NAACP Chairman Speaks at AFL-CIO Convention

Julian Bond, Chairman, NAACP National Board of Directors, told members of the AFL-CIO that despite the exclusion of African Americans from some unions 40 years ago, "given our common interests, minority Americans and organized labor are both better off when we cooperate. Most of us are working people. Our interests and your interests are the same."

Speaking to delegates to the AFL-CIO convention in Chicago, Bond said: "Minority Americans have better lives because of labor's struggles. Labor supported the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Fair Housing Act of 1968, the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1988 and the Civil Rights Act of 1991. We know labor will be with us when we fight for renewal of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The interests of minorities and labor are inevitably bound together; as Martin Luther King said, when you are cut, we bleed."

"A crisis confronts the labor movement and the civil rights movement because of the conservative control of the Congress and the White House," Bond said.

Bond said: "Despite impressive increases in the number of black people holding public office, despite our ability now to sit and eat and ride and vote and attend school in places that used to bar black faces, in some important ways nonwhite Americans face restrictions more difficult to attack than in the years that went before. The current leadership of the House [of Representatives] and the Senate is as hostile to civil rights as any in recent memory. On a report card prepared by the NAACP, they fail."

In recent years, Bond said, "the enemies of justice and fair play have whittled away at the components of the progressive coalition" that includes organized labor. Despite anti-union forces in Washington, D.C., Bond said, this coalition can "shape public policy once again."

Conservative politicians and their allies have "promoted deeply flawed economic and foreign policies," said Bond. "They've passed tax cuts that were not only unfair but unaffordable. Ideas of government that were marginal, even delusional, have moved to center stage. The wacky has become the reality; the unimaginable is now taken for everyday truth."

Bond said conservatives have "restricted access to the courts, capped damages for even the most egregious practices, eviscerated class action lawsuits, and not coincidentally, shielded industry after industry from legal scrutiny." Moreover, he said, "They've tried an aggressive campaign to seduce black clergy and create a brand new political party, whose initials are F-B-G-P. That stands for the Faith Based Grant Party. Their hope is to create an alliance of the neo-cons and the theo-cons, all tied together by federal cash."

In 2003, black workers made up 16.5% of the unionized workforce, a greater percentage than their portion in the population. Numerous studies show that blacks, particularly black women, are more likely to vote pro-union in certification elections than their non-black counterparts.

Bond told the labor leaders: "Organized labor's agenda helps non-unionized blacks too. A high percentage of blacks are minimum wage and low-wage job holders. Labor fights for them when it fights for a raise in the minimum wage; that's why the NAACP has endorsed the call for an increase and why we've supported legislation that will boost the present, inadequate minimum wage."

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