TDU Celebrates Black History Month

During Black History Month, we celebrate the role Black Teamsters have played in building our union, and pledge to continue fighting for racial and economic justice.

Black Teamster History

African Americans were part of the membership from the very beginning of the Teamsters Union, with Black members attending the founding convention in 1903.

Early in our union’s history, Teamsters advocated for “no color lines” within the labor movement and would not tolerate the practice of separate unions for Black members.

As early as 1917, Teamster contracts included provisions for equal pay regardless of race.

But Black Teamsters also had to organize and fight to win equal rights.

Black freight Teamsters were kept off of road boards well into the 1970s because carriers often used segregated hotels to lodge drivers. Only after lawsuits were filed did PIE, Roadway and other carriers begin to hire black road drivers.

For decades UPS, headquartered in Atlanta the birthplace of Martin Luther King, refused to recognize MLK Day as a paid holiday.

TDU organized the Make UPS Deliver on the Dream Campaign, which was taken up by Sean O’Brien and Fred Zuckerman during last year’s contract campaign at UPS.

United, Teamsters won a paid union holiday that celebrates Dr. King’s legacy and contributions.

Similarly, the new Teamster leadership took up the End Part-Time Poverty at UPS campaign first organized by TDU and the TDU Black Caucus.

Part-time wages were the final sticking point in contract negotiations. The new contract raises pay for current part-timers from $15 an hour to $25.75 by the end of the contract and starting wages to $23 an hour.

The Fight Today

Unions and racial justice movements have won important victories against racism in America. But there’s still more to fight for.

The typical Black worker still makes 23% less than white workers do. Unions are key to closing the racial wage gap. Studies show that when union density is up, racial disparities shrink.

Black workers are leading the fight to organize unions and grow the labor movement. Unionization among workers of color accounted for the majority of new organizing in 2023, and Black workers had the highest unionization rate at 13.1%.

A successful, fighting labor movement needs union leadership that looks like the membership at all levels: from International Union leadership to organizers and International Reps to local union officers and shop stewards.

A strong union involves everyone. United, we can win economic, social and racial justice for all.

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