by Joye Barksdale | April 05, 2012
Sec.-Treas. Lee Saunders and AFSCME members from United Public Workers (UPW)/AFSCME Local 646 in Hawaii attend the vigil honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (Photo by Khalid Naji Allah)
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spent his last hours in Memphis, where he had gone to stand with the 1,300 sanitation workers of AFSCME Local 1733 in their historic strike. On the 44th anniversary of Dr. King’s slaying, hundreds gathered at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial for a candlelight vigil honoring his lifelong quest for civil rights, human rights and workers’ rights.
Speakers included AFSCME Sec.-Treas. Lee Saunders, who spoke of Dr. King’s relationship with the labor movement and his belief that workers’ rights and civil rights were inextricably linked. Saunders also reminded the audience that recent attempts by corporate-backed politicians to institute harsh voter ID laws and dismantle collective bargaining are reminders that our work is far from over.
“We’ve come a long way from that day 44 years ago, yet in 2012 two things are clear. Much remains to be done, and much of what Dr. King stood for is being undone,” Saunders said.
Other speakers included Arun Manilal Gandhi, a grandson of Mohandas Gandhi, Christine Chavez, granddaughter of United Farm Workers founder Cesar Chavez, and Alexis Herman, former U.S. Secretary of Labor.
AFSCME donated more than $1 million to build the memorial, joining such major contributors as Morehouse College (Dr. King’s alma mater), the American Teachers Federation, the National Education Association, AT&T, and the Pew Charitable Trusts.