Date: Sat, 9 Aug 97 10:07:31 CDT
From: email@example.com (Peoples Weekly World)
Subject: NAACP labor brunch calls for unity, activism
Organization: Scott Marshall
NAACP labor brunch calls for unity, activism
By Denise Winebrenner, Peoples Weekly World
9 August 1997
PITTSBURGH - Participants in the labor brunch at the 88th
Convention of the NAACP had plenty to cheer about, but the
loudest applause was reserved for the Rev. Joseph Lowery,
retiring president of the Southern Christian Leadership
Conference. Lowery, who has led SCLC for the past 20 years,
has announced plans to retire as soon as a successor is
In a wide-ranging speech, Lowery praised the new AFL-CIO
leadership. "But," he said, "what they have done so far
must be the opening hymn not the benediction."
Then, touching on the present world and national situation
which he called a period of "transition," Lowery warned
that the American dream will die without "the potent,
effective voice" of the labor and civil rights movements in
"We have witnessed the passing of an era," he said, "an era
of the Cold War, and anti-Communism - an era of hysteria."
and that the United States was "between that era and the
birth of a new era that is filled with more uncertainty
Lowery said that during the Cold War the nation's leaders
could "neglect our democratic institutions; defy codes of
ethics; ignore traditions of compassion; could aid and abet
the emasculation of values; could abuse workers - as long
as they were fighting what they called the 'Evil Empire.'"
Lowery said people have been hit by "hurricanes of twisted
priorities" and "demagogic politicians. The moral and
economic landscape today is strewn with debris of broken
promises, shattered dreams, crippled laws, defaulted
mortgages, disrupted education and vocational careers much
like the landscape of communities hit by a hurricane."
Noting that organized labor is a "core" member of the
coalition of conscience, Lowery compared the battle for
social justice with a basket ball game.
He said that issues like decent-paying jobs, health care,
education, the right to strike and bargain, integration,
affirmative action, environmental responsibility, workplace
health and safety, welfare reform had been, for too long,
"back court" issues.
"We have to move them to the front court," he said. "We
must move to the front court of equity and sanity and must
leave the back court of growing disparity between those who
have more than they will ever need and those who never had
what they do need."
Then, tweaking the delegates, Lowery asked, "Why were we so
quiet when they assaulted affirmative action? Why did so
many 'Negroes' join the chorus that we don't need
affirmative action? Our unity and activism must address the
assault on affirmative action," he said.
"If you think the playing field is level, you're insane. If
you think inequality doesn't exist, you're a fool. Unity
and activism," Lowery said in closing, are inseparable.
"Can you imagine Einstein without mathematics; can you
imagine Duke Ellington without 'Satin Doll'; Aretha without
R-e-s-p-e-c-t; intellect without W.E.B. Du Bois; eloquence
without Frederick Douglass; Tuskegee without Booker T.
Washington? How in the hell can you imagine unity without
Brunch participants applauded the call by NAACP President
Kweisi Mfume for unity and the need to avoid splits between
labor and the civil rights movements.
He said the struggles against the right wing provides the
common arena for both organizations to work to defeat those
who seek to defeat working men and women in this country.
"We are, once again, two movements, one goal," Mfume said.
Mfume recounted his 10 years as a member of AFSCME and his
years of public service on the Baltimore City Council and
in the House of Representatives. "I retired with a 100
percent pro-labor voting record," he said proudly.
Coalition of Black Trade Unionists President William Lucy
presented awards to Dolores Huerta, vice president of the
United Farm Workers, and Moe Biller, retiring president of
the Postal Workers.
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