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Fifty-five years ago, in a speech to the convention of the Illinois AFL-CIO, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. laid out with characteristic moral clarity the essential role of unions in American life. “The labor movement,” he explained, “was the principal force that transformed misery and despair into hope and progress … [When] the wave of union organization crested over the nation, it carried to secure shores not only itself but the whole society. Civilization began to grow in the economic life of man, and a decent life with a sense of security and dignity became a reality rather than a distant dream.”

This Labor Day, America’s working families are facing unprecedented challenges.

The path to the presidency runs through the labor movement.

NPR's Michel Martin speaks with the president of the AFL-CIO, Richard Trumka, about union strategies following the midterm elections.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

There was plenty of punditry plastered across cable news last week. But, as the dust settles, there is one story that has come to define this election: working people standing together to make a difference. The labor movement unleashed an unprecedented political program this year. Across the country, union members made the difference, fighting for our issues, for union candidates and for our proven allies.

Organized labor’s record voter mobilization efforts this year, which started earlier than ever before for a mid-term election, emphasized pocketbook issues and – says AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka – will produce huge “momentum at the ballot box” on Nov. 6.

It also produced a record number of unionists running for everything from city council and county commissioner to Congress and governor, Trumka and Julie Greene, the federation’s mobilizing – and politics – director said in an Oct. 30 telephone press conference.

The president is the billionaire head of a global business empire, and his mostly millionaire Cabinet may be the richest in American history. His opponent in the 2016 election was a millionaire. Most Supreme Court Justices are millionaires. Most members of Congress are millionaires (and probably have been for several years).

The Trump administration plans to tackle two important labor policy issues in the coming months: overtime pay and “joint employer” liability for companies in staffing and franchise relationships.

For the people of Flint, justice may come from a courtroom, but change comes at the ballot box.

November 6 is Election Day.

In 2010 and 2014, as families in Flint went to the voting booth, little did they know that their decisions would impact something as fundamental as the water they drink. However, policies put in place by the state and local officials elected on those days put saving money ahead of the health and water quality of Flint residents.

It seems every talking head in Washington has been in a frenzy recently, rushing to either glorify or condemn the new North American Free Trade Agreement, known as the United States Mexico Canada Agreement. But the truth is that it is still too early to pass any final judgment.

Richard Trumka came to Milwaukee Tuesday to fire up labor activists and tear into Gov. Scott Walker.

The national president of the AFL-CIO used his address at the group's state convention to portray Walker as a "little puppet" of the billionaire Koch brothers.

Walker, the two-term Republican governor whose Act 10 crippled organized labor in 2011, faces Democrat Tony Evers in the fall.

"On November 6 we’re going to have one hell of a party — a Scott Walker retirement party," Trumka said.