Dr. Martin Luther King on today’s anti-union effort

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

Leonard Pitts, Jr. has an opinion republished in the Arizona Daily Star on Sunday. Dr. King had words for today's anti-union effort:

On Monday, it will be 43 years since that man was shot from ambush and killed in Memphis, Tenn. Martin Luther King's last public actions were in defense of labor and union rights.

One wonders, then, what he would say of Wisconsin.

Or Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Florida or any of the other places where, like a contagion, the move to weaken or effectively outlaw unions has spread. One wonders what he would make of a conservative governing ethos that now defines public employees – teachers, police officers, firefighters – as the enemy.

Actually, we need not wonder what King would have said, because he already said it. In the speech quoted above, he warned that if America did not use its vast wealth to ensure its people "the basic necessities of life," America was going to hell.

The Baptist preacher in him reared up then, and his voice sang thunder. For all the nation's achievements, he roared, for all its mighty airplanes, submarines and bridges, "It seems that I can hear the God of the universe saying, 'Even though you have done all that, I was hungry and you fed me not. I was naked and you clothed me not. The children of my sons and daughters were in need of economic security and you didn't provide it for them.'"

It will come as a surprise to some that the civil-rights leader was also a labor leader, but he was. He had this in common with Asa Philip Randolph, who suffered long years of privation to establish the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. And with Walter Reuther, brutally beaten when he organized sitdown strikes that helped solidify the United Automobile Workers.

These people and many others fought to win the rights now being taken away.

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But to whatever degree our workplaces are not filled with children working adult hours, to whatever degree an employer is required to provide a clean and safe workplace, break time, sick time or fair wages, that also reflects organized labor's legacy.

It is instructive that this campaign to roll back that legacy is contemporaneous with a New York Times report on how General Electric earned $14.2 billion in profit last year, yet paid no U.S. taxes. Indeed, the Times says, GE netted a tax benefit of $3.2 billion.

What's it tell you that some of us are on the offensive against working people but breathe scarcely a peep when a giant corporation somehow slips through government-provided loopholes, paying no taxes? If need is a character flaw, what, then, is greed?

In some sense, we have traveled 43 years forward to get back where we were in 1968. King would doubtless find that sobering.

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