It is insulting when unions attempt to portray themselves as ongoing friends of the Black community. It reminds me that some people preach that all Democrats are good and all Republicans are bad. Others put their heads in the sand and state all Whites are energized and all Blacks are lazy. It is not enough to simply reply how wrong these statements are. We must take time and do research.
Over the years I have met, known and listened to labor leaders, Black and White alike, who would exaggerate and even lie when they discussed how beneficial they have been to Blacks historically and currently. My personal knowledge of the negative actions of unions stands out in my mind. But in order to reinforce it I went to the Carnegie Library and spent a couple of hours. There were several books that were written about the atrocious actions by the steel industry and the unions against Black steel workers. There were chapters that related to the local steel mills throughout the Mon Valley, Clairton, Braddock, Rankin and Homestead. It made note about Carrie Furnace, J&L and made references about steel mills as far away as Birmingham, Ala. The deplorable actions were identical. Blacks were overwhelmingly assigned to the dusty, hot, non-promotional jobs.
A local person that I knew, Otis King, was continually denied a mason job in the Carrie Furnace, and Blacks were denied jobs in the maintenance department sweeping floors. In 1949 Harold Keith, columnist for the Pittsburgh Courier, wrote a report exposing the United Steel Workers of America and the fact that in the Homestead Mill 98 percent of Black workers were laborers. There were no Blacks in the skill trade jobs in the mills, no millwrights, and very few Black crane operators.
How many of you reading this column remember that in Pittsburgh the unions prohibited Blacks from driving trucks for the pop companies, delivery trucks, department stores, City of Pittsburgh departments excluding garbage trucks, light companies, gas companies, etc. As this column is being written the skill craft unions continue to make it difficult if not impossible for Blacks to work as bricklayers, plumbers, electricians, and other trade jobs. A source at Allegheny County said only three Blacks work in the skill craft position.
Black people, particularly those of us who vote are compelled to ask the question, with the slave mentality demonstrated by organized labor what is behind their sudden interest in helping one Black candidate against another? What criteria are they using? Organized labor spent tremendous sums of money against Bill Robinson’s Allegheny County contest, but were unsuccessful. The same unions rallied their forces and filled their money coffers again and came storming against City Councilman Rev. Ricky Burgess, but once again the voters soundly rejected them. However they are back again in the 24th District Legislative race with their high-powered attorneys and big money. To those of you who may not know whose running in the 24th, they are the incumbent Rep. Joe Preston and the endorsed candidate Ed Gainey.
Who are these union people who come into our communities believing they can buy our votes? I can’t recall these unions demonstrating this interest in local campaigns where the voters are overwhelmingly White. What is the reason they have chosen one candidate over the other? You can be assured it’s for the union’s benefit not the citizens of the 24th legislative district.
Kingsley Association needs your financial assistance.
(Louis “Hop” Kendrick is a weekly contributor to the Forum page.)