King’s Dream and the Movement to End Poverty-Wage Work

-Mary Kay Henry, SEIU International President

SEIU members join with other working people in our country on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day to honor his unshakable commitment to making it possible for us to join together across racial differences to win economic and social justice.

Today working Americans live in an era of uncertainty and anxiety. A growing number of working moms and dads fear that the economy of the future won’t provide a stable and secure life for their kids. Far too many jobs pay wages that trap people in poverty.

That’s because corporate special interests work to keep us divided, blaming immigrants and people of color for our nation's’ problems while they push wages down and give themselves huge tax breaks.

King called on people of all walks of life to recognize that a better and more just world is possible if we stick together to win it.

He worked astonishingly hard to encourage ordinary people—Black, Latinx, Asian, and white—to participate in collective, democratic action to bring about justice.

In 1961, King spoke to an audience of working people and put into words what he believed we will achieve if we stand together: “the fears and insecurity and doubts clouding our future will be transformed into radiant confidence, into glowing excitement to reach creative goals and into an abiding moral balance undergirded by a secure and expanding prosperity for all.”

This struggle continues. It continues as home care workers, child care workers, airport workers, education workers, fast food workers, janitors, and many more working people organize to put an end to poverty wage jobs.

The legislation introduced last week to raise the minimum wage is one important way to end poverty-wage work. The other is to make it easier for working people to join together in union, no matter where they work. On this MLK Day, I’m hopeful that we will win $15 and Unions for All in the years ahead.

Together, we won’t stop marching towards the promised land of an economy and democracy that work for all of us, not just a privileged few.

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