Today we honor and celebrate the extraordinary life of Martin Luther King Jr. His courage, leadership, and ultimately his sacrifice, helped transform America and usher in a new era of civil rights. He died fighting for the rights of workers, traveling to Memphis to support striking AFSCME sanitation workers on April 3rd, 1968; the following day he was assassinated.
But the progress he achieved – we achieved – is being threatened and attacked by those opposed to equality. They view the record turnout from minorities, women, and young people as a threat to their political power. They know that strong unions are the last obstacle remaining between them and their unchecked greed. They will continue to attack all of the progress and protections that we’ve fought for over the past few decades.
These latest attacks are “right to work” laws. Martin Luther King Jr. said of right to work laws, “In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as ‘right to work.’ It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights. Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone…Wherever these laws have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer and there are no civil rights.”
As it did half a century ago, Martin Luther King Jr’s wisdom provides us with a path forward. He understood that your right to form a union and collectively bargain with your coworkers is a fundamental pillar of the fight for equality. As he said himself, “The Labor Movement was the principal force that transformed misery and despair into hope and progress.”
So today, as we remember Martin Luther King Jr, we are also reminded of the challenges we continue to face as we strive to achieve his dream. Together, we’ll continue fighting for the rights, equality, and opportunity for all Americans, including the right of all Americans to join a labor union.