Dr. King and the Struggle for Economic Justice

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Stewart Acuff Utility Workers Union of America, Chief of Staff & Assistant to President

On Monday, January 18, the nation will pause for a minute to celebrate the birthday, life, work, and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King.

All through this three day weekend we will see ads on tv, read them in newspapers, and hear ads on the radio with corporate America thanking Dr. King for his incredible efforts to free African-Americans and fight racial injustice.

But corporate America will stop far short of the whole story. Those ad won't say anything about Dr. King's struggle for economic and social justice. They won't say anything about the Poor People's Movement and Dr. King's effort and determination to end poverty in America.

And corporate America won't say anything about Dr. King's support for unions and for the freedom to form unions and bargain collectively.

Dr. King was killed in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4, 1968 while leading a sanitation workers strike to have their union recognized by their employer and win collective bargaining.

Dr. King marched with workers at the Scripto strike in Atlanta and his Southern Christian Leadership Conference worked hard to help hospital workers organize with 1199 in Charleston, South Carolina.

At the 1961 AFL-CIO convention Dr. King said: "Our needs are identical with labor's needs--decent wages, fair working conditions, livable housing, old age security, health can welfare measures, conditions in which families can grow, have education for their children and respect in the community. That is why the labor-hater and labor-baiter is virtually always a twin-headed creature spewing anti-Negro epithets from one mouth and anti-labor propaganda for the other mouth. I dream of equality of opportunity, of privilege and property widely distributed; a dream of a land where men will not take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few."

On this Dr. King Day, tell your senator to support the Employee Free Choice Act. Dr. King's dream has been defered but we can still fulfill it.