Following a half-century of fighting for working people around the
world, AFL-CIO Legislative Representative Byron Charlton succumbed to
covid following an extended illness on December 28.
“He was a warm thoughtful colleague, someone who would pop into your office just to see how you were doing,” recalled AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “He was a conscience of the federation on racial justice; outspoken, determined and fully devoted to bettering the lives of all working people.”
Brother Charlton joined Steelworkers Local 2969 in Radford, VA, in
1970 working at Lynchburg Foundries. In the early 1980s, he helped
organize Steelworkers Local 8888 at Newport News (VA) Shipbuilding.
From there, Charlton worked various assignments with the AFL-CIO,
including as the assistant to the executive director of the African
American Labor Center. His efforts took him to numerous locations
around the world.
In the 1990s, he returned to the AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington to
work on legislative and policy issues. He chair the United Department
of Defense Workers Coalition, formed by more than 20 AFL-CIO
affiliates when the George W. Bush administration tried to attack
collective bargaining rights after the September 11, 2001, terrorist
attacks. The coalition pushed back the administration’s attempt to say
the rollbacks were for “national security” by pointing out union
members were the first to be killed and hundreds others died during
rescue efforts at the Twin Towers of New York City.
“I knew Byron for more than 20 years,” noted MTD Executive
Secretary-Treasurer Daniel Duncan. “He was one of the good guys,
always smiling, always friendly – unless you were attacking workers.
That’s where he drew the line.”