Kathy Black was born and raised in a Union family in North Philadelphia. She joined SEIU Local 503 in 1978 while working as a secretary at the University of Oregon, where she was enrolled as an undergraduate. Within two months she was elected Recording Secretary of the University Chapter of the Union.
Black graduated Summa Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa, with a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology and Labor Studies from the University of Oregon in 1983. For the next three years, she worked as a Staff Representative for SEIU Local 503. She then moved to the San Francisco area where she worked as a Business Agent for a small union of public utility workers and health care professionals (Engineers and Scientists of California, IFPTE). In 1988, Black moved home to Philadelphia and spent eight years representing New Jersey State employees in the Department of Health for CWA Local 1034 in Trenton, NJ.
During her years in union work, Black developed a particular interest in occupational health and safety. She received significant health and safety training at the George Meany Center for Labor Studies, the Labor Education and Research Center at the University of Oregon, from international unions and many other agencies. For two years, she served as the Governor’s appointee to the New Jersey Public Employee OSHA Advisory Board. In January 1997 she began her current job as Occupational Health and Safety Director at AFSCME District Council 47 in Philadelphia. (DC47 represents professional and technical employees of the City of Philadelphia, probation and parole officers of the First Judicial District, Philadelphia Zoo employees, and workers at several colleges, universities and private nonprofit social service agencies.)
Black has served as the elected President of the Philadelphia Chapter of CLUW (Coalition of Labor Union Women) since 1993, and she is a delegate from CLUW to the Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO. She has served on the National Executive Board of CLUW since 1992. She is a former Chairperson, and now a member-at-large of the Board of Directors of Philaposh (Philadelphia Area Project on Occupational Safety and Health), a Steering Committee member of Philadelphia Jobs with Justice, Vice President for Finance of Philadelphia NOW (National Organization for Women), and a member of the Tri-State Labor Day Parade Committee.
In February 2007, Black was elected as the sixth national co-convenor of U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW), the anti-war organization within the labor movement founded in 2003 in response to the invasion and occupation of Iraq. In February and March 2008, Black went on a national speaking tour of Australia on behalf of USLAW. The Stop the War Coalition of Sydney brought her to Australia in an effort to galvanize Australian unions and anti-war groups to connect with Iraqi unions who are fighting for basic labor rights, against the privatization of their oil resources, and against the US occupation.