Week 12: ALL LABOR HAS DIGNITY
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50 weeks of Action Archive

 

Week 12: ALL LABOR HAS DIGNITY

 
Week twelvE All Labor Has Dignity
"Our needs are identical with labor's needs: decent wages, fair working conditions, livable housing, old-age security, health and welfare measures, conditions in which families can grow, have education for their children, and respect in the community.  That is why Negroes support labor's demands and fight laws which curb labor.  That is why the labor-hater and labor-baiter is virtually always a twin headed creature spewing anti-Negro epithets from one mouth and anti-labor propaganda from the other mouth."  [1]
- Martin Luther King, Jr. 
 
In 1961, Dr. King delivered a speech to the AFL-CIO's fourth constitutional convention.  He acknowledged racism  within the labor movement, but also brought to the audience 's attention that the goals of the  labor movement and th e civil rights movement overlap. Both movements sought decent wages, better working conditions, good communities for their families and better education. Today, we continue to benefit from the work of these two movements our everyday lives.
OSHA and workplace safety regulations are the result of advocacy and reform. The eight-hour workday, overtime, weekends off and the right to strike are all products of the labor movement. Unions were typically the organizations that pushed forward these labor agendas.
 
On February 12, 1968, 1300  
sanitation workers in Memp his walked off the job in protest to the poor working conditions, and  the deaths of Robert Walker and Echol Cole during a garbage compressor malfunction . The sanitation workers' strike was the intersection of the labor and civil rights movement.  As African Americans, their bold declaration "I AM A MAN" affirmed their huma nity, and their right to better pay and working conditions.  The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) along with local churches supported the strikers by providing them funds to take care of their families, food, protection escorts, and shelter from tear gas attacks.
Modern American workers still find themselves pushing for similar goals including a living wage and the ability to collaborate with employers to create a quality workplace. Activists, politicians and pundits hotly debate issues like the gender pay gap, the working poor and "right to work" laws without reaching a consensus.  The question remains how do we substantively address these issues.
 

[1] Martin Luther King, Jr. All Labor Has Dignity. ed. Michael K. Honey (Beacon Press: Boston, 2011).
THINKING AHEAD FOR THE JOB
  1. As the above issues are debated ,  identify the best entities responsible for changes to remedy racial and gender pay gap, living wages and "right to work."
  2. Historically both unions and communities have come together to advocate for change. Think about how we are using the same strategies today, or discuss with others a new advocacy paradigm. 
  3. Share your answers with us on our 50 Weeks of Action Facebook Group page.
 
Exploring Your Career Options - Think BIG!
A few weeks ago we looked at many different careers that you could obtain and what jobs you might be good at with an online quiz. It is important to realize, you have the potential to get any job, if you prepare (with school) and work hard. This week we will learn about a few women that paved the way for other African American women to work at NASA. 
(For All Ages)
Watch the film  Hidden Figures.
Check out the  trailer for the film  .
 
Meet the real NASA Pioneer  Katherine Johnson.
 
The poster for the movie states:
"Genius has no race. Strength has no gender. Courage has no limits."
 
What do these statements mean? How does the film illustrate or reflect these ideas?
 

(For Middle and High School Students) 
 
Read the book Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly.
What does the title  Hidden Figures mean?
Does this title have more than one meaning?
Can you think of any "hidden figures" in your life? Why does that title fit them?
(For Families)
For more questions to consider for Hidden Figures, see this discussion guide.
SHARE YOUR STORY
 
Do you know organizations or unions that provide information on labor rights? Are you a part of a union? What labor rights are you currently fighting for? Let us hear from you.   Get involved, share your story with us and encourage others to  do the same.     #MLK50NCRM
 
 

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