by Algernon Austin; Linda Burnham; Marc Bayard; Sean Thomas-Breitfeld; Steven Pitts

May 1, 2015

Asserting that Black lives matter also means that the quality of those lives matters, and economic opportunity is inextricably linked to quality of life. Decades after the Civil Rights Movement and the passage of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, structural barriers still hold back African Americans in the workplace. The authors of this report provide some broader context on the black jobs crisis, including its origins and effects; the particular impact of the crisis on African American women; the declining state of black workers and their organizations, particularly within the labor movement; and the implications of the twin crises of joblessness and poverty-level wages for organizing. This report also features examples of how black worker organizations are combining strategic research, services, policy advocacy, and organizing to help black workers weather the economic storms and improve the quality of jobs that are open to African Americans over the long term.
  • The unemployment rate for Blacks has been at least double that for Whites for the last 50 years.
  • While the college completion rate for Blacks has quadrupled since 1970, the rate of employment has not improved.
  • Carrying the double-burden of both racism and sexism, Black women have been especially hard hit by the latest recession and employment for them has lagged during the economic recovery.
  • Low wages are at the core of the Black jobs crisis, with Black workers being impacted disproportionately.
  • A partnership between Black workers and the labor movement holds potential as a vehicle for promoting economic opportunities for Blacks and for all Americans, addressing structural inequities that limit opportunities for African Americans and also revitalizing the languishing labor movement.
  • Community organizing, particularly of Black workers, is an important tool, with activism flourishing under the #BlackLivesMatter banner and increasing the sense of urgency and energy around Black issues.