~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~
Working-Class Hero
The recent transit workers' strike in New York City was a vivid reminder that unions maintain considerable leverage despite their shrinking numbers. Buried beneath the stories about tense negotiations, holiday shopping disruptions and commuters hoofing it over the Brooklyn Bridge was one of labor's past glories--the creation of Martin Luther King Day. When Transport Workers' Union president Roger Toussaint demanded recognition of the holiday, he cited the Metropolitan Transit Authority's failure to honor King's birthday as evidence of administrators' lack of respect for the mostly black, Latino and Asian-American members of his union. By doing so, he harked back to the civil rights leader's working-class activism--and the forgotten labor roots of the MLK holiday.

Given the corporate sponsorship of contemporary King day celebrations, it may come as a surprise that the holiday began as a union demand in contract negotiations. In 1968, just four days after King's assassination, Representative John Conyers introduced a bill to make the slain leader's birthday a national holiday. The bill would likely have died in committee, and stayed buried, had it not been for thousands of working-class Americans--most of them black, but also white, Asian and Latino--who risked their jobs over the next fifteen years to demand the right to honor a man they viewed as a working-class hero.
Technorati tags:
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~