By: Eli Day
When Terry Melvin was a boy in Lackawanna, N.Y., an afternoon siren would occasionally ring out, warning the city’s mostly black residents to the avalanche of red soot that would soon explode from the mouth of Bethelem Steel and blanket the city. But before making landfall, the thick dust would build a home in the lungs of whomever toiled inside the Bethlehem plant. Over the years, cancer would sink its teeth into many of the factory’s workers, including both of Melvin’s grandfathers.
And so long before he became President of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU), Melvin knew something of the harrowing connection between labor, communities of color and the environment. It’s a connection his organization, whose membership includes workers from more than 50 national and international unions, is ready to drill into the national consciousness.
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