Sunday, January 18, 2015

MLK's Shrinking Legacy

Many Americans will be enjoying tomorrow off for Martin Luther King Day. And well they should, for not only was Dr. King an advocate of civil rights, he was a champion of worker's right, too. In fact, the day before he was assassinated in Memphis, Dr. King delivered a speech to Memphis sanitation workers, encouraging them to fight for fair wages and benefits--a battle that is still occurring on a much broader scale in this country, as insurance premiums rise and workers are expected to contribute more every year.

This little-known fact demonstrates, to me at least, how full circle our nation has come in the past fifty-one years. Today, the labor movement in the United State, once thriving in the 1970s and '80s, is another glaring example of the diminution of the working class. As an advocate of organized labor and member of a union myself, I cannot help but be ashamed at how upset Dr. King would be about the systematic dismantling of two decades worth of progress in workers' rights. Not to mention the terrible racial plight this country still finds itself in.

On Fridays, many people wearily utter, "Thank God it's Friday." I smirk every time I hear this because a friend's reply always comes to my mind:
"Don't thank God. If he had it his way, we'd be working six days a week! Thank the unions."
Indeed. And thank you, Dr. King, for your bravery and commitment to actualizing the American Dream for all Americans--black, white, brown, Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Jain, Sikh, Buddhist, male, female, transgender, hetero- and homosexual, rich, and poor.  

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