Rev. King would be fighting Trump’s racism and his support for ‘right to work’
By DAVID GROVES
(Jan. 12, 2018) — If the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was alive today, our stable-genius president likely would be referring to the 89-year-old civil rights icon by some juvenile, offensive, and probably racist nickname. And tweeting about what a loser he is. Sad.
That’s because King would be doing everything in his power to oppose President Donald Trump and his agenda.
Of course, he’d be decrying Trump’s support — both dog-whistling and overt — for white supremacists, from absolving the Charlottesville racists, to calling Mexicans rapists, to lamenting immigration from “shithole countries” where people of color live. He’d also be opposing Trump’s racist policies, like his support for imposing voting restrictions that suppress black and minority voters.
But Dr. King would also be actively fighting Trump and his fellow Republicans’ embrace of anti-union “right-to-work” legislation, a policy created by American racists, championed by corporate interests to suppress wages, and about to be imposed on every public employee in the country by a U.S. Supreme Court stacked with activist hard-right conservatives.
The man whose legacy we celebrate on Monday was a passionate supporter of Americans’ freedom to join together in unions and negotiate a fair return on their work. And he strongly opposed right to work.
“In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as ‘right to work’,” King said. “Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone. Wherever these laws have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer and there are no civil rights.”
When he was assassinated nearly 50 years ago in Memphis, Tenn., King was there to support members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Memphis sanitation workers experienced not only racial discrimination, but disregard, disrespect and refusal by local government officials to recognize their union. This video outlines the Memphis struggle and includes King’s final speech, which was on behalf of those workers and the dignity and importance of their work.
King knew that the struggle for economic and social justice necessarily includes the freedom of workers to form unions, not only to negotiate better wages and working conditions, but also to fight for the preservation of public services. He was proud to rally with public workers, and proud to make the connection between their struggle for better treatment with the broader struggle for economic equality in America.
Public employees have lost collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin and more than a dozen other states. ALL workers have lost union rights through the imposition of “right-to-work” laws in Indiana, Michigan, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Missouri (although voters there will have a chance to repeal it). And just about every remaining free-bargaining state has had similar right-to-work legislation proposed, including right here in Washington state.
So on Monday, as we honor King’s legacy, remember that the battle for racial and economic justice is engaged not only in places like Ferguson and Charlottesville, but also right here in Olympia.
David Groves is Editor of The Stand.