Their MLK and Ours
[Reprinted from the January 20, 2014 WIR]
The Martin Luther King Jr holiday is a day off for public schools, nonessential public sector workers, and most covered by union contracts.
It is a unique commemoration, enacted only after tenacious popular demand overcame dogged resistance. While the scale of observance is on a par with “minor” holidays honoring Presidents, veterans, and “discoverers,” this one hails one of the greatest leaders of the centuries long–and still far from completed–self-liberation struggle by African-Americans.
While the Black civil rights movement propelled him in to national and international prominence, and remained his central focus, Dr King recognized the importance of allies of different skin pigment as well–and not just well-to-do white liberals who raised funds for the movement. This Nobel laureate also worked to create a multi-colored Poor People’s Campaign as well as collaborating with trade unionists and the movement against the Vietnam war.
Both Dr King, and another Black clergyman of a different faith and different strategy–Malcolm X–alarmed the Establishment of their time. The FBI not only spied on them but also circulated slander about their character and infiltrated provocateurs in to the civil rights and Black nationalist movements. Both great leaders were assassinated. Those movements have not yet fully recovered from that loss.
As mortality shrinks the living memory of Dr King’s movement, today’s Establishment cynically places him on an iconic pedestal, an acceptable Black hero piously preaching placid peace.
But Dr King’s nonviolent mass resistance to racism and exploitation was hardly peace. While he deplored all forms of violence he adopted, in his own way, the spirit of the message scrawled on the walls of the oppressed everywhere–No Justice, No Peace.
Let’s use this day to reclaim the genuine heritage of the man whose life was taken while organizing solidarity with striking sanitation workers. Let’s teach our youth to revere not a saint but a fighter in the cause of justice for all working people.
Womens March(es) Shaping Up
Historically, most major demonstrations in Washington have taken place in Spring or Fall. January is not an ideal time to bring masses of people from around the country to an outdoor march. That’s especially true the day after a presidential inauguration with its ravenous appetite for all modes of transportation and hotel rooms.
But politically, the symbolism of a giant mobilization immediately after the launch of an anti-woman administration justifies the timing of this effort. And, for those who can’t make it to DC, there will be local support marches and rallies at the same time across the USA–and international solidarity as well. So far, there are 281 marches planned that are expected to turn out about 600,000.
Since women make up a majority of the population, the Declaration of Principles of Unity is far broader than purely feminist issues. That has facilitated bringing supporting Partners on board including not only groups such as the National Organization for Women and Planned Parenthood but also civil rights organizations, civil liberties defenders, LGBT advocates, promoters of immigrant rights, trade unions and climate justice campaigners.
The Kansas City event will assemble at 1PM in Washington Square Park, just east of Union Station at Pershing & Grand. If that’s your destination, look for me there—I’ll be wearing my bright red Labor Party cap.
The Clinton administration took such a sweet time approving an ergonomic standard that could have reduced common repetitive motion injuries among assembly workers that the incoming Bush II administration was able to quash it before it became enforceable. Mike Elk, in his Friday the 13th Payday Report, notes the same work ethic in Obama’s final days,
“Today, the Federal Register is publishing a rule designed to remedy the problems which led to the West Fertilizer Company warehouse explosion that devastated the small town of West, Texas in April 2013. The massive blast killed fifteen people and injured 200, while destroying hundreds of homes and other buildings.
“However, chemical safety activists say that the new regulations have been dramatically weakened by the Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), while the years-long delay in publishing the rule creates an opening for the incoming Trump administration to block it from coming into effect.”
And that wasn’t the only shenanigan coming out of the EPA. The Associated Press reports,
“President Barack Obama’s administration scaled back new safety measures for the sprawling network of fuel pipelines that crisscross the United States on Friday, following oil industry complaints that proposed changes would cost companies billions of dollars.
“The long-delayed regulations cover almost 200,000 miles of pipelines that transport oil, gasoline and other hazardous liquids. They will be subject to review by Congress and the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump, who was highly critical on the campaign trail of regulations that hinder energy development.”
There have been thousands of pipeline accidents on Obama’s watch, spilling nearly 38 million gallons, inflicting 2.5 billion dollars in property damage. Saturday morning I received a message from the League of Conservation Voters urging me to “thank Obama before he’s gone.”
Converging On a Just Transition
The latest newsletter from the Labor Network for Sustainability came out last week. Articles include Protecting People and Planet against Trump and Trumpism; How Labor and Climate United Can Trump Trump; Vermont Labor Council Initiates Social Self-Defense; and How a Railway Workers Union Won New Technology That Improves Jobs and Reduces Greenhouse Gases. I was pleased to see a report about a climate resolution adopted by the union to which I pay retiree dues—the Amalgamated Transit Union.
There is also an announcement that a Second Labor Convergence on Climate will be held this summer. The first Convergence was held in January 2016 at the ATU Tommy Douglas Conference Center in Silver Spring, Maryland. You can find a description of what happened then, along with a short video, and a sign-up form for more information here.
If you aren’t already plugged in to the LNS I urge you to do so. This work is vital to the future of the labor movement—and the very future of life as we know it on this planet. And, if you live in the Kansas City-Lawrence-Topeka corridor and want to collaborate on bringing climate in to our unions I’d sure like to hear from you.
Celebration of the Life of Jerry Gordon
I received this information from the Labor Fightback Network:
Jerry Gordon — tireless trade unionist, socialist, and antiwar activist — passed away in his sleep on October 27, just a few weeks short of his 88th birthday.
Friends and family of Jerry Gordon are hosting a Celebration of Jerry’s life on Saturday, January 28 (from 2 pm to 5 pm) at the Unitarian Universalist Society in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. We invite one and all to join us. If you cannot attend, please send a message that will be posted and enlarged for all to see in the UU hall, and that will then be published in a special booklet with all the statements at the meeting and selections of Jerry’s writings and speeches. Messages should be sent to <JerryGordonMemorial@gmail.com>
That’s all for this week.
P.S. I apologize for some formatting quirks I am encountering with a new “upgrade” of WordPress.
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