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Jobs and justice

08/15/13

50th anniversary of MLK’s March on Washington reminds of unfinished business

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s iconic “I Have a Dream Speech,” given 50 years ago this month, was as much about economic justice as it was about pointing out the civil rights injustices suffered by African Americans.

UAW President Walter Reuther understood this and it was a key reason why he committed UAW resources and time to aid Dr. King during the Civil Rights Era. From the Supreme Court overturning the Voting Rights Act to the Trayvon Martin case to poverty and anti-union legislation sponsored by extreme conservatives, the issues that Dr. King so eloquently spoke about a half century ago still confound our nation today. Reuther understood economic justice and civil rights cannot be separated.

UAW President Walter Reuther and Dr. Martin Luther King in 1963 in Washington
UAW President Walter Reuther and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963. Photo courtesy of the Walter P. Reuther Labor Archives at Wayne State University.

That’s why the UAW continues to march on a variety of different issues affecting working Americans. And it’s why we’ll be in Washington on Saturday, Aug. 24, at the National Action to Realize the Dream march to honor the spirit of that historic 1963 march.

But this isn’t a history lesson, UAW President Bob King said.

“Now, more than ever, we need to find the will to continue Dr. King’s work. His vision of a society where we can truly look past what divides us to what unites us to make a better America is far from realized,” President King said. “His message of economic justice has been turned on its head by a small minority of wealthy individuals at the expense of the majority of Americans who do the hard work to make this nation great.”

The march, sponsored by the National Action Network in collaborations with many social justice groups, including the UAW, is scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. at the Lincoln Memorial. Contact your regional office for information on UAW-sponsored buses to get to Washington. There’s more information on the National Action Network website.

A march on the actual date of the 50th anniversary will be held Wednesday, Aug. 28. The 50th Anniversary March on Washington starts at 600 New Jersey Avenue at 8 a.m. with its first stop appropriately enough at the Department of Labor. It moves on the Department of Justice, and then to the National Mall, where President Obama will speak at the same place where Dr. King implored all Americans to judge not on the color of skin but content of character.