The United Steelworkers (USW) will commemorate Black History Month by honoring the sacrifices of all of the Black men and women who fought for dignity and respect in the workplace, on the bus and in all aspects of life.
In the early 20th century, Pullman Porters were an integral part of the Pullman Rail Car Company’s operations. But for decades, only Black men were hired as porters and subjected to low wages, merciless working conditions and daily humiliation because of race. They pressed on despite their circumstances and under the leadership of A. Philip Randolph organized a union, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, which brought about much needed improvements.
In the 1960s Freedom Riders travelled to the South to challenge Jim Crow segregation by race on buses, in waiting areas and in other public places. They paid dearly as they were brutally beaten and arrested for breach of the peace because they dared to mix the races.
Until the mid-1970s, Black steelworkers were relegated to the worst jobs in the mills and paid lower wages. Their lives improved only after a Consent Decree was negotiated between numerous steel companies and the Steelworkers Union.
The USW will honor the contributions of these men and women by displaying in the lobby of the USW International headquarters a tribute to the Freedom Riders. In addition, the USW will sponsor a Black History Month Brown Bag Lunch Series, which will feature documentaries and the personal accounts of Black steelworkers.
Not just this month, but every day, the USW recognizes the sacrifices of those who fought, suffered and died for civil rights.