Guest Article: CBTU and Apprenticeship Opportunities for Philadelphia’s Communities of Color

Ryan BoyerAs part of National Apprenticeship Week, the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO is sharing a few stories from Apprenticeship programs across the Labor movement.  In our Fall Newsletter, News and Views, PA AFL-CIO Vice President Ryan Boyer, Business Manager of LIUNA District Council of Philadelphia and Vicinity, and President of both the Philadelphia CBTU and the Philadelphia Building and Construction Trades Council, submitted the following article on the outreach and initiatives to expand apprenticeship opportunities to Communities of Color. If you would like to receive the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO’s quarterly newsletter, please fill out this form. 

Since its founding in 1972, the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) has served as the moral conscience of the Labor Movement, ensuring that workers of color benefited from the economic gains generated by the Movement.

The organization originated as a protest to the AFL-CIO’s impending endorsement of then-Presidential Candidate Richard Nixon. While the predominantly white union leadership of the time thought Nixon’s policies would benefit the Labor Movement as a whole, CBTU Founder William Lucy and others, rightly challenged the endorsement because of what they viewed as Nixon’s racist policies and a political agenda that would be detrimental to Black workers.

CBTUToday, the mission of the CBTU remains largely the same and, in our current political and economic environment, is more relevant than ever before.  We strongly advocate on behalf of people of color and ensure that they are included in the highly regarded and life-changing Building Trades Apprenticeship programs.  As the President of the Philadelphia Chapter CBTU and the Philadelphia Building and Construction Trades Council, I am proud of how both organizations have committed to an historic partnership that will create unprecedented opportunities for inner-city blacks and laborers’ to enter into the thriving Building Trades Apprenticeship programs. 

In partnership with the City of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania, The Philadelphia Building Trades have launched two game-changing initiatives – Rebuild and Penn Assist.  Each program is designed to recruit, train, retain and advance Black and Latino workers for success in Building Trades Apprenticeship programs.  The Rebuild initiative, a groundbreaking, $500 million Capital Investment program is designed to repair and upgrade outdated city assets such as libraries, recreation centers, playgrounds and parks across the City of Philadelphia.  The University of Pennsylvania, through Penn Assist has committed a similar amount to projects within their West Philadelphia/University City footprint. As partners in these historic development projects, the Building Trades have made a commitment to ensure representation of Black and Latino workers in Apprenticeship programs that will provide workers for these two programs, as well as others throughout the region. As a key component, those who are not ready for entry into existing Apprenticeship programs will be provided with academic and remedial assistance, to help prepare them for entry at a later time.

These are just a few of the ways in which the CBTU and the Philadelphia Building and Construction Trades Council – AFL-CIO are working to ensure a brighter future and full participation for Philadelphia’s Communities of Color. At a time when these communities are under siege from harmful political and economic policies emanating from our nation’s Capital, we will continue to stand in unwavering support of working families and communities across the region.