The Stand

WSLC’s Cherika Carter, CBTU boost voices of Black workers

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Join during Coalition of Black Trade Unionists’ membership drive

 

By AMRINE WHITE


(Feb. 27, 2022) — In honor of Black History Month and Black excellence, we at the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, want to take the time to highlight influential individuals and organizations who carry forward the work of racial justice and organizing in our community year round. Today we are uplifting the incredible work of the Puget Sound Chapter of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists and CBTU Chapter President Cherika Carter.

Cherika first became involved in union activism as a Member Political Organizer at UFCW 1059. As an MPO she led PAC signups, worked with bargaining teams, and worked on political campaigns when she wasn’t working in the pharmacy as a technician. A highlight for her, outside of organizing on President Obama’s campaigns, was her time as an organizer working to overturn SB 5 in 2011. This was Ohio’s then Gov. John Kasich’s “Right to Work is Wrong” bill.

Shortly after graduating from the Ohio State University, she became a Field Representative for the Ohio AFL-CIO, working directly to support the work of two central labor councils across 15 counties, mobilizing thousands of activists across the state.

Today, she serves as the Washington State Labor Council’s (WSLC) Political and Strategic Campaigns Director where she works to advance the WSLC’s strategic campaigns, including her work on the WSLC Race and Labor program, leading the Labor Neighbor grassroots political action program, and directing the Union Summer Internship Program to help educate and train the next generation of union activists.

In 2021, Cherika was given a WILL Empower Womxn’s Labor Leadership “Behind the Scenes” Award for her role and work to keep our union affiliates supported not just in Washington, but across the country. Two examples of her behind-the-scenes work included the internal work she did at the WSLC to execute the first and incredibly well-attended virtual COPE and WSLC Constitutional Conventions in 2020. Cherika on-boarded the necessary technology, trained and developed the staff team to offer convention votes and workshops, and emceed several days of the event with ease at a time when union members and leaders needed it most.

Another key moment in 2020, that had repercussions for our work today, was the 2020 Presidential Election. The WSLC’s Political Program was developed and led by Cherika who was able to successfully pivot during the pandemic to run a well-oiled Labor Neighbor program in the absence of door-knocking. Through creative and strategic thinking she was able to run a robust digital program that shared union worker stories and lifted up the issues that mattered to working families the most, engaging volunteers through virtual FUNbanks that prioritized worker safety while defending democracy. Her program modeled best practices for our Central Labor Councils and affiliates to support local races as well as virtual phonebanks in swing states to help secure the Biden-Harris votes in Arizona, Georgia and Pennsylvania.

Sacrificing time and proximity to her family was not easy for Cherika. She has been able to dedicate her full self to her work, her family and friends as well as supporting everyone she knows behind the scenes as an auntie, god-mother, sister, daughter, director at one of the largest state federations in the AFL-CIO, and friend to everyone who has the pleasure to know her in so many different movements and capacities.

In 2020, Cherika Carter was elected President of the Puget Sound Chapter of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, a position that she champions today. The Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, Puget Sound Chapter, represents the Seattle area and is the “fiercely independent voice of Black workers within the trade union movement, challenging organized labor to be more relevant to the needs and aspirations of Black and poor workers.”

CBTU helps to secure employment opportunities for Black workers, provide a voice and vehicle for Black participation in politics, increase union involvement in voter registration, support civil rights and civil groups, and increase alliances between labor, churches and the community. Recently, CBTU has been presented and supported at community organizing and educational events including the MLK Jr. Day Virtual Workshop, the MLK-60 3 day event, and the Washington Poor People’s Campaign. Nationally, Cherika is on the Under – 40 Committee of CBTU and has represented and lifted up the Puget Sound chapter’s work on panels at CBTU’s National Convention.

On Feb. 16, I had the opportunity to attend one of CBTU’s monthly chapter meetings and open house hosted by Chapter President Cherika Carter. The Zoom meeting kicked off with a recording of the Black National Anthem and a prayer from Chapter Trustee Kevin Allen (a member of WSFE Local 443), followed by ice breakers for new and returning members. Cherika led the group through an enthusiastic game of Labor Black history trivia (What was the first union to elect a black woman to leadership?) and gave out gift cards to the winners. After the trivia games, members at the meeting discussed previous initiatives; like the work of the Community Action Response Against Toxins team around climate, the 50th anniversary of CBTU and honoring the legacy’s of the founders by continuing the work, and the chapters involvement to get out the vote. Cherika concluded our time together by saying that CBTU “has advocated for many changes that have happened to uplift Black workers, but there is so much more to be done, and together through solidarity with all working people, it can be done” and encouraged those in attendance to become CBTU members.

If you are interested in learning more about the Puget Sound Chapter of CBTU, follow them on Facebook, @PugetSoundChapterCBTU or email Cherika Carter at pugetsoundchaptercbtu@gmail.com. Membership sign-ups can be completed here. Annual memberships for rank-and-file individuals are $50, staff memberships are $75, and retiree memberships are $25. Rank-and-file union members should also check with your union in case scholarships are available for CBTU and other constituency group members.

 


Amrine White is a Race & Labor Intern with the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO. The Building a Movement Labor Internship is a paid internship program that connects undergraduate students at the University of Washington with the local labor movement, through partnerships with community organizations engaged with this work on a variety of levels. The WSLC Race & Labor program is committed to racial and economic justice inside the labor movement and in our communities.

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