Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Greetings from Railroad Workers United (RWU)

By Railroad Workers United

Monday, January 16th is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebrating the birthday, life, and work of iconic civil rights leader. The day has been a designated federal holiday since 1986. While roughly 1 in 3 U.S. workers are granted this holiday, MLK Day has yet to be recognized by U.S. rail carriers. Please see the RWU Resolution in Support of a Paid Holiday for All Railroaders on MLK Day

Railroad Workers United (RWU) urges all railroad workers to remember and honor the life of this great American. A tireless fighter for civil rights, King was also a champion of organized labor and trade unionism. In fact, when he was gunned down by an assassin on April 4, 1968, King was in Memphis, TN to support the efforts of the sanitation workers there to organize a union.

King’s support of unions was longstanding, although that endorsement was not returned by unions, including most rail unions that did not offer membership to African Americans. In 1961, King’s address at the AFL-CIO’s annual convention was considered a turning point. At the Convention, King observed: “Our needs are identical with labor’s needs: decent wages, fair working conditions, livable housing, old-age security, health and welfare measures, conditions in which families can grow, have education for their children, and respect in the community. That is why Negroes support labor’s demands and fight laws which curb labor. That is why the labor-hater and labor-baiter is virtually always a twin-headed creature spewing anti-Negro epithets from one mouth and anti-labor propaganda from the other mouth.”

In the last year of his life, King had embarked upon organizing a “Poor People’s Campaign” designed to unite people of all races in a struggle to redistribute the wealth and power in society to common everyday working people. “I think it is necessary for us to realize that we have moved from the era of civil rights to the era of human rights … [W]hen we see that there must be a radical redistribution of economic and political power, then we see that for the last twelve years we have been in a reform movement…That after Selma and the Voting Rights Bill, we moved into a new era, which must be an era of revolution…In short, we have moved into an era where we are called upon to raise certain basic questions about the whole society.”

King Speech – The Dignity of Labor

MLK Speaks to Local #1199

On Labor, Wealth, and Justice

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