Today, we honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the icon for advancing civil rights. But we in the labor movement also honor Dr. King’s commitment to economic justice and his advocacy of unionism to achieve workplace freedom.
Civil rights and worker rights are intertwined as Dr. King said in 1961 at the AFL-CIO Convention, “That is why the labor-hater and labor-baiter is virtually always a twin-headed creature spewing anti-Negro epithets from one mouth and anti-labor propaganda from the other mouth.”
Dr. King’s unwavering belief that a more perfect union lies at the intersection of societal equality and workplace democracy laid the foundation for the AFL-CIO’s mission to achieve economic and social justice. To this day, the trade union movement embodies this belief as we see in the renewed effort to empower workers through new organizing campaigns and fair contracts, while testifying and marching for equality, civil rights and voter protections.
Today, we will reflect upon and praise the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., as we reenergize our charge to achieve the dream he spoke at the same AFL-CIO Convention:
“I look forward confidently to the day when all who work for a living will be one with no thought to their separateness as Negroes, Jews, Italians or any other distinctions. This will be the day when we bring into full realization the American dream;a dream yet unfulfilled. A dream of equality of opportunity, of privilege and property widely distributed; a dream of a land where men will not take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few; a dream of a land where men will not argue that the color of a man’s skin determines the content of his character; a dream of a nation where all our gifts and resources are held not for ourselves alone, but as instruments of service for the rest of humanity; the dream of a country where every man will respect the dignity and worth of the human personality. That is the dream…”