Coalition of Black Trade Unionists

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Full name Coalition of Black Trade Unionists
Founded 1972
Head union William Lucy, president
Affiliation AFL-CIO
Office location Washington, D.C.
Country United States

The Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization of African American trade union members affiliated with the AFL-CIO.

CBTU was started in September 1972 when more than 1,200 black union officials and rank and file members from 37 national unions met in Chicago, Illinois, to discuss the role of black trade unionists in the labor movement. At the time, it was the largest single gathering of black unionists in the history of the American labor movement. Five black labor leaders (William Lucy, Nelson Edwards, William Simons, Charles Hayes and Cleveland Robinson) called the new organization the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists.

They believed AFL-CIO President George Meany had been ignoring the voice of black trade unionists. They also believed that the AFL-CIO might attempt to declare its neutrality in the forthcoming U.S. presidential campaign in which President Richard Nixon was seeking re-election. Even though the main reason for the meeting was the presidential campaign, the most important development was the establishment of a permanent organization.

Since 1972, CBTU has improved the influence and power of black workers in the trade union movement as well as in their communities. CBTU has led efforts to make more union leadership positions available to women, African Americans, and other minorities.

Advancing the cause of African American women is particularly important to CBTU. Approximately 37 percent of the delegates who attended the first meeting were black women. Five of them served on the first executive committee of the CBTU. The CBTU executive council subsequently organized the National Women's Committee, which now holds conferences and workshops that allow participants to improve their unions and communities.

Many elected officials and appointees (mayors, judges, governors, members of Congress, U.S. Presidents) have benefited from the CBTU’s commitment to political action, and CBTU was an early supporter of the Congressional Black Caucus.


  • "Black Unionists Warn: Don't 'Restructure' Us Out." Black Commentator. February 3, 2005.

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