Black unionists urge new social contract

CHICAGO — Dismantling of the corporate agenda is the big mission that the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) took on as it opened its 36th International Convention here May 23 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. The convention runs through May 28.

Invited guests include Sens. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

The gathering takes place at a time when “never before in U.S. history has an actual decline in the economic fortunes of workers across the board been so clearly the deliberate, planned result of public policies,” said Glen Ford, executive editor of the Black Agenda Report.

“The crisis for working and unemployed Americans is general and unremitting — a steadily downward path to absolute insecurity — precisely because those are the conditions sought by the rich who control the U.S. government,” Ford said, adding, “The corporate agenda requires, not just the breaking of the unions, but the shattering of morale in society as a whole, to render the populace timid, tame and grateful for whatever breaks, good luck or corporate favor might bring.”

“For Black workers, the Bush regime’s six-year blitzkrieg … against the last vestiges of the social contract is not a totally unfamiliar experience — African Americans have never been more than partially covered by the U.S. social contract, which has at any rate always been tissue thin and non-binding on the rich,” he said.

Statements made last week by William Lucy, a founder and president of the CBTU and secretary-treasurer of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), conveyed a sense of urgency about the current political landscape.

The main enemy is “the social, political and economic philosophy shared by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the rich, and the administration that represents their interests,” Lucy declared.

“This corporate agenda results in the average CEO earning more money on his first day on the job than the average worker makes in a year — an agenda backed to the hilt by a government that strangles the ability of employees and society as a whole from fighting back against such outrageous economic inequalities,” he said.

Lucy added, “This same corporate agenda has produced stagnant or declining incomes, double-digit unemployment for Blacks, a crisis in home foreclosures and bankruptcies, the return of rising crime and poverty rates, and prohibitive college tuitions.”

Lucy said that the labor movement has no choice but to demand a new social contract based on “essential core principles”: “Anyone who wants to work should have a job; anyone who does work should be able to live in dignity with health care and retirement security for their family; every worker should have the opportunity to form a union and bargain collectively; all workers should share equitably in the prosperity of a strong American economy.”