Teamsters celebrate Black History Month
(Source: International Brotherhood of Teamsters website, February 1, 2013)
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The contributions of black members to the success of the Teamsters Union are numerous, varied and as old as the union itself. Black team drivers attended the first Convention in 1903 and were active in all aspects of the union—including leadership—from the beginning. That commitment remains strong today.
The Teamsters Union has traditionally been ahead of other unions in terms of the treatment of minority members, calling for “no color line” in the union as early as 1906, and began actively seeking to organize black men and women. That foundation of equality led black members to become strong advocates for civil rights and other social justice causes through the years.
Black members are an integral part of the legacy the Teamsters Union has created for working families over the last century. Whether serving as the first black milkman, a soldier defending freedom, a Rosie the Riveter on the home front in World War II, or traveling to Washington, D.C. to march with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. or serve on a D.R.I.V.E. delegation, the experiences and achievements of black Teamsters have made a difference and deserve to be recognized.
General President Emeritus James R. Hoffa (who was born 100 years ago this month) was strongly opposed to segregation of any kind and chose to forfeit prospective members rather than abandon the principles of the union. At one point in the 1950s, he and Vice President Harold Gibbons traveled to New Orleans to lead an organizing campaign at a chemical plant but were stonewalled by white workers demanding a separate local for black workers. Hoffa refused, knowing they would lose the election because of the decision. Hoffa was angry about the loss but felt the union was better off without such racist members. “We don’t need ‘em,” he said. “Their way is not the Teamster way.”
The Teamsters Union salutes all those who have played a role, large or small in creating the unique and powerful history of Black Americans. As part of Black History Month we also celebrate our own members and the great contributions they have made to the Teamsters.
Information, interviews and articles from the past related to Black History Month will be posted during February.
Thursday, February 28, 2013