For many years, a group of trade unionists have been advocating within their unions and central labour bodies to put issues of racism and discrimination – in the workplace and unions – higher on labour’s agenda. During this period, the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists was established and a concerted effort was made for affirmative action seats for racial minorities on the CLC and OFL Boards.
At the 1987 OFL Convention, delegates elected Brother Herman Stewart of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union as the first person of colour to the provincial labour organization.
Following this success, the Coalition redoubled its efforts to force change at the national level. At the 1990 CLC Convention in Montreal, Brother Dory Smith challenged the slate and ended with over a thousand votes.
The following convention, the CLC was considering one seat for a visible minority, but the Coalition by this time had been advocating for two seats. As part of its lobbying efforts, the Coalition made a button – ONE + ONE = 2. This button was given to anyone who had the courage to wear it. By the end of this Convention, two visible minorities were on the CLC Board.
The Coalition had not limited its efforts to seats on the Boards of the CLC and OFL, but was raising the under representation of blacks and racial minorities on the staff of unions as well. To highlight the systematic exclusion, the Coalition began a report card on the hiring practices of unions.
In November 1995, the Coalition decided it was time to seek affiliation to the parent organization, and applied for a chapter charter in January of the following year. The Chapter charter was approved at the 1996 CBTU International Convention.