New York, NY – America’s workers, especially poor and low-wage workers, are stretched thin. They have been disproportionately impacted by Covid-19, and after risking their health and safety to work in frontline positions during the pandemic, they are now treated as expendable. They are struggling to make ends meet and don’t know whether they’ll be able to put enough food on the table, care for themselves and their families or retire with dignity.
Invidious and systemic racism and poverty continue to plague our country, pushing more and more people to the margins while the rich keep getting richer. There are 140 million poor and low wealth people in this country, and the pandemic has only exacerbated the inequities they face. Corporations have experienced record profits, but working people have been denied a living wage, paid leave, quality health care and other basic rights.
Working people are fed up with an economic system that tamps us down no matter how hard we work. And across the country, health care workers, hospitality and food production workers, workers at corporate giants like Starbucks and Amazon – working people in every industry – are saying enough is enough. Working people are joining together and demanding economic justice – for a safe job with a decent wage, for the dignity and respect that comes with having a voice on the job, and for a say in our democracy so we can advocate for policies that put working people first..
As leaders in the faith, civil rights and labor movements of today, we are proud of our movements’ long history in the struggle for civil rights and economic justice.
When Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the National Welfare Rights Organization, unions and faith leaders came together to launch the Poor People’s Campaign (PPC), they believed it was the next logical step in ensuring full humanity for every single person in this country. They understood this fundamental truth: racial justice and economic security are so deeply entwined, you cannot have one without the other.
During his 1964 acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize, King challenged America to address the poverty, racism and militarism that hindered the progress and prosperity it had promised to all its citizens. He said that “…a great nation is a compassionate nation. No individual or nation can be great if it does not have a concern for ‘the least of these.’”
This nation has a lot of great individuals, but we have failed poor and low-wealth people.
The Poor People’s Campaign, the AFL-CIO and our allies reject this failure. We know the nation we love has the capacity for compassion. It has the ability and means to eradicate poverty, and heal our communities that have been criminalized and blamed for their poverty. We are continuing the fight for racial justice and economic security. We are coming together with determination and a clear purpose to battle ecological devastation, lack of equal access to health care and the scourge of white supremacy, and to provide relief and aid to the most vulnerable among us.
But we can’t do this work alone. As Dr. King taught us, in order to realize our full potential as a compassionate nation, we need good people to act.
That’s why working people, faith and labor movements are coming together in Washington, D.C., on June 18 for the Mass Poor People’s and Low-Wage Workers’ Assembly and Moral March on Washington and to the Polls. We assemble at 9:30 a.m. ET at 3rd and Pennsylvania.
Together, we are going to march and use our collective voice to demand an end to systemic economic injustice and the scourge of poverty. We know that by coming together, we have the potential to transform the electorate in this fall’s midterms and change the moral policy conversation in Washington.
Now is time for a generationally transformative gathering of all who are committed to love, justice and mercy. Now is time to demand a Third Reconstruction.
Join us. Together, we can build a greater, more compassionate America.
Rev. William J. Barber, II is founder and president of Repairers of the Breach, architect of the Moral Mondays movement in North Carolina and co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign.
Fred D. Redmond is secretary-treasurer/executive vice president of the 57 union, 12.5 million member AFL-CIO, America’s labor federation.