In 2007, Shomari Davis, currently at International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) – Local 11, joined the African American Union Leadership School (AAULS) in 2007. This program brought together African American union leaders to strategize and build community. With his colleagues, he learned about implementing policy change and the science behind building and running an effective political campaign. The AAULS gave students an opportunity to learn more about people from different unions and community members, and built a strong brotherhood between them. The urgency of the issues really brought people together. As Shomari says, “African Americans lead in numbers in the wrong places. We need to change that to make things more positive for these communities.”
The AAULS director and coordinator, Lola Smallwood Cuevas and Lanita Morris, went on to create the Los Angeles Black Worker Center, the first Black Worker Center in the United States. Shomari plugged in and continues to be deeply involved. The Los Angeles Black Worker Center works to reverse the Black jobs crisis in Los Angeles. Together with its allies, the BWC was instrumental in passing a project labor agreement at Metro with targeted hire – which ensures a certain percentage of work hours go to disadvantaged workers. The Los Angeles Black Worker Center is now working to ensure Metro’s compliance with this contract and is beginning to build multi-craft pre-apprenticeship programs with building trades in Los Angeles.
At IBEW Local 11, Marvin Kropke and Richard Reed have taken the lead to remove obstacles to membership, and they both continue to support the Black Worker Center. According to Shomari, coalition building is what builds real power—bringing everyone to the table to create a plan together.
“The UCLA Labor Center is a nexus for everybody and all of the trades tied to the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor,” Shomari says. “The center connects us together to make us stronger and to ensure labor has a voice in all the important areas of the city and county of Los Angeles. The Labor Center cares about the community, which is important at a time when America is moving towards an individualistic and nonunion world. ”