Honoring Dr. King and His Advocacy for Workers

On January 15th, 2024, as a nation, we honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for his many accomplishments and the significant impact he made on the rights of the American people. Among his fight for equality for people of all races, Dr. King also deeply cared and advocated for the right of workers and Unions. As workers, our Union has benefited from Dr. King’s dream and work toward a more just society.

Dr. King's Support for Unions and Labor Workers

    • King was supporting a peaceful union struggle for striking sanitation workers at the time of his assassination in Memphis, TN. 
    • Dr. King said at the Illinois AFL-CIO Convention, “When in the thirties the wave of union organization crested over our nation, it carried to secure shores not only itself but the whole society.”
    • He also mentioned in his speech in 1967 how workers “pressed into these services need union protection, and the union movement needs their membership to maintain its relative strength in the whole society.”

The Life and Work of Martin Luther King Jr.

    • King was not the only member of this family to be assassinated. His mother, Alberta Williams King, was shot and killed in 1974 in her Atlanta church while playing the organ.
    • King was awarded a Congressional Gold Medal and a Medal of Freedom. He was also awarded a Grammy in 1971 for Best Spoken Word Album, “Why I Oppose the War in Vietnam”
    • King is to date the youngest male to win a Nobel Peace Prize, winning at the age of 35 in 1964. 
    • When accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, his speech included the famous statement, “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant.”
    • King donated all of the $54,123 (about $400,000 today) he received for Nobel Peace Prize to the Civil Rights Movement. 
    • King improvised parts of the famous “I Have A Dream” speech in August 1963. Towards the end of the speech, gospel singer Mahalia Jackson prompted him to speak about the “dream”. 
    • King’s autopsy revealed that stress had taken a major toll on his body. Despite being just 39 at the time of his death, one of the doctors noted that he had the “heart of a 60 year old”. 
    • Today, over 900 streets in the United States are named after Martin Luther King Jr. with one such street in almost every major city. This is not even counting the number of buildings, schools, etc. named after him. 
    • King is the only non-president with a memorial on the National Mall in Washington D.C.
    • Martin Luther King Jr. is also celebrated in Toronto, Canada and Hiroshima, Japan. 
    • It was not until the year 2000 that all 50 states officially observed Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The holiday itself was originally signed into federal law by President Reagan, with the first holiday held on January 20, 1986.

Dr. King’s activism and vision have strengthened the rights of America’s working families and will continue to challenge and inspire generations to come.