Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led a movement based in the African American working class, which through its dedication to democracy, equality and economic justice, shook and transformed our country. King met with heads of state, but he locked arms with Memphis sanitation workers fighting for a just contract on the day he was murdered in 1968.
On Jan. 15, the nation honors this fallen leader. Today, he would have been 78 years old. Some marchers for peace in Iraq are that age and older. Dr. King, outspoken critic of the Vietnam War, would have been among them.
Millions of African Americans who went to the polls Nov. 7, delivering their pivotal, united strength toward cracking 26 years of reactionary government, marched in the shoes of King’s movement.
Who are the children of Memphis, the 1965 Poor People’s March and the 1963 “Dream”? In Los Angeles, Chicago and New York, some of the Civil Rights Movement’s next generation are mobilizing workers, many of them workers of color and women, to challenge the world’s largest corporation — anti-union Wal-Mart. King could have written their slogan, “End poverty, don’t profit from it.”
They are helping New York’s 21,000 Wal-Mart workers demand that the mega-corporation provide health coverage. They are defending the courageous Chicago aldermen and women who passed a living wage ordinance only to have Mayor Daley veto it and the Chamber of Commerce try to unseat them. In Atlanta they have formed Georgia Stand Up, uniting Wal-Mart workers, native born and from many countries, for a humane standard of living. In Los Angeles they are building a movement large enough to upend Wal-Mart’s city within a city. Their rallying cry is, “The Dream will not die at Wal-Mart.”
Dr. Martin Luther King’s “dream” is alive and growing among American workers, in their struggles for what is rightfully theirs: a livable, sustainable world, at peace, where all prosper and opportunities abound for all.