With all the hype around the elections, all the scandals coming to the surface around elected officials and the increased pillaging of our constitution and civil liberties, it’s time to ask ourselves what is really going on in this country.

April 4 marks the 40th anniversary of the death of one of this country’s great public servants, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. King was an agitator who spoke truth to power even when it was not politically convenient, an organizer who lent his voice to amplify the power of the movement the sanitation workers were building in Memphis, and a visionary who shared a dream of a better America, where he hoped one day his children would be free to be themselves. His dream shaped that era. But 40 years later, in many ways it seems we’re in a place very similar to where we were then.

The year 2008 presents a historic opportunity for the majority in this country who see the need to change our approach to almost everything that has been touched by the Bush administration and its predecessors. These are really our wrongs, too, because we as a country failed to prevent the invasion of Iraq, failed to hold our elected officials accountable, failed to do much beyond the click of a mouse or maybe going out to a big march. So now we must ask ourselves, who’s got the power to change this?

This week thousands of students and workers in over 100 cities are taking action in the streets, in boardrooms and in classrooms during the Student Labor Week of Action. This powerful show of solidarity is making student-labor connections around issues such as access to education, the right to bargain collectively and to have a voice on the job, ending modern day slavery whether it is in a sweatshop in Asia or in the tomato fields in Florida.

Nationwide actions will reflect the fight against the demonization and criminalization of immigrant workers who are forced to leave their countries because of U.S. trade policies and interference in domestic affairs. Pollution and poverty, environmental rights, development of green jobs and many other issues will also be addressed. All issue-related actions have at their core a message of social and economic justice.

The Student Labor Action Project and its allies are bringing issues of great importance to millions of American because we believe it is we who must shape the conversations and debates in this very important election year.

Today, actions like those of SLAP are seen as troublesome and inconvenient not only by the media, but sadly also by many of those closest to us. It’s almost as if it’s bad to exercise our civic duties and keep our elected officials, decision makers and anyone else with power in check.

It is this mindset that challenging power and being confrontational is somehow wrong that has led to the rapid deterioration in America. Think about it: if you’re in the White House, a corporate office or a local city council chamber, and know you won’t get more than a few protestors or e-mails, why would you care? There’s always that 20 percent of Americans still behind you, and really it’s still business as usual.

But given all that has happened in the last 40 years, and what we’ve seen in these last eight, and the work that’s needed in the next four years, shouldn’t we shift our perceived role in this democracy? Don’t you think its time you also asked, “Who’s got the power?”

Carlos Jimenez is the national coordinator of the Student Labor Action Project.

Learn more about the National Student Labor Week of Action and the amazing local and national campaigns students and workers are waging in their campuses and communities to take the power back into their own hands by visiting and .

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