Celebrating MLK Day and Honoring Dr King's Legacy
"The labor movement was the principal force that transformed misery and despair into hope and progress. Out of its bold struggles, economic and social reform gave birth to unemployment insurance, old age pensions, government relief for the destitute, and above all new wage levels that meant not mere survival, but a tolerable life. The captains of industry did not lead this transformation; they resisted it until they were overcome.” —Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
As we celebrate Dr Martin Luther King Jr Day today, we recall Reverend King's legacy of fighting for workers rights as well as civil rights. Dr. King was killed in 1968, standing alongside striking sanitation workers in Memphis protesting inhumane working conditions.
Workers in 2023 are still fighting for decent working conditions and fundamental human human rights and dignity. And those struggles are happening more frequently, in bigger numbers, in different industries across the country.
Last week 7,000 nurses in New York City went on strike for patient care, refusing to return to work until they won agreements that address the unsafe staffing conditions at their hospitals. After a high stakes three day strike they won enforceable safe staffing ratios - a historic victory.
We were proud to support NYSNA in their strike last week. CWA 1101 members and retirees were on the picket lines at Mt Sinai and Montefiore Hospitals, just like NYSNA members were on our picket lines at Verizon in 2016 and AT&T Mobility in 2017. When we stand together, when we fight together, we win together!
The nurses strike highlighted the hypocrisy of corporate America during COVID-19, with companies applauding their essential workers while continuing to deny them the safety precautions, wages, and benefits they deserve. But workers across the country are fighting back. "There were 374 worker strikes started in 2022 — a 39% increase over 2021 according to a database run by Cornell." (Axios, Workers Strikes Surged in 2022)
As we kick off 2023 the biggest labor struggle brewing this year is a possible strike by 340,000 Teamster members at UPS, the largest private sector employer in the country. Their contract expires July 31, 2023 and they are already well into a national contract campaign.
UPS could choose to honor the legacy of Dr. King by negotiating a fair contract for the 340,000 Teamsters at UPS, including:
- No more two-tier pay. Equal pay for equal work.
- Ending unfair discipline and treating all workers with respect.
- Stopping constant harassment, unfair discipline and surveillance.
- Ending excessive forced overtime that separates working parents from their families.
- Protecting good jobs by stopping subcontracting.
- Ending part-time poverty by increasing part-time wages and creating more full-time jobs.
- Recognizing Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and Juneteenth as paid holidays.