April 4th marked 50 years since the tragic assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis where he was standing shoulder to shoulder on the picket line with AFSCME-represented sanitation workers who were seeking respect, economic fairness, justice and safe working conditions. In the days before his April 4, 1968 death, King marched with striking AFSCME sanitation workers to demand dignity after two workers, Echol Cole and Robert Walker, were crushed and killed by a malfunctioning truck. The striking workers carried signs declaring, “I AM A MAN.” This became the rallying cry for this workers’ movement.
As progress has been made during the past 50 years; much more remains to be done. The struggle remains for the labor and civil rights movement. Dr. King’s words rang true then and still do today; we all deserve “decent wages, fair working conditions, livable housing, old-age security, health and welfare measures, conditions in which families can grow, have education for their children, and respect in the community.”
Hundreds of IAM members and thousands more in the labor movement, assembled this past week in the same location in Memphis to recall King’s legacy and revive his struggle for economic and social justice. Speakers at the I AM 2018 rally outside AFSCME Local 1733 remembered the civil rights icon and called for solidarity in the face of today’s attacks on working people.
“It is up to all of us to continue the sacred march toward justice, equality and dignity for all,” IAM International President Bob Martinez told the crowd. “We cannot, we must not, and we will not tolerate anything less!”
Local Lodge 463 sent 3 members, Rob Bray, Layne Johnston and Dan Peterson, to join the group of Machinists from all over the country at the rally. District ADBR Melone Irvin, Grand Lodge Rep from our own lodge Valerie Rodriguez, as well as Southern Territory GVP Mark Blodin and IP Bob Martinez were just a few of the hundreds of Machinists in attendance. After the rally, IAM members, wearing shirts reading “Ask Me About My Machinists Union Dream,” marched for a mile-and-a-half alongside hundreds more union members from unions such as Unite Here, AFSCME, and United Auto Workers to the Mason Temple where King famously delivered his “Mountaintop” speech the night before his death.