civil rights

Making Good Trouble

July 20, 2020 // 0 Comments

By DIANE S. WILLIAMS A frequent visitor, honored guest and speaker at many events at DC 37, U.S Congress member and civil rights icon John Lewis passed away on July 17, 2020. We remember him with this article that appeared in the March 2017 issue of Public Employee Press. Humanitarian and civil rights leader the Hon. John Lewis was the keynote speaker at SSEU Local 371’s Black History Month event Feb. 3, 2017. Lewis, elected to U.S. Congress in November 1986, represents the 5th District of Georgia. Unwavering conviction and a plea from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led young John Lewis to place himself at the forefront of the struggle against ugly racism in America. The son of sharecroppers was born in 1940 Pike County in rural Alabama. From an early age Lewis always questioned the legitimacy of Jim Crow. “My elders told me, “Don’t get in trouble,'” Lewis [More...]

Remembering Dr. King

April 4, 2020 // 0 Comments

By DIANE S. WILLIAMS On the 52nd anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination April 4, 1968, we reflect on his life’s legacy: the peaceful pursuit of liberty, justice, equality for all, and service to others. Dr. King would have been 91 this year had he lived, but his life was cut short in 1968 at the age of 39 in Memphis, Tennessee. At the invitation of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME, DC 37’s national union), Dr. King traveled to support Black sanitation workers who were striking for fair wages, safe working conditions, and the right to belong to a union. AFSCME pressed Dr. King to speak to Black Local 1733 members who daily bore humiliations and earned poverty wages. The last speech he ever gave, in which he famously declared that he had “been to the mountaintop,” was delivered at the Mason Temple in Memphis. Dr. King [More...]

Local 1407: We vote. We win.

February 13, 2020 // 0 Comments

By MIKE LEE Local 1407 honored the history, heritage and achievements of African Americans at union headquarters on Feb. 10. Along with an entertaining performance by the Simba Dance Group, the event featured speakers who focused on the struggles ahead at a critical moment in this nation’s history. Maf Misbah Uddin, DC 37 treasurer and Local 1407 president, honored the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement, how they transformed the nation and built a more-inclusive labor movement. Following Uddin, DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido spoke of Dr. King’s legacy: “What we see here is that we celebrate the poetic existence of Dr. King and what he stood for.” “But we need to talk about institutional racism, and talk about segregation and talk about government providing for the very few, at the expense of the many. You cannot divorce the idea of what [More...]

Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

March 24, 2019 // 1 Comment

By DIANE S. WILLIAMS Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. went to Memphis, Tennessee, in the spring of 1968 to make good on a promise to workers. Earlier that year, two Memphis sanitation workers, Echol Cole and Robert Walker, had sought shelter from a torrential rain in the back of a garbage truck. When the vehicle’s compressor malfunctioned, they were crushed to death. Memphis Mayor Henry Loeb and the city offered cold comfort — no compensation or death benefit for the families. At the time, Memphis’ 1,300 black sanitation workers earned 65 cents an hour with no benefits, overtime, or rights. The indignities heaped on them led to their membership in AFSCME Local 1733 and a strike for wages, human dignity, and union recognition. The workers carried signs that read, “I AM A MAN.” Their cause was a microcosm of the struggles Dr. King’s upcoming Poor People’s Campaign embraced. “If [More...]

Union Organizing: a Civil Right

March 23, 2018 // 0 Comments

Now that the arguments were made — on both sides — in the Janus v. AFSCME case heard before the U.S. Supreme Court on Feb. 26, the waiting game for the ruling by the court begins. However, we want to make clear that our rights shall not be dictated by a majority of nine in a single legal case. Importantly, our right to organize, collectively bargain with our employers, and stand together as a solid bloc, is a civil right, one that cannot be denied or taken from us. A quote from the American Civil Liberties Union’s on its own stand on collective bargaining says it best: “Unions facilitate and enhance the ability of their members to exercise core civil liberties, such as the First Amendment rights of association, speech and petition.” The U.S. Constitution protects the right to association for individuals with common interests to unite and form organizations to fight — and [More...]

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: A Labor Leader

February 12, 2018 // 0 Comments

By LEE SAUNDERS The photograph is iconic. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., only 39 years old but the nation’s most prominent civil rights leader, lay fatally wounded on a motel balcony in Memphis, Tennessee. His lieutenants stood over his body, pointing frantically across the parking lot in the direction of the shooter. Dr. King was in Memphis to support the city’s sanitation workers — members of the union I’m proud to serve as president, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees — who were striking in protest of poverty wages and dangerous, degrading working conditions. Their fight for dignity and respect was expressed with a simple, compelling slogan: “I Am a Man.” In his final campaign and throughout his life as an activist, Dr. King highlighted the struggle of all working people to get a fair shake. He’s best known, of course, for his civil [More...]

National Union Launches Campaign to Commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Legacy

January 16, 2018 // 0 Comments

By DIANE S. WILLIAMS Fifty years ago black sanitation workers in Memphis went on strike to demand fair wages and safe working conditions. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. joined the striking members of Local 1733 in response to a request from AFSCME’s then-president Jerry Wurf. The strikers asserted their humanity with an empowering slogan: “I Am a Man.” Wurf enlisted King—a young preacher whose nonviolent boycotts and protests fissured longstanding, illegal Jim Crow laws, and won him international acclaim as a Nobel Peace prize recipient. King roused striking workers to stand strong. His presence lent moral authority, depth and clarity to their struggle. As night fell on Memphis April 3, King stood in the Mason Temple pulpit and delivered his prophetic “Mountaintop” speech. The next day he was assassinated at the Lorraine Hotel. “Let us never forget,” Wurf said, “that Dr. [More...]