Not long after the disgusting labor system of American slavery was abolished, many white people were paid to work the enslaved were forced to do for free.
They fought against unfair wages and formed the all-white National Labor Union (NLU), claiming that all people’s rights as workers deserved to be protected. (Oh, the irony!)
To back this claim, a handful of Black ship workers from Baltimore were invited to attend NLU’s national conference in 1869. Among them was Isaac Myers, a labor activist known in the Black community.
However, as the conference went on, Myers quickly recognized how ignorant the NLU was of the actual issues and needs of Black people in the workplace and, more generally, in America.
From the NLU’s lack of awareness came the Colored National Labor Union (CNLU). Led by Myers, the CNLU made big waves in effectively negotiating fair wages and other benefits for its Black members based upon their skills and talent.
Many more labor unions were created during this era. By refusing to remain quiet, Myers and Black folks like him saw what Blacks have to offer, and worked towards getting our community the fair work and pay we deserve. But with the racial wage gap not closing anytime soon, the fight still continues.