Continuing the March on Washington

George Gresham | 8/1/2013, 11:07 a.m.
Recently, race has taken center stage in our nation’s discourse. George Zimmerman’s acquittal, the Supreme Court’s Voting Rights decisions and ...

Today, just as in 1963, we require a united movement of the 99 percent to turn back their offensive. Unions are an essential component of that movement. In King’s last book, “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?” he described that role: “Negroes make up nearly 20 percent of the organized work force, although they are only 10 percent of the general population. This potential strength is magnified further by the fact of their unity with millions of white workers in those occupations.”

While acknowledging that race prejudice continued to exist, King also emphasized how the work and union setting provided a corrective environment: “It [racist practices] would not flourish as it does in a neighborhood with nothing to inhibit it but morbid observers looking for thrills. In the shop, the union officials from highest to lowest levels would be immediately involved, for internal discord is no academic matter; it weakens the union in its contest with the employers. Therefore, an important self-interest motivates harmonious race relations.”

Unions are one of our most essential and effective training grounds for united action by diverse individuals. In the spirit of the March on Washington, 1199ers have been marching with a diverse group of sisters and brothers during Moral Mondays for justice and equality in North Carolina. Likewise, hundreds of 1199SEIU members of diverse races and nationalities will be in Washington on Aug. 24 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.

We can pay no greater tribute to the 1963 pioneers who demanded jobs and freedom than by continuing the march until we are able to transform their demands into our nation’s reality.