by Clyde Weiss | October 17, 2011
Thousands of AFSCME members participated in the March and Rally for Jobs and Justice on the National Mall. (Photo by Luis Gomez)
AFSCME Sec.-Treas. Lee Saunders, addressing thousands on the National Mall this past weekend, said the memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “is a well-deserved tribute to a great man, but if we truly want to honor Dr. King, we will continue his fight.”
Speaking on Saturday during the Jobs and Justice rally on the Mall, Saunders, who was co-chair of the rally, vowed that AFSCME will continue to “fight the politicians who would rather pursue their narrow, selfish political agenda than pass The American Jobs Act,” – Pres. Barack Obama’s plan to put Americans back to work. “We will fight the Wall Street barons whose greed has cost working families jobs and security,” he added.
Thousands of AFSCME members participated in a related march for Jobs and Justice, along with thousands of other union members, civil rights activists, and members of faith organizations whose activism is focusing a national spotlight on Dr. King’s civil rights legacy and the unfinished work that remains to be done.
The march – held one day before the official unveiling of Dr. King’s National Memorial – was led by Saunders, civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton (president and founder of the National Action Network), and American Federation of Teachers Pres. Randi Weingarten.
On Sunday, Saunders spoke at the official unveiling of the King Memorial. Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis, Tenn., in 1968 while supporting 1,300 striking sanitation workers represented by AFSCME Local 1733. Shortly after Dr. King’s death, the workers won their battle.
“The fight in Memphis became Dr. King’s last,” Saunders said at the unveiling. “He went because he understood the connection between workers’ rights and civil rights. Those striking sanitation workers weren’t simply fighting for better pay and safer working conditions. They were asserting a claim on our democracy.”
Today’s attacks on workers’ rights in Michigan, Ohio Wisconsin and beyond – plus assaults nationwide on voting rights – “tell us the fight for democracy is not over,” Saunders said. “Victories that were decades in the making can be undone with a governor’s signature, a legislator’s vote, or our own apathy.”
Also attending the march and rally were AFSCME International vice presidents Raglan George Jr., executive director of New York State Council 1707; Sherryl Gordon, executive director, New Jersey Council 1; Glen Middleton Sr. executive director, Maryland Council 67; Douglas Moore Jr. executive director, UDW Homecare Providers Union/AFSCME Local 3930; and Eddie Rodriguez, president, Local 1549 (District Council 37).