“Less than a century ago, the laborer had no rights, little or no respect, and led a life which was socially submerged and barren. He was hired and fired by economic despots whose power over him decreed his life or death….
The inspiring answer to this intolerable and dehumanizing existence was economic organization through trade unions. The worker became determined not to wait for charitable impulses to grow in his employer. He constructed the means by which a fairer sharing of the fruits of his toil had to be given to him, or the wheels of industry, which he alone turned, would halt and wealth for no one would be available. This revolution within industry was fought bitterly by those who blindly believed their right to uncontrolled profits was a law of the universe, and that without the maintenance of the old order, catastrophe faced the nation. But history is a great teacher. Now everyone knows that the labor movement did not diminish the strength of the nation but enlarged it by raising the living standards of millions. Labor miraculously created a market for industry and lifted the whole nation to undreamed-of levels of production. Those who today attack labor forget these simple truths, but history remembers them.
Labor’s next monumental struggle emerged in the thirties, when it wrote into federal law the right freely to organize and bargain collectively. It was now apparently emancipated…. Yet the Wagner Act, like any other legislation, tended merely to declare rights but did not deliver them. Labor had to bring the law to life, by exercising in practice its rights over stubborn, tenacious opposition. It was warned to go slow, to be moderate, not to stir up trouble. But labor knew it was always the right time to do right, and it spread its organization over the nation and achieved equality, organizationally, with capital, and the day of economic democracy was born.”
Martin Luther King, Jr., Address Delivered at the Fourth Constitutional Convention of the AFL-CIO (Dec. 11, 1961) (full transcript available from The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute)
At Virginia & Ambinder, we strive to assist laborers and the labor movement to “bring the law to life” to protect and lift up workers everywhere. So on this day honoring Martin Luther King, Jr., we celebrate not only his passionate advocacy and inspiring work to further the Civil Rights movement, but also his dedication to economic rights, and his promotion of and support for the trade unions and laborers in this country.
V&A has been assisting workers with legal issues for years. For more information, check out our previous victories.