SEIU 721 will never forget the legacy and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.!
Our members brought family, friends and community allies out to celebrate Dr. King’s birthday at parades in both Los Angeles and Oxnard to mark the MLK holiday on Monday.
SEIU 721 member and LA County Public Works employee William Kennard participated in the LA parade along with his wife, Bernadette. He said our society should always remember what Dr. King sacrificed in order to make our lives better.
“It was important to be out here today to show unity and solidarity with my union family,” William said. “I think it’s very important that we continue to spread the message that Dr. King fought for worker’s rights and believed in unions. We celebrate him every January but in reality, his presence is felt in our lives every single day of the year.”
Dr. King believed that Civil Rights for people of color could not truly be achieved without also addressing labor and worker rights. In fact, he was in Memphis, Tennessee to support sanitation workers who were striking for better working conditions when he was assassinated on April 4, 1968.
In a tribute to that support, an LA City Sanitation truck was in SEIU 721’s procession in the LA parade, along with a float and a group from St. John’s Well Child. The Oxnard Freedom March featured Local 721 members who carried banners and signs calling for immigration reform.
Rev. King was a fierce opponent of the so-called “Right to Work” scheme, which was founded on racism in an attempt to keep people of color from working with and advancing to the middle-class along with their white co-workers.
He spoke out against these “Right to Work” laws in 1961, warning that the name was an intentionally misleading “false slogan.”
“It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights. Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone…,” Dr. King said. “Wherever these laws have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer and there are no civil rights. We do not intend to let them do this to us. We demand this fraud be stopped. Our weapon is our vote.”
Unions are beneficial to all workers but especially so for women and people of color. Women workers who are union members earn nearly $9,000 a year more than their non-union counterparts. For African-American workers, the union differential is also about $9,000, and for Latino workers the yearly advantage is more than $11,000. By having a strong voice on the job, union workers are also better able to fight discriminatory practices.
In 2018 the U.S. Supreme Court delivered an anti-worker decision and gave in to the greedy rich by establishing a national “Right to Work” law for public employees. Special interests have attacked unions for years, trying to get workers to give up their collective power, but like Dr. King, we won’t back down!
Heather Gardner, an SEIU 721 member who works at DPSS, won the second-place turnout prize for bringing six people out to the parade. One of them was her 5-year-old son, Sean Jacobs Boozer, who dressed as Dr. King and waved to the crowds as he led the SEIU 721 procession.
“I’m proud to represent SEIU 721 in the MLK parade and I think Dr. King would be proud to see us continuing the fight,” she said. “His death was not in vain and we are keeping his dream alive.”