I’m writing this letter to the Editors of the New Pittsburgh Courier in response to a column written by Louis “Hop” Kendrick titled “Unions are not the friends of Black folks”.
While I understand that the columnist is voicing his perspective, I find the column inaccurate and in my opinion not reflective of many African-Americans. As a Hill District resident and an employee of the United Steelworkers, I’ve been an activist, a union member since 1964 and have held union leadership positions since 1979. I’ve found that often when people make complaints and in the course of investigating the complaint, you a find a kernel of truth wrapped in a bale of B S and are expected to overlook the true story.
I’m currently an official in the USW; I spent 20 years in the mills working as a craftsman, a journeyman millwright,and pipefitter. I’m also vice president of the Pittsburgh A. Philip Randolph Institute and we work every day to empower minority communities through Voter Education and Workforce Development. Hop do you remember the name A. Philip Randolph? He’s the Black guy who led the formation of the “Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters” the first Black Union. Those were the men who made certain the Pittsburgh Courier was distributed across America. Mr. Randolph along with Bayard Rustin a Gay Black man and Walter Reuther a White union leader organized the 1963 March on Washington in case you had forgotten or did not find that out in your research. That effort emphasized the Black–Labor Alliance and its role in changing what happens in America for Blacks.
Hop that kernel of truth wrapped in B.S. in your article is this; it is a well documented fact that discrimination was and continues to be a problem in our society and that in the early 70’s an agreement called “ Consent Decree” was negotiated in the Steel Industry to address that issue.
In your article attacking unions in general and the Steelworkers specifically you referred to Otis King, I have to ask again if you really did your research or talked to the King family because you didn’t reference Mr. King’s long term leadership in an organization “The Coalition of Black Trade Unionists” nor did you refer to his son Ronald King who is the current president of CBTU Pittsburgh and also an Auditor for the United Steelworkers for more than 30 years. The CBTU proudly demonstrates its commitment to both our labor movement and the minority community. Is that because it does not jibe with your claims?
Hop I respect your right to your opinion, but you also failed to refer to African American labor leaders like Oliver Montgomery retired Economist for The United Steelworkers who fought every day for people of color in his union as while leading the Penn Hills NAACP for many years as well being a founding member of CBTU, nor did you mention Maida Springer a powerful Black woman who as a member and leader of the International Ladies Garments Workers Union empowered minority workers across America and the world. Did you also forget or maybe you didn’t know long time Steelworker official Dwayne Cooper who was a co-founder of the Hill District Consensus Group.
You voice your angst because some unions are supporting a candidate in a State Representative race that does not enjoy your support. Well that is America at its finest, are you equally appalled at the roles that ALEC or the Koch brothers are playing in an effort to disenfranchise Black Americans? Unions support candidates that support issues important to their members, shouldn’t everyone use similar evaluations?
In closing, I invoke the names of Bill Garner, Ron Sapp, and Harold McDonald as well as JJ Johnson, current Black leaders in the Building Trades in Western PA. I respect their integrity, character and commitment to ensuring minorities have a fair shot at careers in the trades. And last but not least Hop if you want more minorities in the Trades, work with me to get more candidates to apply that can meet the standards while getting some of those who are journeymen and aren’t paying their dues to pay them. I’m committed are you?