Elder Charles Clark, the Southern Region Director of the AFL-CIO

By Taylor Maloney

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TN Tribune)-Friday, September 23rd, 2022 marks the Tennessee State Conference’s 76th Annual Convention for the NAACP. Affectionately known as
‘Freedom Fridays’ this event focused on criminal justice reform, human rights and most notably, labor.

The Labor Breakfast’s speaker was Elder Charles Clark, the Southern Region
Director of the AFL-CIO. Clark is a native of Lake Village, Arkansas and began
his career in the labor movement in 1977. He has dedicated 45 years of his life to
the fight for worker’s rights and has held numerous leadership positions in labor

His educational achievements includes, Bachelor of Ministry and Master of
Theology degrees from Gulf Coast Seminary, Bachelor of the Arts in Labor
Studies from Antioch University, Master of Science in Human Resources
Management from Troy University, a Graduate certificate in Alternative Dispute
Resolution from Cornell University and a Certificate in Mediation.

He is also an ordained Elder in the Church of God in Christ where he serves as
Co-Pastor of two locations of New Life Church of God in Christ. Clark uses his
mastery of oration and experience in the pulpit to move and mobilize people on
the path towards justice.

He opened his speech stating “I am proud to proclaim this morning that I am
union. I didn’t know anything about unions until I was twenty years old, I didn’t come from a union family. But I am glad that my purpose and destiny has brought me down this road of social justice. I am unapologetically proud to be a union member.”

Clark continues on to talk about the importance of “building a movement for the moment,” assessing our skills and our weaknesses as well as our audience to determine what action needs to be taken in the moment, and how that can strengthen or weaken a movement. He emphasizes the heightened disparities faced by communities of color, women and other groups as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Union density was at an all time low in many areas, and wealth inequality is rampant across the nation.

He calls upon the words of the great Dr. King, who said of right to work laws;
“In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as ‘right to work.’It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights. Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone.”

“Business as usual is no longer acceptable” Clark warns, “We have got to explore new ways of leadership, new forms of activism, and some of us who have been on this journey find this hard to swallow. But we have got to pass the mantle over.” The new movement has got to be sustainable, and it has got to move. Politicians that want to take away our rights as workers got to be moved, greedy CEOs who want to put profits over people got to be moved,
white supremacists have got to be moved!”

We need our organizations to energize, mobilize and organize.