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A Common Project for a Just Society 377 order to better represent the interests of the African American community . Too often the local labor movement shied away from the concerns of particular communities, fearing that addressing group-specific concerns would be divisive. We, on the other hand, believe that having strong communities among its constituents only strengthens the labor movement. The proposed Black Worker Center would target the one entity that has been most constant in union and community organizing in Los Angeles: the black church. As noted in this chapter, black church leadership was involved in supporting union organizing struggles in Los Angeles from the late 1990s and into the early 2000s. The Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, under the leadership of the late Miguel Contreras, understood that the moral authority and civil rights tradition of the black church was needed in the fight for workers’ rights. From 1996, when Contreras took over as head of the federation, through the first decade of the 2000s, a relationship was nurtured with leaders of the South Los Angeles black faith and social justice community. However, it had not translated by the end of the decade into a strategic alliance that jointly developed campaigns and initiatives to address the broader black jobs crisis. Through the establishment of a community-based network, the Worker Center would connect organized labor to community organizations, including churches, worksource centers, and GED-youth programs that are already involved with job placement, job training, and employment support services, thereby sharing resources and developing joint initiatives. Additionally, the Worker Center would concentrate on training and educating unorganized black workers, leaders, and neighbors. This would create a true conversation about worker rights in the black community and build a foundation for organizing that originates in the black community and is facilitated by the community. It would facilitate the development of campaigns that address key employment problems facing the community. It also would put the black church and, to some degree, the community in a stronger position when partnering with labor, by establishing an infrastructure and framework for joint organizing initiatives. For unions, the Worker Center would educate a generation of black workers, particularly youth, who did not grow up in the post–World War II heyday for black labor, when good union jobs were linked to black advancement into the middle class. For youth, the Worker Center would introduce the notion of collective struggle for quality jobs. The Worker Center would emphasize two primary areas of work: countering discrimination and improving job quality. Too often African 378 BONACICH, smallwood-cuevas, morris, pitts, and bloom Americans face job discrimination when they are not hired or promoted. Discrimination is often subtle and systemic. Rarely can it be proven in court, and even if it could, the time and resources it would take to prevail could be out of proportion to the results. One possibility is to try and make discrimination a central union issue. The Worker Center could educate and put pressure on unions to put anti-discrimination clauses in their contracts as well as make sure the clauses are enforced. In terms of improving job quality,44 the challenge is to gain black access to good union jobs, such as construction work. Alternatively, the focus could be on organizing and developing strong union contracts in those jobs where African American workers are already concentrated. African Americans have proven their commitment to the ideals of unionization. While the SEIU SOULA Security Officers campaign successfully focused on organizing black workers, much more attention in early-2000s Los Angeles was given to organizing immigrants. The Worker Center would ensure that adequate attention is given by unions to organizing African American workers, and it could perform various roles in furthering this goal. It could serve as a center for research on African American workers , pointing to where political intervention is needed. It could provide trainings of various sorts, including job training and the soft skills of job acquisition. Most importantly, it could help workers and unions develop organizing campaigns in industries of African American concentration. In short, the focus of our proposal is not on developing job skills. Nor is it on developing black entrepreneurialism or capitalism. Our vision entails the development of forms of collective ownership and collective (and democratic) responsibility, with workers and unions playing a key role in the planning and implementation process. The Worker Center would receive strong support and resources from the Los Angeles labor movement, including the unions...


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MARC Record
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