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Building bonds between the African-American church and the labor movement: Part 2

President of 32Bj | , Mike Fishman | , Rev. Johnny Ray Youngblood | 4/23/2012, 4:30 p.m.
Building bonds between the African-American church and the labor movement: Part 2

Fishman: "We hoped that Black churches, in the tradition of Martin Luther King Jr., could raise this as a moral and race issue. Rev. Youngblood was willing not only to do something himself, but to reach out to get others involved."

Youngblood: "I put off an initial meeting with Mike. I wondered to myself, 'What does a president of a union want with me?' Now, I realize that the union-church relationship has 'perfect potential.' Working together, we have a greater ability to define and shape the political will of New York City."

One concrete result of our work together was that we were able to convince Fordham University, the Catholic university in New York City, that it was not living up to its religious creed with regard to the contracted security officers protecting its campuses.

Union members alone may not have been able to carry that message to a religious institution. The church alone would not have been able to raise the standards for wages and benefits, but when labor and the church join together, they increase their moral, political and economic power.

Overall, that organizing campaign led to thousands of previously nonunion security officers, most of them African-American, joining 32BJ and, as a result, winning better wages, benefits, training and a voice on the job.

Having a voice--having a say about our work conditions and future--is essential to human dignity. As King recognized, it is the struggle for human dignity that binds the labor movement to the African-American church.