cuba” be lifted and that U.S. foreign policy also include new and “comprehensive approaches” to African and Caribbean countries.

Lucy pledged that the fight for passage of the Employee Free Choice Act would continue as the “all-important” aim of the labor movement. He said that the bill’s passage is critical to ensure the civil rights of minority workers and to guarantee the “birth right” of all workers — the “right to join and form unions to organize for a better life.”

For more information on CBTU:

For a deeper look at the beginnings of the historic civil rights/labor coalition: