Tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr. from Assistant Director Rich Rankin
Sisters and Brothers,
Monday January 18th is a significant day in our history, as we rightfully celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. So I would like to take some time to reflect about Dr. Martin Luther King. Although he passed away before I was born, and despite the fact that I never met him, or never was able to actually hear him speak in person, the things that he stood for and the words that he used to inspire people have had a profound effect on my life and the lives of millions of men and women in the labor movement. So I thought it would be nice to share some facts and history with everyone as we reflect on Dr. King this upcoming Monday.
By 1968 he had:
No one strengthened the ties between the civil rights movement and the labor movement, more than Dr. King.
The UAW’s partnership with Dr. King is a proud chapter in our history.
When Dr. King’s refusal to accept unjust laws landed him in jail, the call for bail money would often come to the UAW. When it did, we would answer.
Dr. King was killed in Memphis, where he was supporting the city’s striking sanitation workers. He certainly could have found many reasons not to go to Memphis, but from the Montgomery Bus Boycott forward, Dr. King never took the easy or popular path. His conviction to fight for justice charted his way.
On April 4, 1968, that fight took him to Memphis because he believed in the dignity of work and workers. Forty-Eight years after his death, the greatest way to honor his life, is to keep fighting for what is really right.
Today, I would like to leave you with three quotes from Dr. King that go hand in hand with the labor movement. These quotes, although spoken decades ago, are more relevant now than they ever were.
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter”
I challenge everyone, to think about these quotes… They are so much more than simple words. The next time you witness injustice in your workplace or in your community, ask yourself… What would Dr. King do? Many of our opponents say that the labor movement is a dying cause. But I believe it is undergoing a rebirth and together with the inspiration of Dr. Kings life, we can grow it bigger and stronger than ever before.