The Huffington Post displayed an excellent piece about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and an aspect of his dream that is less-celebrated. Well known for his role in the American civil rights movement for seeking equality for African Americans, the economically disadvantaged, and victims of injustice, Dr. King also believed in the importance of unions, labor rights, and the ability for workers to have a voice.
It was Dr. King’s philosophy that all men and women of all races deserve the dignity to work, as well as to earn a wage higher than the poverty level. What would soon become his last campaign in the spring of 1968, Dr. King’s traveled to Memphis to aid in the city’s sanitation workers’ labor struggle. Treated unfairly and being payable an unlivable wage, the sanitation workers began to strike. Mayor Henry Loeb was uncooperative in trying to negotiate terms, sparking mayhem amongst the city. It was Dr. King that urged a work stoppage for all workers in the city, not just the sanitation department. Nonviolent and peaceful protests are what Dr. King was known for. Eerie enough, his final speech foreshadowed his demise when he stated, “I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land“. Within that 24-hour time span, he was assassinated on the balcony of his hotel room. Two weeks later, the strike ended and the city recognized the sanitation worker’s union as well as gave everyone a well-deserved raise.
Dr. King’s life ended supporting the labor rights movement in Memphis, an aspect that is not well-recognized. Today, workers still struggle for fair pay, decent benefits, and one of the most pressing challenges of the time – economic security. Not only today, but every day, should individuals look to Dr. King for inspiration. While he was highly decorated for his pursuit of civil rights, his belief in service and doing well for others, in addition to his labor rights activism, truly escalates how remarkable and inspiration of a man, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was.
Happy Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day!