St. Louis – The Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) honored Mine Workers and fast food workers at its annual Ernest & De Verne Calloway awards banquet Oct. 19 at the Renaissance Grand Hotel in St. Louis.
Ernest Calloway was the Director Education for Teamsters Local 688. His wife, De Verne Calloway, was the first female African American to serve in the Missouri House of Representatives.
This was the 27th year for the banquet. Awardees included Cecil Roberts, International President, United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), and the Rev. Martin Rafanan, community director for the fast food workers’ STL Can’t Survive on $7.35 campaign.
MINE WORKERS’ VICTORY
After a months long battle, including multiple rallies and marches through downtown St. Louis, the UMWA reached a global settlement last month with Peabody Energy and Patriot Coal that will provide funding of more than $400 million to cover future health care benefits for retirees affected by the bankruptcy of Patriot Coal.
“Our campaign against Peabody, Arch and Patriot coal companies was faith, civil rights and labor based,” Roberts said. “At the beginning of our campaign we went to church and asked the congregation not to pray for a win but to pray that the Lord give us strength to keep on fighting for a win.”
In regards to the UMWA victory at Peabody, Lew Moye, president of the St. Louis Chapter of CBTU said “President Roberts and UMWA have taught and reminded some of us how a union is supposed to stand up and fight for its members.”
FAST FOOD WORKERS
The STL Can’t Survive on 7.35 Campaign has been actively protesting for higher wages and the right to form a union since May. In August, fast-food workers in 60 cities across the country went on strike, calling for higher wages, so they don’t have to rely on public assistance programs to get by.
A national study released last month by economists at the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Illinois found that low-wage fast food jobs cost taxpayers an estimated $7 billion a year in public assistance to prop up fast food workers who don’t earn enough to support themselves.
“I am calling on all of you in the audience to be on the front line at the fast food restaurants where we will be protesting,” Rafanan said. “We can’t let these young workers stand by themselves.”
MORE WORK TO DO
There is still much work to do, Terry Melvin, International President of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists told the roughly 300 guests in attendance.
“We can’t hang the good things we have done on the wall and say we are done,” Melvin said. “We have to stand together and fight voter suppression, fight for better health care, fight anti-worker laws and fight for jobs.”
Other speakers included Secretary-Treasurer of the Missouri AFL-CIO Mike Louis, St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley, state representatives Karla May (D-St. Louis) and Clem Smith (D-Velda Village Hills), Eastern Missouri Laborers District Council Business Manager and Local 110 President Gary Elliott, Missouri Jobs With Justice Executive Director Lara Granich, fast food worker Rasheen Aldridge, former St. Louis Alderman Kenneth Jones and the Rev. Frederick McCullough.