Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. lead the Civil Rights Movement and understood how law and labor were needed to affect the opportunity of working people to rise above and secure a decent standard of living. On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated standing on a balcony at the Lorraine Motelin Memphis, Tennessee. Dr. King was there to support the Memphis sanitation workers’ strike. This was his second visit and march to be held with the strikers and members of the community demanding fairness. King was just 39 years old when he was killed. Here is a quote from a speech he made to the AFL-CIO in 1965:
“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. When in the thirties the wave of union organization crested over the nation, it carried to secure shores not only itself but the whole society.
Civilization began to grow in the economic life of man, and a decent life
with a sense of security and dignity became a reality rather than a distant dream.
It is a mark of our intellectual backwardness that these monumental
achievements of labor are still only dimly seen, and in all too many circles the term “union” is still synonymous with self-seeking, power hunger, racketeering, and cynical coercion. There have been and still are wrongs in the trade union movement, but its share of credit for triumphant accomplishments is substantially denied in the historical treatment of the nation’s progress.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Speech given to the Illinois State AFL-CIO
SPRINGFIELD, ILLINOIS, OCT. 7, 1965