Considering a rebranding exercise that would increase the organization’s visibility and relevance should be a priority of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU), says entrepreneur, author and raconteur, Itah Sadu.
In the keynote address at the Ontario chapter’s 14th annual awards dinner last Saturday night, Sadu suggested that the executive could begin this journey by seeking a collaboration with Caribana organizers.
“You should say to them that as an organization, you bring incredible skills, especially when it comes to running a meeting,” said Sadu, who along with her husband Miguel San Vicente own A Different Booklist. “I would dare anyone to tell me of a time they attended a Caribana meeting and somebody went out and actively sought a union member to mediate that meeting, knowing fully well that unions come with all those organizational skills. We always go to academia to do that kind of work.
“The vehicle of Caribana is a great platform where an organization like yours can say we know how to organize parades, mobilize volunteers and recruit people. You have skilled people who can come from all sectors. You have steelworkers whose brand should be attached to the steelband movement. The possibilities are endless.”
Sadu’s address focused on the community partnerships that the CBTU could consider forging that would have an impact on the lives of Blacks and other Canadians. She also encouraged members to get their children involved in trade unionism, adding that young people carry a message and pass on information.
“You should encourage your kids to have a commitment to social justice and that’s important because if our children don’t know and understand the history and triumph of the labour movement and the great trade unionists that we have, then the work that we are doing as trade unionists is really kind of all in vain,” she said.
“Young people will not get excited about something they have no knowledge of. The reason we tell stories, maintain legends and repeat stories of greatness and heroes is so that the acts of those people and the courage of those people can live on and that’s what trade unionism is all about.”
Sadu also challenged the CBTU to push for Bromley Armstrong’s memoirs, Bromley, Tireless Champion for Just Causes and Stan Grizzle’s personal reminisces, My Name’s Not George: The Story of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, to be in schools and libraries across the country.
The organization posthumously recognized Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) and Aboriginal leader Tim Brown, who passed away last April at age 61 after a courageous battle with pancreatic cancer. He was one of the first Aboriginal OPSEU members to demand that the voice of Canada’s First Nations be heard in the corridors of organized labour.
June Veecock, the CBTU’s founding president who served for 19 years as the Ontario Federation of Labour’s Director of Human Rights, attended the dinner as did current president, Janice Gairey.
The CBTU has 50 chapters across the United States and one in Canada. The parent body granted a charter to Ontario at its 25th convention in Florida in 1995.