Monday, March 21, 2011

Richard Trumka Has a Dream

Richard Trumka - AFL CIO Chief
Where to begin?  Hmm?  Perhaps with a disclaimer alert?  Yes, that sounds about right. 

DISCLAIMER BEGINS:  I was nine years old when Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4th, 1968.  Honestly, I didn't know who the man was when he died.  But like so many other great figures in American History, I learned about him following his death.  Typically greatness is bestowed upon you after your 'gone'.    

He spoke of respect, dignity, and equality.  He said, "I just want to do God's will. And he's allowed me to go to the mountain. And I've looked over, and I've seen the promised land! I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land."

He also spoke of a dream he had. 

"I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today."  - Martin Luther King, Jr. August 28, 1963

Timeless words from a great speaker and a peaceful leader of the Civil Rights Movement. 

DISCLAIMER ENDS:  Back to Trumka...

Richard Trumka, the titular head of the AFL CIO, made a speech last week equating the cause of teachers in Madison to those championed by Martin Luther King, Jr. - "championing the cause of collective bargaining". 

According to Trumka, "April 4 [is] the day on which Martin Luther King Jr. gave his life for the cause of public collective bargaining."


Martin Luther King Jr. was in Memphis, TN when he was assassinated.  He was asked by the AFSCME to participate in the Sanitation Workers' strike and to speak to the local government and the workers who were striking for pay parity with white workers. 

In 1968, he was there to request the Administration in Memphis pay, and treat, black sanitation workers equally to their white counter-parts.

Excerpted from an article I sourced from the National Archives:  "In the later 1960s, the targets of King's activism were less often the legal and political obstacles to the exercise of civil rights by blacks, and more often the underlying poverty, unemployment, lack of education, and blocked avenues of economic opportunity confronting black Americans.

Despite increasing militancy in the movement for black power, King steadfastly adhered to the principles of nonviolence that had been the foundation of his career. Those principles were put to a severe test in his support of a strike by sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee. This was King's final campaign before his death.

From Reverend King's speech in Memphis:

"You are demanding that this city will respect the dignity of labor. So often we overlook the work and the significance of those who are not in professional jobs, of those who are not in the so-called big jobs.

But let me say to you tonight that whenever you are engaged in work that serves humanity and is for the building of humanity, it has dignity and it has worth. 
-- Martin Luther King Jr., AFSCME Memphis Sanitation Strike, April 3, 1968

Which events prompted the strike in Memphis?  Let's revisit the National Archives:  "During a heavy rainstorm in Memphis on February 1, 1968, two black sanitation workers had been crushed to death when the compactor mechanism of the trash truck was accidentally triggered.

On the same day in a separate incident, 22 black sewer workers had been sent home without pay while their white supervisors were retained for the day with pay. About two weeks later, on February 12, more than 1,100 of a possible 1,300 black sanitation workers began a strike for job safety, better wages and benefits, and union recognition."  [Source:  National Archives

Contrary to Richard Trumka's assertion, Doctor King did not 'give his life' for collective bargaining.  He committed his life to the un-yielding goal that the Bill of Rights must be applicable to ALL Americans - not only 'selected groups' of citizens.

Marting Luther King Jr. knew his cause was just.  He spoke with the passion which came from personal belief and the power of his conviction.

Unfortunately, Richard Trumka is using Reverend King's legacy to link this righteous man to a 'marketing strategy' for union workers.  He attempts to bolster teachers' compensation negotiations by likening their 'sacrifice' to Dr. King's.  And Dr. King's to theirs.  

I've been in Sales most of my adult life.  I'm good.  But I am not 'good enough' to pull off a scam like this. 

Seriously speaking, I like to sleep at night.  I'm cursed with a conscience which prevents me from telling 'Whoopers' like this one.  

Perhaps Mr. Trumka sold his conscience as well as his soul to the affiliated Unions he represents? 

I don't know, but what I do know is that Trumka, and the people he represents - they're no Martin Luther King Jr.  Dr. King was in it for 'others'.  Trumka and his ilk are in it for 'themselves'.   

For more on this, check out the post by Byron York:  Washington Examiner  

BONUS:  The ex-head of NEA tells us what it's really all about... Just in case we didn't know already
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