By SHERI GASSAWAY
Four leaders well known in the St. Louis Labor community have been honored with the St. Louis chapter of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Human Rights Award.
The awards were presented during the 41st annual awards banquet Jan. 21 at Sheet Metal Workers Local 36 Union Hall in St. Louis. The winners were recognized for their important contributions in social justice and human and Labor rights in the St. Louis Metro area in the tradition of Dr. King.
Richard Womack, Jr., community and religious affairs advisor to AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, was the keynote speaker at the event. Womack was also a key player in the fight to defeat Prop A in Missouri and worked alongside many in the room on the campaign.
“Today, we are living in what Dr. King called ‘the fierce urgency of now,’” he said. “One year before he was killed, Dr. King issued a warning. ‘There is such a thing as being too late. This is no time for apathy or complacency This is a time for vigorous and positive action.’ Brothers and sisters, now is that time to take risks and get uncomfortable. That’s when real progress is made.”
This year’s awardees included:
• LaKenya Roberson, a UFCW Local 655 organizer. Roberson was appointed as St. Louis City regional field director for the We Are Missouri Campaign during the 2018 primary election season. Under her leadership, 200,000 doors were knocked and 200,000 calls were made, resulting in 88 percent of African-American St. Louis City voters defeating Prop A. Additionally, Roberson lent her talents to the Missouri AFL-CIO’s during the 2018 mid-term election, resulting on a win for Prop B to raise the minimum wage and Amendment 1 to clean up Missouri politics.
• Richard von Glahn, Missouri Jobs with Justice policy director. Von Glahn, usually seen around town with a clipboard in his hand, has been a leader for voting rights campaigns and the fight for Medicaid expansion and Missouri’s working families. Von Glahn, an advocate on the front lines of the Progressive Labor Movement, was recognized for his staunch and dedicated hard work on the successful initiatives to repeal Prop A and pass Prop B and Amendment 1 in the 2018 mid-term election.
• Sonja Gholston-Byrd, United Way of Greater St. Louis director of Labor Engagement. In her position, she works with Organized Labor to fundraise for the United Way, which enables the agency to provide support for union and non-union working families in need. Gholston Byrd, a 17-year member of Communications Workers of America and vice president of the St. Louis chapter of the Coalition of Labor Union Women, has also worked tirelessly with the Building Union Diversity (BUD) program as the mentoring coordinator to connect experienced tradespeople with BUD graduates to ensure retention.
• Keith Robinson, president of the St. Louis Chapter of the A. Phillip Randolph Institute. Robinson, who serves as chair of the St. Louis Labor Council’s Diversity Committee, has developed programs with Organized Labor and community partner organizations to increase voter participation in St. Louis. Realizing the role future youth will play in Labor and the community, Robinson has focused on registering and educating students at high schools and colleges. Additionally, he developed a program to provide rides to the polls for voters without transportation in last year’s elections.