MLK March To Labor Day

Dave Johnson

Last weekend was the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s March on Washington For Jobs and Freedom, and Labor Day is next weekend. Last weekend Glenn Beck tried to hijack the MLK march anniversary in the name of the far right and their tea party noisemakers, but we know who has been on our side and who hasn’t. Labor has.

Lat weekend there were also a march in Detroit, by people who have been on our side. Isaiah Poole wrote this week in, In Detroit, The ‘Dream’ March The Media Missed about “a message that strikes at the core of America’s economic ills, delivered by elements of the progressive coalition that were actually at King’s side in the 1960s, such as the leaders of the United Auto Workers.”

The media outside Detroit missed an opportunity this past weekend to use the Detroit event to draw a sharp contrast between Americans who are being driven by fear into a movement that would take America morally and economically backward and working Americans anxious to see a new American economy of both prosperity and diversity.

Poole links to an article by John Nichols in The Nation, Sorry, Glenn Beck, But King’s ‘Dream’ is on the March in Detroit,

… anyone who was paying attention Saturday knew that the continuation of the 1963 “March on Washington for Jobs and Justice” … was not the slick, right-wing spin–dominated event in Washington. It was the serious, issue-oriented march organized by the United Auto Workers union, a key supporter of the 1963 march, and the Rev. Jesse Jackson, a former aide to King.

This is forming a picture of who is there for us, and who is just talk. Glenn Beck, talk show host, warns about the dangers of what he calls “socialism” which to him is anything that involves people banding together to help and watch out for each other. He also calls that “collectivism.” We call it “community” and government of, by and for We, the People. Let’s look at who has been there for people, as King and his supporters were:

UAW President Walter Reuther was a strong supporter and funder of the civil rights movement, even as some other labor organizations were busy being “centrist” on the issue. Reuther was right there, marching with King at the 1932 March on Washington and the Selma to Montgomery March. In the book State of the Union, A Century of American Labor, Nelson Lichthstein writes of the struggle that joined African Americans with labor, especially the UAW, (pg79-81)

The 1941 strike at the Ford Motor Company proved the high-profile event that symbolized the inauguration of a generation-long alliance between black workers and the new industrial unions. … Within the Rouge [plant] the unionization process … helped generate a talented, heavily politicized cohort of activists whose presence was soon felt at every level of the UAW,within the NAACP and the Urban League, and in the polarized world of Detroit Politics.

1963_march_on_washington
Walter Reuther (second from right) at the March on Washington, August 28, 1963 (source)

Labor supported the 1960s landmark legislation, including civil rights, immigration reform, health insurance and the Great Society antipoverty initiatives. Labor has supported equal rights for women. Labor’s Pride At Work works for employee non-discrimination to protect LGBT workers. To get an idea of labor’s efforts to hep all of us, the menu at the AFL0CIO website lists Health Care, Retirement Security, Safety & Health at Work, Balancing Work & Family, Education, Civil, Human & Women’s Rights, Immigration.

So as we approach Labor Day we should ask ourselves, are Glenn Beck, Fox News, and the rest of the talk-show conservatives working to advance any of those things that are so important to people? Or are they holding back efforts to help and watch out for each other? Labor is there for us. Who are Glenn Beck, Fox News and the rest of the right in this for?

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