HOUSTON – On April 29, AFSCME Local 1550 held a commemorative event for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at St. John Missionary Baptist Church here.

The Rev. Dr. Michael P. Williams of Joy Tabernacle and the Houston Community College Board of Trustees spoke of the importance of forming coalitions between communities of faith and communities of labor.

He told the audience it is important for people to speak out and bargain collectively. He said this must be done in spite of the influence of corporations. He said the days of slavery in the U.S. are over. He ended by asking “If not us, then who? If not now, then when?”

The Texas Southern University Championship Debate Team was magnificent. They read passages from the Gettysburg address and the speeches of Dr. King. Their presentation was dramatic and moving.

State Rep. Dora Oliva of the 27th District talked about the importance of the contributions of young people in the community. She also spoke of the importance of the immigrant rights struggle and called for solidarity to support that struggle.

Two days later 30,000 people gathered and marched in Houston in coalitions led by AFL-CIO to mark May 1, International Workers Day, by standing up for immigrant rights. This was really significant given that Houston is the home of George H.W. Bush, Tom DeLay, Ken Lay and John Culberson.

Next, Barbara Radnofsky, attorney, and Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate seat of Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson, pointed out that Texas leads the nation in the number of uninsured children as well as stroke, heart attack and diabetes. She said she was raised to believe that we are here on this earth “due to the service and sacrifice of others, we didn’t do it on our own.”

Radnofsky said her father was shot down over Nazi Germany in World War II and was in a prison camp. One day the Nazis running the camp commanded that all Jews step forward. She indicated that all the men stepped forward, thus saving her father’s life.

She made the connection that she is here today due to the risk taking and sacrifices of others. She said that teenagers were sacrificed in that war to save the world. She pointed out that our teenagers today are being sacrificed due to the anti-education legislation and cuts in health care being passed. She concluded by quoting Dr. King: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Many other labor and religious leaders spoke and there were excellent musical offerings in this fine commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. There was a quote from him on the program which read, “Civil rights and worker’s rights are one and the same struggle.”

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