The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

April 4, 2011
Unions to rally, remember civil rights leader's legacy

Unions in California and across the country are organizing National Day of Action events today, to honor the legacy of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and, said an AFSCME press release, "to show solidarity with civil servants in Wisconsin and other states who are being returned to 19th century-style working conditions through the loss of their First Amendment rights to assemble, organize, and bargain collectively as free citizens."

The Baptist minister and civil rights leader supported labor unions. He was assassinated 43 years ago today in Memphis, Tenn., where he was preparing a demonstration in support of striking sanitation workers.

The night before his death, King's famous "I've been to the mountain top" speech included this reference to the sanitation workers' cause:

Secondly, let us keep the issues where they are. The issue is injustice. The issue is the refusal of Memphis to be fair and honest in its dealings with its public servants, who happen to be sanitation workers. Now, we've got to keep attention on that. That's always the problem with a little violence. You know what happened the other day, and the press dealt only with the window-breaking. I read the articles. They very seldom got around to mentioning the fact that one thousand, three hundred sanitation workers were on strike, and that Memphis is not being fair to them, and that Mayor Loeb is in dire need of a doctor. They didn't get around to that.

Now we're going to march again, and we've got to march again, in order to put the issue where it is supposed to be. And force everybody to see that there are thirteen hundred of God's children here suffering, sometimes going hungry, going through dark and dreary nights wondering how this thing is going to come out. That's the issue. And we've got to say to the nation: we know it's coming out. For when people get caught up with that which is right and they are willing to sacrifice for it, there is no stopping point short of victory.

In Sacramento, SEIU Local 1000, AFSCME, the California Teachers Association and other groups are meeting at Cesar Chavez Plaza Park at 5 p.m.. From there, they'll march to the U.S. courthouse 501 I Street.

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About The State Worker

Jon Ortiz The Author

Jon Ortiz launched The State Worker blog and a companion column in 2008 to cover state government from the perspective of California government employees. Every day he filters the news through a single question: "What does this mean for state workers?" Join Ortiz for updates and debate on state pay, benefits, pensions, contracts and jobs. Contact him at (916) 321-1043 and at


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