The Martin Luther King Jr. holiday should be among the most sacred days for labor. It was Dr. King who moved us with the fierce urgency of now to remember that each of us are “caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” This is the ethos of the labor movement. It is a testament to our commitment to solidarity and why we should venerate him today and every day.
It is easy to get lost in the glowing charisma of the masterful orator. Dr. King was a brilliant thinker, an excellent organizer, and a keen and perceptive strategist. However, our mission must not be lost in the mythic, outsized memory of Dr. King, but rather tied to the values and ideals he encouraged for our nation. Our world struggles with strife and contention from the halls of America's most hallowed institutions to global conflicts over land and resources. Now is a time for all parties who claim to hold dear to Dr. King’s philosophies to adopt practices that model those philosophies.
As public employees, our tie to Dr. King runs deep and is best illustrated in the last days of his life. In April 1968, Memphis, Tennessee sanitation workers went on strike protesting unsafe working conditions among other grievances. Recognizing the marriage of economic justice and racial justice,
Dr. King was in Memphis to support those striking workers when he was sadly felled by an assassin’s bullet. We honor Dr. King as public employees by demanding safe working conditions and healthy environments. We honor him by working in unity with our colleagues to be the federation that state and local public employees deserve. This King holiday, let’s remember the man, but more importantly practice the principles.
Kenya Campbell, President
Image of Dr King via Library of Congress on Unsplash