Martin Luther King and the Struggle for Workers' Rights

Recent polling shows that more Americans support unions over governors in states where worker’s rights are under attack.

“Work That Serves Humanity…It Has Dignity And It Has Worth.”

Washington, D.C. ─ At the time of his death on April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was marching in solidarity with 1,300 AFSCME sanitation workers in Memphis; the public employees were defending their right to collective bargaining for better wages, working conditions, respect and dignity. Forty-three years later, public service workers across the country are fighting to keep their collective bargaining rights — the very rights Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. died defending.

In Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida, Michigan and dozens of other states, well-funded, right-wing corporate politicians argue that collective bargaining has led to rich contracts and benefits for public employees; blaming public employees for budget problems they did not create. Teachers, nurses, firefighters and sanitation workers have been portrayed as the villains, while those on Wall Street continue to collect their bonuses and get off scot-free.

"At a time when American families are struggling, elected officials should be working together to get our economy back on track," said AFSCME President Gerald W. McEntee. "But instead of working to create jobs, too many politicians are using our real economic problems as an excuse to take away the rights of hardworking Americans."

Today, in Memphis and in more than 1,000 communities across the country, Americans are honoring Dr. King's legacy by coming together in support of collective bargaining rights that give workers a voice. 

“Governors Walker, Kasich and Scott as well as other politicians on the state and national level are attempting to change the rules to silence workers so that corporate influences can go unchecked,” said AFSCME Sec.-Treas. Lee A. Saunders, who today is leading the 43rd Annual March to remember Dr. King in Memphis. “Their actions have awakened a powerful movement and we will not allow them to steal our power or our future.”

The war on the middle class and working families is about political payback to big corporations that want to restrict workers’ rights to collective bargaining for a middle class life, cut wages and benefits, increase Wall Street profits and make teachers, nurses, snow plow drivers and firefighters pay for it.

Recent polling shows that more Americans support unions over governors in states where worker’s rights are under attack.  In Memphis in 1968, Dr. King stood with AFSCME sanitation workers to give them a chance to achieve the American Dream.  Today, across the country, nurses, teachers, students, firefighters, small business owners, and all working people are standing together to revive the Dream.

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