BY DIANE S. WILLIAMS On the 91st anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birth January 15, we reflect on his life’s pursuit of liberty, justice, equality for all and service to others. Dr. King’s 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 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 to the striking workers at the Mason Temple in Memphis. He embraced labor’s cause as a microcosm of the struggles his upcoming Poor [More...]
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“No work is insignificant. All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.” — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. BY DIANE S. WILLIAMS Dr. Martin Luther King engaged in struggle to move America towards its better self, to will a people to become united, and use its power, spirit and economic ability to realize its potential more fully, to eradicate poverty and to end injustice. Had King lived he would have been 90 years old Jan. 15. As an architect of the civil rights movement, King urged all Americans to work for the greater good for all. He said, “Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.” ASFCME and District Council 37 remember Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who was martyred in Memphis while fighting for Sanitation workers. King aligned himself with labor’s [More...]
A half century after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination is an appropriate time to reflect upon the accomplishments of his movement. Undeniably, the struggle led by King resulted in vital civil rights and voting rights gains for blacks, along with protections against housing and job discrimination. But the economic advancement of minorities and the poor that King advocated never came about. And since his death, our country has veered toward plutocracy and authoritarianism that provides little reason for hope. At the end of his life, King was leading the Poor People’s Campaign. His criticism of the economic divide and opposition to the Vietnam War clearly shook the country’s levers of power. Today, King has a saint-like aura. But back then, his popularity was far from universal. “A man of peace, he died violently,” the Rev. Jesse Jackson wrote in a New York Times op-ed [More...]
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...]