NAACP and AFL-CIO leaders to speak at IU Bloomington on civil rights and labor

  • Oct. 27, 2015


BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Two of the most prominent national leaders of the civil rights and labor movements will be at Indiana University Bloomington next week for a signature event of the College of Arts and Sciences 2015 Themester “@Work: The Nature of Labor on a Changing Planet.”

The Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP, and Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, the nation’s largest labor organization, will share the stage for a discussion titled “Labor and Civil Rights: Bold Legacies and New Directions.”

The event will take place at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 4, in Presidents Hall of Franklin Hall on the IU Bloomington campus. William Morris of the Bloomington Human Rights Commission will moderate.

“Fifty years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. observed that one stage of the civil rights movement had ended and another needed to begin,” said Benjamin Robinson, co-chair of the Themester 2015 advisory committee and associate professor in Germanic studies. “There could be no progress in civil rights, he stated, ‘unless the whole of American society takes a new turn toward greater economic justice.’

“King was assassinated in Memphis supporting striking public workers in their efforts to bring about that turn. Recognizing that King's turn has yet to be taken, the Themester Committee sought to bring together two leaders not only to discuss, but also to make living history on our campus.”

Barber and Trumka will explore initiatives including bringing civil rights and environmental groups into the labor federation and developing new forms of unionism organized around communities.

“One premise guiding our signature event is that there is no better way to learn about work than with those who are organizing its future,” Robinson said.

Tickets are required for the free event and are available online; seating is limited. Video of the discussion will be live streamed and archived at News media should contact Tracy Bee at 812-856-7183 or to make arrangements for admission in advance.

The Rev. William Barber was born in Indianapolis in 1963 and moved as a child to North Carolina, where his family helped integrate local public schools. The pastor of Greenleaf Baptist Church in Goldsboro, N.C., for 20 years, he has been president of the North Carolina NAACP since 2006.

Barber has gained national attention for his leadership of the Moral Mondays Movement, which has brought thousands of people together to protest spending cuts for education, health and social services in rallies at the North Carolina Statehouse in Raleigh and elsewhere around the state.

He has served as executive director of the North Carolina Human Relations Commission, a national NAACP board member and chair of the NAACP legislative political action committee. He convened the Historic Thousands on Jones Street Peoples Assembly Coalition, a broad alliance of organizations that champions an anti-racism, anti-poverty and anti-war agenda.

Trumka became president of the 12.5 million-member American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations in 2009. He served as secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO from 1995 to 2009.

He grew up in the small town of Nemacolin, Pa., where nearly all of the men in his family were coal miners. Trumka followed them into the mines, working there as he attended Penn State and then Villanova University law school. In 1982, at age 33, he ran on a reform ticket and was elected the youngest president of the United Mine Workers of America.

His leadership of the AFL-CIO has focused on organizing and collective bargaining as well as advocacy for labor law reform, immigration reform and an increase in the federal minimum wage. He has led efforts for the AFL-CIO to partner or affiliate with other labor organizations, including the National Guestworker Alliance and the National Domestic Workers Alliance.

Trumka traveled to St. Louis in September 2014 to speak against racial injustice after the shooting of Michael Brown and, a few weeks later, gave a major address on race and mass incarceration.

Themester 2015 “@Work: The Nature of Labor on a Changing Planet” is a semester-long exploration of labor and work, its history and future. It includes lectures, panel discussions, symposia, film showings, exhibits and performances organized around the theme of work. 

Related Links

The Rev. William Barber

The Rev. William Barber

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Richard Trumka

Richard Trumka

Print-Quality Photo

Media Contacts

Steve Hinnefeld

Tracy  Bee

College of Arts and Sciences

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