Martin Luther King Jr. Defended Union Rights Passionately

Wisconsin’s Governor has succeeded in eradicating the most relevant mechanism of unions, Collective Bargaining Rights.


When our Freedom to Assemble was infringed upon, with many Republicans wanting the protests halted and silenced, Dr. King would have something of importance to say because after all, he’s said it before.


One of the greatest inspirational orators in history, Dr. Martin Luther King, defended the rights of unions with passion in this speech.


With the word patriot recklessly thrown around, America should remember the real patriots, and Dr. King was most certainly one of them.


Excerpts from Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech during the Memphis Sanitation Workers strike:


We aren’t engaged in any negative protest and in any negative arguments with anybody. We are saying that we are determined to be men. We are determined to be people. We are saying — We are saying that we are God’s children. And that we are God’s children, we don’t have to live like we are forced to live.


…..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 are 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.


We aren’t going to let any mace stop us. We are masters in our nonviolent movement in disarming police forces; they don’t know what to do. I’ve seen them so often. I remember in Birmingham, Alabama, when we were in that majestic struggle there, we would move out of the 16th Street Baptist Church day after day; by the hundreds we would move out.


Now about injunctions: We have an injunction and we’re going into court tomorrow morning to fight this illegal, unconstitutional injunction. All we say to America is, “Be true to what you said on paper.” If I lived in China or even Russia, or any totalitarian country, maybe I could understand some of these illegal injunctions. Maybe I could understand the denial of certain basic First Amendment privileges, because they hadn’t committed themselves to that over there. But somewhere I read of the freedom of assembly. Somewhere I read of the freedom of speech. Somewhere I read of the freedom of press. Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest for right. And so just as I say, we aren’t going to let dogs or water hoses turn us around, we aren’t going to let any injunction turn us around. We are going on.


Now the other thing we’ll have to do is this: Always anchor our external direct action with the power of economic withdrawal. Now, we are poor people. Individually, we are poor when you compare us with white society in America. We are poor. Never stop and forget that collectively — that means all of us together — collectively we are richer than all the nations in the world, with the exception of nine. Did you ever think about that? After you leave the United States, Soviet Russia, Great Britain, West Germany, France, and I could name the others, the American Negro collectively is richer than most nations of the world. We have an annual income of more than thirty billion dollars a year, which is more than all of the exports of the United States, and more than the national budget of Canada. Did you know that? That’s power right there, if we know how to pool it.


We don’t have to argue with anybody. We don’t have to curse and go around acting bad with our words. We don’t need any bricks and bottles. We don’t need any Molotov cocktails. We just need to go around to these stores, and to these massive industries in our country, and say, “God sent us by here, to say to you that you’re not treating his children right. And we’ve come by here to ask you to make the first item on your agenda fair treatment, where God’s children are concerned. Now, if you are not prepared to do that, we do have an agenda that we must follow. And our agenda calls for withdrawing economic support from you.”


For the Religious Right. On health care:


Somehow the preacher must be an Amos, and saith, “When God speaks who can but prophesy?” Again with Amos, “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” Somehow the preacher must say with Jesus, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me,” and he’s anointed me to deal with the problems of the poor.


Martin Luther King’s inspirational words should serve as a reminder. The right to Assemble and protest peacefully must be defended. It’s Constitutional and it’s just.


Right wing hero Governor Walker/David Koch would never be caught saying something with such patriotic importance as this.



My thanks to my good friend Woodsjransom.


This blog post is dedicated to Janann.

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  • Sapo Mal

    MLK was murdered in 1967. That’s what, forty two, forty three years ago? Forty three years ago the unions had not yet morphed into the monsters that ate Detroit, they weren’t holding the entire country up for more pay and benefits, they weren’t making two or three times what most people make, and they weren’t yet the little tin gods they seem to be now. Forty three years ago, most union workers actually worked, now the most egregious unions are in the government.

    Forty three years is a long time. This isn’t 1967, and it’s sure not 1910, when the unions were actively needed. The unions have changed since then, and it’s time to cut them back to size.

    • OMGawd

      @Sapo Mal, Funny thing about that. Republicans are trying to take us back to that time and I don’t want to go back there.

    • woodsjransom

      @Sapo Mal,

      Martin Luther King jr was assassinated. Your argument is too convenient. Just because he said it in 1967 makes the premise not applicable. That seems to be the basis of your BS response. The pay commensurate with the cost of living. A lot of times they go into arbitration and lose but they should have the right to bargain in good faith. So as I said before you need to STFU and go play.

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  • Sapo Mal

    Actually I don’t need to shut up, I need to keep writing and talking to people, rather than let some nasty little troll run me over.

    The real problem is that the unions have allowed themselves to be used as a weapon by the democrats, and have entered into a corrupt agreement whereby they will vote in a politician who will give them more of the taxpayers money, some of which they will then return to the politician in the form of campaign contributions, and then continue to support him. The unions are a very good weapon, their organization allows them to punch far above their weight, which means they can hold up the politician and the taxpayer for far more money than they are worth as workers. They give their worth to the politician, but not to the taxpayer, and they throw off the political balance. Now that more taxpayers are aware of this, they are getting gang stomped by the Republicans, the Independents, and the Tea Party, and the unions don’t have enough mojo to stop it. It has come down to the hard core progressives, the unions, and their hangers on against everyone else. Reasonable people and other taxpayers are deserting the democrats in droves because they see this corruption. Even if we don’t like everything about the republicans, we are not going to be tax serfs for the special interests, especially now that the recession has cut everything to the nub and revealed where the fat is going. We will take care of the bankers next. JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs no longer produce wealth, they simply siphon wealth away from the taxpayer and producer, just like the unions siphon wealth without producing value. They are the other side of the union coin, and that coin has fallen flat. But first the unions, because the unions have corrupted the voting practice as well as the legislative practice, the bankers the legislative and monetary practice. Once the voting practice is fixed (goodbye ACORN, unions next), we can take care of the rest. And we will. There aren’t enough trolls on the internet to stop us.

    • Anomaly100

      @Sapo Mal, So, Dems can’t have power but Republicans can? Republicans embraced Citizens United which is an abomination on our rights. It did, in fact, give corporations the right to vote. If you’re against a party for having power, then denounce your own.

      Woodsie is not a troll by the way. The post you commented on was dedicated to her. See the bottom please.

      You have a nice weekend.