Labor union bosses and congressional Democrats are tying their battles in Wisconsin and Ohio to the 43rd anniversary of the death of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. King was shot on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tenn., while helping the city’s black sanitation workers in a strike.
“For Dr. King, economic justice was an essential element of his work for civil and human rights, which is why, on the day his life was taken, he was in Memphis, Tennessee, supporting striking sanitation workers as they sought to have their union recognized by the city,” Wade Henderson, the president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said on a conference call on Monday morning. “On the eve of his death, Dr. King delivered a speech to these workers that came to be known as the ‘Mountaintop Speech,’ in which he preached that if they stayed strong and resilient, they would one day achieve economic security and the chance for opportunity.”
Referring to Tea Party movement, Henderson said, “opportunists are trying to manipulate the facts surrounding the nation’s economic troubles,” in order to “gain a political advantage in the next election cycle.”
“What we’re witnessing is nothing short of an ideological assault on Dr. King’s vision for a more just and equitable nation,” Henderson said. “So, how will ordinary Americans respond to this effort to hijack the American Dream?”
Henderson and other self-described civil rights group leaders like NAACP president Benjamin Jealous and labor union leaders launched what they call an “organic, grassroots,” campaign, “We Are One,” this week. Henderson said their pressure campaign will consist of more than 1,000 “discrete community and workplace-focused actions,” including “more than 150 ‘teach-ins,’ hundreds of worksite mobilizations, community forums, vigils marches and more.”
It’s all part of an effort, though, to frame King’s assassination as a result of his involvement in the Memphis sanitation workers’ strike – an implication that he died fighting for collective bargaining, not against racial inequality.
King’s niece, Dr. Alveda King, told The Daily Caller her uncle really wasn’t in Memphis because it was a strike – he got involved in the strike because of racial discrimination. Black sanitation workers were treated unfairly compared to white ones, and, in fact, all 1,300 strikers were black. The unfair treatment led to the death of two black workers, too, Echol Cole and Robert Walker, who were crushed in a mechanical malfunction.
“My uncle was in Memphis, not specifically because of the union strikes but to help bring an end to oppression of the garbage workers which was racially driven,” Alveda King said in an e-mail.