Statement by Executive Director Tim Paulson on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

In our rich democratic history I will be hard pressed to think that there was any American who impacted the lives of working men and women more than Martin Luther King, Jr. And we are so rich with leaders and heroes who dedicated their lives to economic justice, civil rights and peace: Abraham Lincoln, Cesar Chavez, Walter Reuther (who organized the autoworkers in Detroit and the Midwest), Rosa Parks (who sat on the bus and who we honored two years ago), Fred Korematsu (who became the face of challenging the concentration camps of Japanese Americans barely a generation ago) to name a few.

We all know that Martin Luther King’s last work happened during a difficult labor union campaign to win living wages and benefits for the garbage collectors in Memphis. This is key to his legacy and who we have to be.

When all Americans understand that those of us who build our homes, office buildings and highways, clean those office buildings and hotel rooms, wash the toilets, teach our children, harvest and prepare our food, drive our buses and trains, maintain our phone and internet service (as they ship it out of the country), nurses that care for us, nurse our parents, maintain our parks, write legislation and speeches for our politicians, risk our lives fighting fires and stopping crime and basically do the hard work that seems to be ignored.

Let’s be clear. We are working harder and harder — often two or three jobs — and making less and less. There are too many Americans getting poorer while too much wealth sits on the sidelines in the form of tax breaks to the wealthy and unspent profits that are not reinvested in jobs.

Poverty till pervades our country. Even in San Francisco. WE NEED JOBS. And we need our government and the labor movement to be more aggressive to fight poverty, provide healthcare and, again, create jobs so our children and those of us who are unemployed have the hope of living the American Dream.

MLK’s legacy has not been fulfilled and the San Francisco Labor Council is committed to continuing the fights and campaigns that Martin Luther King spent his life pursing. Let’s hope that 2011 will give us more hope than 2010. Let us never forget that, unfortunately, our struggle is far from over.

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