Cleveland Robinson

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Cleveland Robinson

National Negro Labor Council

The National Negro Labor Council, (1950-56) was a Communist Party USA front for black workers and labor officials.

Key leaders of the Council, included Coleman Young (national executive secretary), Charles Hayes (Chicago leader), Cleveland Robinson, and George Crockett, and Erma Henderson, from Detroit.[1]

Negro American Labor Council

The Negro American Labor Council grew out of the efforts of labor leader A. Philip Randolph, who was discontented with the apathy of the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) on civil rights issues. In 1959, Randolph proposed the idea of a black labor organization at the NAACP convention.

In May 1960, Randolph was elected president of the new organization and Cleveland Robinson became vice president. On May 23, 1961, Randolph telegraphed Dr. Martin Luther King about NALC’s strong support for the Freedom Rides. In a March 1963 telegram, Randolph and NALC petitioned King to endorse their best known effort, the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. After Robinson became president in 1966, NALC officially joined the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.[2]

CBTU

The original 1972 founders of Coalition of Black Trade Unionists were William Lucy, Nelson Edwards, Cleveland Robinson, Charles Hayes and William H. Simons[3].

Cablegram to Portugese Socialists and the M.F.A.

In 1974, after a pro-communist military coup in Portugal;

More than eighty Americans, all identified with opposition to the Vietnamese war and with various radical and liberal causes, sent on August 9 a cablegram to to the Portugese Armed Forces Movement, to Portugese president francisco da Costa Gomes and to portugese socialist leader Mario soares expressing the hope that "democratic freedoms"...will continue to grow in Portugal".

Michael Harrington, the national chairman of the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee, organized the effort with help from 5 "Initiators" - Lawrence Birns (writer), Sissy Farenthold (past president National Women's Political Caucus), Congressman Michael J. Harrington, Martin Peretz (chairman, editorial board New Republic), Cleveland Robinson (vice president, Distributive Workers of America), Leonard Woodcock (president United Auto Workers, Jerry Wurf (president AFSCME).

Elected officials who signed the cablegram included: Julian Bond, Willie Brown, Jr., John Conyers, Jr., Don Edwards, William Gluba, Edward J. Koch, Parren J. Mitchell, Henry S. Reuss, Benjamin S. Rosenthal and Louis Stokes.[4]

Democratic Agenda

More than 1,200 people attended the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee initiated Democratic Agenda Conference held November 16-18, 1979, at the International Inn and Metropolitan AM Church in Washington 1 DC. The conference focused on "corporate power'; as the key barrier to "economic and political democracy," concepts many Democratic Agenda participants defined as "socialism.'

The Democratic Agenda meetings attempted to develop anti-corporate alternatives" through influencing the direction of the Democratic Party during the period leading to the July 1980 Democratic National Convention in New York.

Workshops included "What Can We Do About Plant Closings " - Ira Arlook, Cleveland Robinson, Shelley Metzenbaum[5]

Democratic Agenda/Socialist Caucus

For groups and organizations seeking radical social change within the Democratic Party, the National Convention of 1980 had at least one historic first - formation of a Socialist Caucus of delegates. Organized by the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee and by the Democratic Agenda which was DSOC's cadre and supporters within the Democratic Party and was based in DSOC' s New York office and at 1730 M Street, NW, Washington, DC. Some 31 delegates and alternates from twelve states and Democrats Abroad attended the Socialist Caucus.

As a preliminary to the convention's Socialist Caucus meeting, , indeed as a "building event" and as a continued show of support for Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), the Democratic Agenda sponsored a convention rally at New York's Town Hall. The speakers included Herman Badillo, Julian Bond, Fran Bennick, Harry Britt, Cesar Chavez, Rep. John Conyers (D-MI}, Douglas Fraser, Murray Finley, Michael Harrington, Terry Herndon, Ruth Jordan, Ruth Messinger, Eleanor Smeal, Gloria Steinem and William Winpisinger.

DSOC works within the Democratic Party, said Harrington, because of the party's relationships with organized workers, blacks, feminists, environmentalists and other "progressive groups."

The Socialist Caucus circulated a list of convention delegates who were caucus members, including;[6]

Prominent DSOC member

According to Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee founder and chairman Michael Harrington, the influence of the group is disproportionate to its size because of the positions held by some DSOC members within the Democratic Party.

In 1980 prominent DSOC members included Rep, Ronald Dellums (D-CA); Hilda Mason, D.C. City Council, Harlan Baker, Maine state legislature; Jerry Nadler, New York state legislature, Perry Bullard, Michigan state legislature; Ruth Messinger, New York City Council; Harry Britt, San Francisco Board of Supervisors; Patrick Gorman, chairman of the board, Amalgamated Meatcutters; William Winpisinger, president, International Association of Machinists ; Irving Bluestone, vice president, United Auto Workers; Martin Gerber, vice-president, UAW, Sol Stetin, senior vice-president, Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers , Joyce Miller, national president, Coalition of Labor Union Women ; Dolores Huerta, vice-president, United Farmworkers, Cleveland Robinson, president, District 65, UAW; Victor Gotbaum, head of District Council 37, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees , New York, Mildred Jeffrey; Victor Reuther; James Farmer; Nat Hentoff; Gloria Steinem; Rosemary Reuther; Harvey Cox and Irving Howe.[7]

Passed on

The family of "democratic socialism ... suffered many losses" in 1995. Among the comrades who died were David Livingston, the retired president of United Auto Workers District 65, who received New York DSA's Eugene V. Debs/ Norman Thomas Award in 1990; and Cleveland Robinson, who was also a leader of District 65 for many years. Martin Luther King, Jr. once called District 65 "the conscience of the labor movement".[8]

References

  1. PWW, Feb 20, 1993, page 12
  2. The King Center Archives, Negro American Labor Council
  3. http://www.cbtu.org/founders.html
  4. Democratic Left, Sep. 1975, page 2
  5. Information Digest, December 14, 1979, page 370/371
  6. Information Digest, Septemer 19, 1980, p 333
  7. Information Digest, September 19, 1980, page 331
  8. Dem. Left, Sept./Oct 1995, page 41