“If [public employees] want to strike they should be fired.” –Governor-elect John Kasich in December.
“Either we go up together or we go down together.”—Dr. MLK, Jr. at the rally for the Memphis sanitation workers the night before he was assassinated.
Today, we celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who was assassinated at a Memphis hotel in April 1968 while supporting the strike of Memphis sanitation workers who were protesting discriminatory hiring practices and deadly working conditions. The day before he was assassinated, Dr. King gave his “I’ve been to the Mountaintop” speech:
Forgotten now is at the time organized labor in the Memphis Sanitation strike was tied to hip to the civil rights movement for African-Americans. The city refused to negotiate a contract with the union at all. The State legislature hurriedly passed a law that prohibited public unions from striking. The city threatened to fire the striking workers and replace them.
So forgotten is that the Governor of Ohio could propose that the tactics used in the Civil Rights era should be outlawed and instead enact those used to try to hold back the groundswell of progress without barely anyone noticing.
The Cleveland SCLC has disinvited the Governor’s representative to their event today over Kasich’s dismissive comments about the lack of diversity in his Cabinet, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Perhaps they should have considered Kasich’s animosity to public unions, too.
Maybe we should take time out to remember that organized labor didn’t just get get us a living wage and a five-day work week but has been the forefront of major social change in this country. They were demonized then as they are being demonized now. But the jury of history has exonerated them and found that their cause was just and morally right.
[UPDATE:] If you’re curious what Governor Kasich’s proclamation on MLK, Jr. Day on March 17th says, you can read it here. SPOILER: it finds a way to mention Reagan.
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