By TIM ROWDEN
Richard Trumka, president of the national AFL-CIO; Pierette “Petee” Talley, secretary-treasurer of the Ohio AFL-CIO; and Martin Mathews, co-founder and president emeritus of the Mathew-Dickey Boys & Girls Club, were honored at the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) St. Louis Chapter’s 31st Annual Ernest and De Verne Calloway Awards Banquet Oct. 20 at the Marriott Grand Hotel in St. Louis.
The annual awards are given in honor and memory of Ernest Calloway, former director of education for Teamsters Local 688 and his wife De Verne Calloway, the first female African-American state representative elected to the Missouri Legislature.
Richard Trumka, president of the 12.5 million member AFL-CIO, was honored for his outspoken advocacy for social and economic justice and working to ensure that all workers have a good job and the power to determine their wages and working conditions.
“Civil rights and workers’ rights are one in the same,” Trumka said, reflecting on the unrest in Ferguson in 2014 and more recently in the City of St. Louis, the Missouri Legislature’s decision this year to pass preemption legislation rolling back the minimum wage increase approved by the St. Louis Board of Aldermen and undermining the freedom of workers to negotiate for a better life, and the statewide travel ban issued by the NAACP following passage this year of a discriminatory bill making it harder to prove workplace and housing discrimination.
Speaking on the eve of the AFL-CIO’s quadrennial convention here Oct. 22-25, Trumka said, “We made the decision to bring the convention here to St. Louis because it’s a proud union town, with a tremendous history of activism. The Labor Movement has been on the ground in St. Louis confronting issues of social and economic justice for decades. And I promise you one thing, the Labor Movement is here to stay and to correct all of those issues before we ever think about giving up.
“We live in a time of sharp divides here in America, and it’s hard,” Trumka stressed. “But when it comes to standing together, stating hard truths and fighting for what is right, we won’t back down, not one damn inch. Our work isn’t anywhere near done. We have a long way to go. And I promise you, we’re going to be there fighting every day, every way to make sure everybody, every kid, every father, every mother, every son, every daughter has a fair chance and a fair opportunity.”
Trumka, in accepting the award, recognized CBTU St. Louis Chapter President Emeritus Lew Moye, who was one of the leaders of the 1978 fight against RTW in Missouri.
“Thanks to his education efforts and his outreach, the victory of margin in the African-American community was higher than it was even among union members,” Trumka said. “Lew Moye, we owe you a tremendous debt of gratitude.”
Pierette “Petee” Talley is the first woman to hold one of the top two offices in the history of the Ohio AFL-CIO which, in 2011, lead the effort that saw Ohio voters successfully overturned Senate Bill 5, a law that, for public sector workers, would have resulted in the loss of most of their bargaining rights, including the right to charge fair share fees and the right to strike.
Talley, whose career began with AFSCME Ohio Council 8 in Toledo organizing public workers, held several positions with AFSCME, including the International union’s political and legislative director in Michigan, before being appointed State Director of the national AFL-CIO in Ohio in 1999.
Talley is a member of AFSCME Local 3616 and serves on the boards of the Ohio Employee Ownership Center, UHCAN (Universal Health Care Action Network), Progress Ohio, the National A. Philip Randolph Institute Board, CBTU National Executive Council, the National Board of the Alliance for Retired Americans, Ohio Constitution Modernization Commission and Cincinnati Union Cooperative.
She also works at the grassroots level, organizing community and non-partisan voter mobilization efforts, volunteering with the Ohio Unity Coalition and Ohio Black Women’s Roundtable and Get Out The Vote efforts in African-American communities across the state.
Talley launched the Ohio Voter Protection Coalition in 2004 with a focus on making sure Ohio voters can cast and have their ballots counted in elections.
She also launched the Stand Your Ground Voter Empowerment Tour during the 2012 elections, an effort that registered over 7,000 new voters, verified tens of thousands of voters’ registration status and knocked on over 40,000 doors encouraging voter participation.
Last year, she coordinated and launched WE RISE, the Voter Empowerment Voter Initiative of CBTU in Ohio, during the 2016 election.
“What you do for yourself dies with you,” said Martin Mathews, co-founder and president emeritus of the Mathews-Dickey Boys & Girls Club. “What you do for others lives on forever.”
After more than a half-century of service to the St. Louis community, building character for youth in disenfranchised neighborhoods, first through baseball, then through football, track and field and other sports, Mathews, 92, continues to live by those words.
Mathews’ first involvement with youth programming came at the death-bed invitation of a fellow neighborhood baseball coach who asked him to take a team of young men under his wing, a request he accepted. At the first game, Mathews was struck by the disparity he saw between his impoverished group of young black men, who had tattered uniforms and equipment, and their white counterparts across the diamond.
After losing badly, Mathews sat the team down and vowed that if they worked hard, he would get them better equipment, and if they worked even harder they could be champions. He molded the team into semi-pro three-state champions who won five games in one day. More importantly, the members of the Knights went on to become successful FBI agents, educators, business people and lawyers.
That experience, and a chance encounter with Mathews-Dickey co-founder “Dickey” Ballentine, led to the development of the legendary youth athletic club.
Mathews was working in a factory and at two other side jobs when he and Ballentine (a postal worker) met in a neighborhood park and, after discussing how the young men on their teams weren’t getting into as much trouble as youth with nothing to do, co-founded Mathews-Dickey Boys’ Club in 1960. Since then, the Club has played an important role in effort to keep young people busy in a variety of activities to combat the effects of idleness, crime and illiteracy.
A champion for youth, Mathews has forged strong relationships with business and community leaders and developed numerous innovative programs like the Volunteer Tutorial, which supplies young with math, reading and language arts “study buddies,” and Computer Literacy Instruction to tackle the digital divide through technology training.
“It is my philosophy that talent, education and determination encourage youth to transcend less than stellar living situations and other obstacles,” said Mathews. “Through education, we can overcome hardships and difficulties and provide support systems to conquer poverty, ignorance and hatred to become productive citizens. My lifelong mission is to educate youth on the front end to prevent them from falling through the cracks on the back end.”
A humble man, Mathews upon receiving the award, summed up his philosophy and his request of himself and the crowd “What can you do to be better?”
For more information on the Boys & Girls Club, contact Bill Fronczak at 314-679-5228 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.