August 10, 2015
By LIUNA President Terry O’Sullivan
Washington, DC – The Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) remembers the fiftieth anniversary of the Voting Rights Act. We remember and honor all those who marched, fought, and even laid down their lives to secure and safeguard the voting rights of all Americans.
Although African-Americans had the right to vote since 1870, many states had devised poll taxes, voter tests, and other laws to keep African-Americans away from the polls. They had also used fear, intimidation, economic reprisals, violence, and even murder to drive home the message that voting was “for whites only.”
Fifty years ago, a bipartisan Congress and a Southern Democrat President stood together to say “No More!” Pushed to act by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other civil rights leaders; appalled by scenes of violent repression; and inspired by the courage of ordinary citizens, they passed a law that would transform our democracy. The Voting Rights Act not only led to the registration of millions of new voters, it paved the way for the election of African-Americans, Latinos, and other minorities to local, state, and federal offices, including that of President of the United States.
Yet even as we celebrate, we must continue to fight against those who would roll back the gains of the Voting Rights Act. The greatest tribute we can pay to those who fought for the Voting Rights Act is to oppose restrictive voter ID laws, increased obstacles to voter participation, and efforts to suppress voter turnout.
LIUNA was founded by those who knew the sting of bigotry and exclusion: African-Americans; Catholics; and immigrants from Ireland, Italy, and many other countries. Today, 112 years after our founding, and 50 years after the passage of the Voting Rights Act, we reaffirm our commitment to protecting, safeguarding, and defending the voting rights of all Americans.