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.
In 2020, hundreds of Local 804 Teamsters protested against racism and harassment at UPS as part of a national “Strike for Black Lives” called for by dozens of unions.
Making UPS Deliver on the Dream
For decades UPS, headquartered in Atlanta the birthplace of Martin Luther King, refused to recognize MLK Day as a paid holiday.
Local 804 members demanded that UPS make MLK Day a paid holiday through 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.
“By honoring MLK Day as a union holiday, we honor the mission of justice and equality that Dr. King fought for,” said Antoine Andrews, a shop steward at Foster. “The dream of Martin Luther King lives on today through every UPS Teamster who organized to right this wrong.”
The Struggle Continues
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.
A strong union involves everyone. United, we can win economic, social and racial justice for all.