April 7, 2015
By Terry O'Sullivan, LIUNA General President
Washington, DC – On April 4, we marked a truly dark day in the history of our nation and our world. Forty-seven years ago, on April 4, 1968, a murderous act of violence took the life of one of the greatest prophets of our time, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
In a far too brief career, Dr. King employed non-violent civil disobedience to confront segregation and discrimination, rallied hundreds of thousands in support of racial and economic justice, and helped win passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. He challenged our nation to live up to its highest ideals, preached love and understanding of one’s enemies, and worked to build a better world for all of us. Americans of all races owe him, and those who worked, fought, and struggled at his side, a debt of gratitude for tearing down barriers that separated us from one another.
LIUNA and the entire labor movement will never forget that Dr. King lost his life standing up for striking sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee. He went to Memphis against the advice of many who feared for his safety because he believed that to continue to prod the powerful, he had to stand with the powerless. When an assassin’s bullet cut him down on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel, he became a martyr not only for the civil rights movement, but for the labor movement.
The workers Dr. King went to Memphis to support were fighting for dignity, equality, and respect. The signs they carried contained a simple, four-word message that encapsulated the very cause and meaning of their struggle: “I am a man.” Those words, and that struggle, resonate for LIUNA. In 1903, a small group of mistreated and disrespected building laborers and hod carriers rose up and organized our great International Union because they, too, wanted to be treated like men, like human beings.
Let us remember Dr. King by recommitting ourselves to the ongoing pursuit of worker rights, civil rights, and human rights.