Founded in the spring of 1965 by the labor leader A. Philip Randolph and the civil rights activist Bayard Rustin, the A. Philip Randolph Institute was organized to strengthen the alliances between African Americans and progressive organizations, especially labor unions. Supported by a $25,000 grant from the Industrial Union Department of the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), the institute established its headquarters in Harlem at 217 West 125th Street, in the same building occupied by Randolph's union, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.
The Randolph Institute was involved in many labor and progressive causes, including the boycott of California grapes, support for the 1968 strike of Memphis sanitation workers, nationwide voter registration campaigns, and establishment of the national Citizens Committee to Support General Electric strikers in 1969. In the same year, in an action that created some controversy, the institute supported the United Federation of Teachers' strike of the New York City schools. Many civil rights organizations supported community control of the New York City public schools, but the institute viewed the strike as a labor conflict and supported the teachers union. In addition to its support of labor, national health care, and civil rights, the institute defended the rights of Soviet dissidents, aided the struggle against South African apartheid, and supported the State of Israel.
The A. Philip Randolph Educational Fund, a tax-exempt institute affiliate, organized the Joint Apprenticeship Program-later renamed the Recruitment and Training Program-which tutored more than 4,000 young African Americans and Hispanics for jobs in the building construction trades, which had historically barred minori- ties. In 1967, the institute actively campaigned for the Freedom Budget, a highly ambitious economic plan to raise $18.5 billion to be spent toward the eradication of poverty in the United States within ten years. However, neither Congress nor Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon supported this social welfare plan.
In March 1970, the institute organized local affiliates to work with the trade union movement, to engage in voter education and registration and to support liberal social legislation. As of 2000, the institute had more than 150 chapters in thirty-six states. Randolph Institute publications include Black Studies: Myths and Realities, a collection of critical essays edited by Bayard Rustin. In 2000, Norman Hill was the president of the institute, which remains a constituency group of the AFL-CIO.
When the Unions of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) merged in 1955, the architects of the union wrote
AFL-CIO Committee on Civil Rights