Mckenzie Wants to Bring Together Labor and Black Communities

Article excerpt

Andrew McKenzie long has viewed his union work and church work as going hand-in-hand, with similar goals of getting people to pull together.

Though he earns his paycheck as international president of the St. Louis-based Leather Workers' Union, he's probably put as much energy into the Calvary Missionary Baptist Church.

When he returned to St. Louis after the AFL-CIO convention in New York five months ago, he'd just seen the slate he supported win the labor federation's first contested election. He'd also been chosen as an AFL-CIO vice president - the only St. Louisan in that post and one of nine blacks. But what a rather excited McKenzie really wanted to talk about was the community center that his church, where he's a deacon and chairman of the board of trustees, was ready to open for youth and the elderly. Now, McKenzie hopes to unify the two entities - church and labor - as he tackles the frustrating rift between the union movement and the religious community in black neighborhoods. A coalition of labor, community and religious leaders has planned a three-hour meeting for April 27 at the Baptist church, on Martin Luther King Drive. National leaders of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists and of the National Baptist Convention USA, as well as union officials from Washington, will join leaders of about 60 St. Louis churches and 40 unions, McKenzie said. Among the issues they'll tackle are flagging voter registration and turnout, corporate downsizing and how it affects neighborhoods, union a pprenticeship programs for young people and various misunderstandings that divide labor, blacks and African-American churches. "I've heard people say that there are no blacks in union apprenticeship programs," McKenzie said. "I'm going to dispel that myth; we're graduating black carpenters or laborers in every class." Labor and the civil-rights movement have long fought together for the same causes. Martin Luther King Jr. …