By Adrienne Alexander, Pax Christi USA National Council member
Today is the 43rd anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., one of the great practitioners of nonviolence in modern history. Sometimes lost on history is the fact that Dr. King was shot while supporting striking sanitation workers in Memphis that wanted to join AFSCME. As such, the AFL-CIO has named today a national day of solidarity with workers in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, and many other states are facing attacks on their ability to collectively bargain.
Since union members make up a significantly smaller portion of the workforce than they once did, solidarity is key. While this principle is not exactly common in American lexicon, solidarity is fundamental to Catholic social teaching, as is the belief in the dignity of all workers. We cannot stand by as our brothers and sisters in the labor movement are marginalized in the media and in the political sphere. Unions at their core seek to provide a voice in the workplace and a pathway to the middle class.
Pax Christi recognizes the importance of economic and interracial justice in the U.S. to our faith, which is why it is one of four priority areas for the organization. Unions have been at the forefront of many major legislative efforts in our country, including Social Security, Medicare, unemployment insurance, and the minimum wage, to name a few. The work of unions and Pax Christi go hand in hand.
The night before Martin Luther King, Jr.’s death he spoke strongly about the principles of nonviolence and of unity in his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech. Please lend your voice to the struggle.
Adrienne Alexander is on the Pax Christi USA National Council.