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AFL-CIO
17 Jan, 2023
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This weekend, we are celebrating the great civil rights leader and our union brother. And we remember the lesson he always emphasized: The fight for civil rights and worker rights are intertwined. 

In our time, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is celebrated as a civil rights icon. During his time, he faced fierce and violent backlash.

Because he spoke the truth about racism in white America. Because he spoke the truth about poverty and the struggles of working people.

We must remember him and his words truthfully—far beyond the often-repeated and misused line about skin color and character.

Most people know Dr. King only as a civil rights leader. But we must remember him as a labor leader who was assassinated while supporting 1,300 Black men in their fight against neglect and abuse at the sanitation strike in Memphis, Tennessee.

Dr. King is associated with “peaceful protest.” But we must remember his sermon “When Peace Becomes Obnoxious”: 

“If peace means a willingness to be exploited economically, dominated politically, humiliated and segregated, I don’t want peace. So in a passive, non-violent manner, we must revolt against this peace.”

Dr. King’s words about skin color and character are often twisted to say we should not see or talk about race.

But racial justice is not the absence of race. Dr. King spoke extensively about many issues: the oppression of Black people, the suffering of Vietnamese people during the Vietnam War and white poverty.

So this weekend, we remember Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as a civil rights leader and a staunch trade unionist until the day he was assassinated.

And we vow to remember his lessons truthfully as we continue his fight against racism and economic inequality.