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Labor Long Intertwined with Civil Rights

Jens Manuel Krogstad USA TODAY
Though the unions held themselves up as civil rights advocates, white workers often saw their black counterparts as a threat because they competed for the same jobs. In response, black workers formed coalitions to change unions from within. The Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, for example, was founded in 1972. One union stood out when it came to opportunity and access for black workers: the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters with its significant black membership.

Pullman Porter Blues

John Olson Chicago Theater Beat
Play-with-music visits three generations of a family employed as porters and sets the action on June 22, 1937 a time of celebration and great hope for African-Americans. That night, Joe Louis beat James J. Braddock for the World Heavyweight Championship in Chicago. Later that year, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters signed its first collective bargaining agreement with the Pullman Company, improving work place conditions and increasing wages for the porters.
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