Today's United Unions and Martin Luther King Jr.

Today's United Unions and Martin Luther King Jr.

Workers invoke the ideals of the famed civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. in the fight for union rights.

Published April 4, 2011

Today marks a somber day in American history, the 43rd anniversary of the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. While King is recognized by the world over for his nonviolent protests and memorable speeches in the name of equal rights for all Americans, he was also an avid supporter of workers rights. The day before he died, King walked the picket line in Memphis with sanitation workers fighting for the right to unionize.


Fast-forward to today where union members are hitting the streets to commemorate King’s dedication to equal rights and protesting the latest attacks on workers' rights by Republican-dominated state governments. The following is a summary of the latest developments on the fight for workers’ rights. (Related: MLK notable quotes.)


Wisconsin: The starting point for the nationwide battle for worker’s rights, thousands of protesters gathered at the capitol to fight against Governor Scott Walker’s push to pass a law that strips Wisconsin unions of their collective bargaining rights—the right to negotiate pensions and health insurance. The legislation would change rules regarding collection fees and elections. The controversial bill was passed March 10, but has been mired in court battles.


Ohio: Unions’ rights are also under attack in Ohio as state Republicans passed an even more rigid set of laws. Where firefighters and police officers were spared from the new law in Wisconsin, in Ohio, all unions have been stripped of their bargaining power. Teachers aren’t spared either since city councils and school boards now have the final say in contract negotiations if the two sides can’t come to an agreement.


As public servants such as teachers, sanitation workers and firefighters band together in a show of solidarity, we are reminded that the while King laid the foundation, the fight for equality is not over. And while it appears to be a simple fight of dollars and cents, it’s so much more. If we stand idly by, it won’t be long until other rights are taken away in an effort to balance a budget. It is up to the current generation to make your voices heard and help Dr. King achieve his dream.

(Photo: Sam Melhorn/Commercial Appeal /Landov)

Written by Sherri L. Smith


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