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Daimler Should Speak Up So Alabama Will Stand Down

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This week I am in Germany with a delegation to ask Daimler, maker of Mercedes-Benz, to do the right thing and denounce Alabama's racially-charged anti-immigration law, HB 56.

The group, including La Raza, America's Voices and the AFL-CIO, will seek censure of the law from Daimler because of the impact the car manufacturer can have as one of Alabama's largest employers.

In November, I was humbled to be part of a delegation of civil rights and labor leaders that traveled to Alabama to see firsthand the devastating impact of HB56. We came together to reflect on the hatred and racism of the past and to bear witness to the current discrimination caused by the law. What I saw and heard there was deeply disturbing.

In the year 2012, it's shocking that people in Alabama still face discrimination because of the color of their skin, the way they look and whether they speak with an accent. Today, kids are being denied education because of these reasons. As I listened to Alabama residents' testimonies on these conditions, I was transported back 40 years when we were having these same discussions under the leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I thought that we took a stand in Alabama 40 years ago and agreed that all men are created equal. But, here we are, decades later, fighting the same fight in the 21st century.

This law harkens back to some of Alabama's ugliest days when overt racism ran rampant throughout the state. HB 56 brings that sordid history into the present where it threatens to disrupt the business climate and break apart Alabama's communities.

Daimler can change this. As one of Alabama's largest corporate forces, Daimler has a hand in shaping the state's economic and social landscape in a big way.

And as a prominent global economic player and a member of the United Nations Global Compact, Daimler has a corporate social responsibility to uphold civil and human rights and to promote work environments where people are free from discrimination. Daimler has a unique opportunity not only to live up to the standards it espouses, but to be a real leader on this crucial issue and to speak out against HB56.

Daimler can say loudly to the lawmakers of Alabama that it will not stand for a repetition of history and it will not tolerate discrimination in the workplace. In doing so, the company will show that when it says it supports global, human and workers' rights, it means it.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, exactly 44 years ago while fighting for the rights of workers not too far from Alabama in Memphis, Tenn. If he were alive today, Dr. King would likely see HB 56 as an unjust law that unfairly discriminates against the most vulnerable in our society, in our workplaces and in our communities.

I stand together with civil rights activists, immigration activists, union members and working Americans to denounce this hateful law that brings forth the ugly practices we have fought together to end. Daimler must speak out strongly against HB 56 and show that this isn't the type of corporate work culture it stands for. Let us honor Dr. King by standing together on the path towards equality and respect, not animosity and hate.