Yesterday, as everyone commemorated the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by critically examining and dissecting his last public speech, I reflected on the current state of affairs in this country and whether American racial and economic healing had been realized. Sadly the virulent rhetoric and scathing attacks aimed at Black, Brown, and working class folks continues to persist unabated.
Dr. King understood that civil rights and workers rights were inseparable. Thousands of Americans in Madison, Wisconsin understood that too. Hoards of people gathered at the State Capitol for the “We Are One” rally and the “Memphis to Madison” rally to mark the 43rd anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. He was assassinated in Memphis 40 years ago while helping public workers rally for their rights. 40 years later, public workers are again rallying for their rights to collective bargaining, this time in Madison, Wisconsin where Governor Scott Walker and a Republican legislature are attempting to outlaw most collective bargaining rights for public employees.
Governor Scott Walker and other proponents of ending collective bargaining for state employees are about as misguided as Charlie Sheen’s rants (#notwinning). As Paul Krugman pointed out, “Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s agenda has little to do with money at this juncture.” Public sector unions have already agreed to the proposed wage decreases and mandated increases in their health care and pension contributions; but they’re holding the line on wanting to keep their collective bargaining rights, while Walker similarly refuses to budge in attempting to strike them. If anything this is about killing public unions all together. Unions are one of the few counterweights to a political atmosphere that favors the wealthy and elite. Corporate influence will reign supreme if workers right to collective bargaining are taken away.
As longtime political organizer and strategist Robert Creamer pointed out in the Huiffington Post:
“Now, 43 years later, America is relearning the lessons of April, 1968″:
- How collective bargaining is an integral part of a truly democratic society.
- How the labor movement is about a lot more than wages and working conditions that it’s about respect and dignity and hope.
- And finally, it is learning once again that you can’t have the rain without the thunder and lightning. Freedom is earned through struggle. And if you want to have a great life — a life that gives you a sense of fulfillment and meaning — it’s never too late to decide that you will dedicate yours to the struggle for social and economic justice.
“As long as there is poverty in the world I can never be rich, even if I have a billion dollars. As long as diseases are rampant and millions of people in this world cannot expect to live more than twenty-eight or thirty years, I can never be totally healthy even if I just got a good checkup at the Mayo Clinic. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the way our world is made. No individual or nation can stand our boasting of being independent. We are interdependent.”- MLK