Reflecting on MLK Jr.'s Assassination and Current Events: Have We Learned Anything?

43 years ago, King gave his life fighting for the rights of 1,300 striking sanitation workers. It's a tragedy that 43 years later, our workers are still fighting for basic rights.
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On the anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., it's appropriate to reflect on the progress this country has made in fighting for worker's rights.

After all, it was exactly 43 years ago yesterday that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., gave his life fighting for the rights of 1,300 striking sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee.

Fast-forward 43 years.

Martin Luther King III said, "I'm looking at what is going on in our nation today as we are attacking teachers, public workers, and collective bargaining. And so, today we're engaged in continuing the work. His dream is not fulfilled yet."

All over the country, Republican governors and the right-wing media have been attacking the dignity of working men and women at a record level -- and again, there is pushback.

"We Are One" protests were held in roughly a thousand locations across the country yesterday, including one protest themed, Memphis to Madison.

Now, can you parallel that with what is happening in America today? You can. It makes you wonder just how far we have come as a nation. Not very far. Not very far at all.

Working-class Americans are trying to continue Dr. King`s dream of civil rights, social rights, and economic justice.

King's dream certainly isn't fulfilled yet. And in a guest column for the AFL-CIO, King went on to say, "My father would be joining with millions of other Americans today in supporting public employees in Wisconsin, Indiana, and Ohio, and other states, where collective bargaining is now under attack."Republicans and their friends in the media have turned America upside down. Conservative policies have bankrupted almost every state in this country. But governors, like Mr. Walker, Mr. Kasich, and also Chris Christie in New Jersey, just put the blame right on their teachers, the firefighters, and the sanitation workers.The battle for collective bargaining rights has major similarities to what Dr. Martin Luther King was fighting for in Memphis, Tennessee, back in 1968.To put in historical context for the naysayers out there: In February of 1968, 1,300 Memphis sanitation workers fought for the simple right to have safer working conditions. They wanted wage increases because they hadn't had them for a long time. But most of all, they just wanted to end discrimination.

Twelve days after King was murdered, the sanitation workers finally got most of the rights they were fighting for.

This current crisis with union workers is the biggest attack on labor that we have seen in the history of this country. It is undoubtedly a fight for justice.

The tough thing that Americans have to do is remember the progress and change that occurred back in 1968, especially now, when we have people like Glenn Beck on Fox News, who rewrites history to try to distort what really happened. In general, conservative broadcasters are at a loss for the truth and facts when they twist the legacy of a man who fought so hard for human rights, social justice, equal justice, as Dr. Martin Luther King did for the United States of America. This man was under surveillance by the FBI. This man was being called a communist when all he wanted to do was fight for the workers.And the fact is that we are now living in a media culture where people don't pay attention to history, that allow people like Beck to be irresponsible and rewrite it and to put their spin on it. Even when members of Dr. King's family come out and say, no, this is what he was really doing on that day in Memphis, and this is what led up to it.It is sad that we have now become a country so critical, so critical and so cynical that we will try to rewrite history as to what great people were trying to do to change the lives of workers. I find it disgusting.

And as we look at Wisconsin, which is ground zero, we have to say that it really is the rebirth of American workers' rights.The scary thing in all of this is that if these recalls don't take place and if the legacy of Dr. King is rewritten, who knows what the future holds for the middle class in this country? And this is not only about the middle class.

It's about the lower middle class and the working poor in this country.And with no political voice, these people are going to get run over, destroying everything MLK strived to accomplish.

It's a tragedy that 43 years later, our workers are still fighting for basic rights.

What now?

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