Eighty-seven years ago today, a great American, humanitarian, and civil rights activist was born; Martin Luther King, Jr. In his far-too-short life, the Reverend Dr. King appealed to the conscience of our nation, held our great country to its highest ideals, and challenged all of us to see, and treat, each other as brothers and sisters. This weekend, as we honor Dr. King and the movement he came to represent, let us also recommit ourselves to the ongoing pursuit of his dream: a world of equality and justice for all.
For Dr. King, racial justice, economic justice, and worker justice were all part of the same whole. We in the Labor Movement will never forget that he was assassinated while standing with striking garbage workers in Memphis, Tennessee. At the time of his death, he was organizing a multi-racial Poor People’s Campaign to spotlight, and fight, the injustice of poverty, utilizing the same tactics of nonviolence he had used in his fights for desegregation. In 1961, he denounced so-called “right-to-work” laws as “false slogans” designed “to rob us of our civil rights and job rights.” From the first days of the Montgomery Bus Boycott that brought him to national attention, to that awful night in Memphis nearly 13 years later, Dr. King worked hand-in-hand with local and national labor leaders. Indeed, it was a local leader of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, E.D. Nixon, who recruited a young Reverend Dr. King to lead the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
All Americans owe a debt of gratitude, not only to Dr. King, but to all those who struggled, marched, sacrificed, and even laid down their lives to tear down the walls of segregation, discrimination, and racism. Although we have made great progress over the past five decades, there is still much work to be done, and many miles yet to cover in our collective journey towards freedom and justice. Dr. King handed us a brilliant torch with which to dispel the darkness of inequality, bigotry, and hatred. Let us carry that torch into the future, and honor his legacy by continuing his work in our own lives.
We not only wish you a happy and healthy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day weekend, but we urge all to take inspiration from his legacy, communicate his legacy to your children and identify and pity intolerance when you see it disguised in many forms and rededicate ourselves to the never-ending battle for worker rights, civil rights, and human rights.