Economic Justice: Labor Must Step Foward To Reclaim Dr. King's Dream

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Reclaiming the Dream

[50th Anniversary March On Washington]

On August 28, 1963, hundreds of thousands gathered in Washington, D.C., to demonstrate their commitment to a dream – that this nation’s founding principles of freedom and equality would one day become real, not for some, but for all Americans. Today, while we recognize that tremendous progress has been made in the five decades since Martin Luther King Jr. articulated that dream so memorably, we also know that, in many ways, his dream still eludes us as a nation.

When the Supreme Court can nullify legislation to guarantee equal voting rights, when an unarmed Black youth can be shot to death with no consequences, when state legislatures across the country can attempt to deny the vote to citizens who have exercised that right for decades, when millions of low-wage workers have full-time jobs and are still unable to make ends meet, when economic inequality is greater than it was in 1963 and getting worse, then we know that we still have much work to do.

Since the beginning, the cause of civil rights has gone hand-in-hand with the cause of organized labor. Labor leaders such as A. Phillip Randolph and Bayard Rustin were the driving forces behind the 1963 march. They recognized then, as we do today, that the American Dream cannot be achieved without true economic justice, and that economic justice cannot be achieved until all workers have the freedom to organize. Dr. King died in pursuit of that cause.

As labor and civil rights activists and others from across the country come together again to mark this anniversary, we must do more than simply commemorate Dr. King’s call for justice. We must continue to stand up and fight harder than ever to make his dream a reality.


Leo W. Gerard is President of The United Steelworkers (USW).

The USW represents 850,000 members in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean. It is the largest private-sector union in North America, representing workers in a range of industries including metals, mining, rubber, paper and forestry, oil, health care, security, hotels, municipal governments and agencies.


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