BEAVER-LAWRENCE CENTRAL LABOR COUNCIL HUMAN RIGHTS BANQUET
FEATURING WILLIAM LUCY
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE BY BOBBY SHORT
APRIL 10th – 6:00 SOCIAL HOUR 7:00 MEAL
AT THE FEZ IN ALIQUIPPA
PDA TABLE $30 PER PERSON
TO JOIN US CALL TINA SHANNON 724-843-0545
WHY I WANT TO HEAR WHAT WILLIAM LUCY HAS TO SAY
BY TINA B SHANNON
March 26, 2010
Although I’ve never met him, I’m looking forward to hearing William Lucy speak. Learning about him enabled me to imagine a world where justice triumphs.
When the Beaver-Lawrence County Labor Council announced that he was going to be the keynote speaker at the upcoming human rights banquet, I didn’t know who he was. But I thought this would be a good opportunity to gather people together to support our friends in labor.
I heard that he was a labor leader who had worked with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Memphis. But I wasn’t really excited about William Lucy speaking in Beaver County until I did some research.
William Lucy left college before he received his degree. He became an assistant materials and research engineer for Costa County California. There he found his life’s work, but it wasn’t in the materials and research department. William Lucy joined AFSCME, the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees. Soon he was working for the union.
A year later, in 1968, the Memphis sanitation workers went on strike against terrible working conditions and shamefully low wages. The union sent him to Memphis to work on the campaign. This is the campaign that developed the slogan “I am a man”.
A partnership between the union and the black ministers who were leaders of the local NAACP slowly formed. At first, the two parties were wary of each other. Union organizers thought that focusing on the issue of wages and working conditions would allow for more unity between the sanitation workers and nearby union workers who were mostly white.
The African American leaders in the NAACP knew that southern unions excluded black workers from promotion. They were hesitant to work with AFSCME. While struggling and strategizing for victory, each side came to see the other as essential for success. As an African American union leader, William Lucy was at the center of this process.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. agreed to join the sanitation workers struggle. He saw the importance at the national level, of articulating the economic aspect of the civil rights struggle.
The tragedy of Dr. King’s death was a setback, but the sanitation workers, with the support of their community, pushed on to succeed.
William Lucy went on to found the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists. This group, with Lucy at its head, was instrumental in starting the Free South Africa Movement in the United States.
The Reagan Administration planned to legitimize the P. W. Botha apartheid regime with a policy of “constructive engagement.” Four prominent black political leaders decided to escalate their opposition to the Reagan policy by sitting in at the South African embassy in Washington, D.C.
The Free South Africa movement was founded in 1985 as a support organization for protests that quickly spread after the first arrests at the South African Embassy. Many small anti-apartheid groups existed in the United States, but the symbolic force of civil disobedience forged them into a nation-wide movement.
Despite Ronald Reagan winning re-election, the American anti-apartheid struggle gained strength through grassroots participation. Once again William Lucy was at the center of a struggle that brought together many different people.
The Free South Africa Movement emphasized economic withdrawal from South Africa. The demand for economic sanctions on the South African apartheid regime spread throughout our country. Corporations were targeted and picketed. College students demanded that educational institutions stop dealing with South Africa. In the end Congress passed sanctions over Reagan’s veto. Nelson Mandela was released, and the apartheid regime fell.
William Lucy helped shape these successful social movements. These movements succeeded because savvy tactical and strategic decisions inspired masses of people to act. These struggles succeeded because wide coalitions were formed and a variety of talents from many sectors of society were used to move institutions that seemed all-powerful.
What could be more relevant to the tasks ahead of us? I want to hear what this man has to say.