By Senator, Lena C. Taylor
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. died fighting for workers’ rights and workplace democracy. Every year, we honor his sacrifice and remember that he encouraged us to embrace brotherhood, service and peace. At a time when workers are struggling to find employment and being stripped of their right to workplace democracy, it is important that we remember that Dr. King gave his life to standing up for better jobs and workers’ rights.
Dr. King frequently tied achieving black equality to economic power. At the March on Washington in 1963, Dr. King stated that, despite the fact that slavery had been abolished 100 years ago, “the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.” From the Montgomery Bus Boycott to the Poor People’s Campaign, Dr. King consistently supported the working class, including their demands for workplace democracy and economic equality. So with his encouragement, 1,000 sanitation and sewage system workers walked off the job on February 12, 1968. They held daily meetings for the next two months to discuss the critical issues in their struggle: the right to negotiate a union contract and the right to have union dues deducted from paychecks.
In April 2011, Governor Walker and his colleagues in the Legislature decided that public employees, from teachers, firefighters, police officers to the people who plow our roads and ensure that our drinking water is safe, should lose the protection of their union contracts. After three months of petitioning and signature-collecting, we gathered over one million signatures to recall Scott Walker. After a year of destructive policies and broken promises, he will finally be held accountable for his all-out assault on the working- class.
By gathering more than enough signatures to recall the governor, Wisconsin is continuing the fight that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. began 44 years ago in Memphis : the fight for workplace democracy, for dignity, for equity, and for access.