OPINION | Today’s concentration of wealth threatens democracy


On August 28, 1963, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and more than 250,000 people from all faiths and backgrounds made the historic march from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial. This year, as we celebrate the 50th Anniversary, let us not forget the full name of this important event: “The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.”

One hundred years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, African Americans across the South were still being denied basic civil and economic rights. Access to the voting booth was limited and often outright denied, and discrimination in hiring practices was widespread. The leaders and organizers of the rapidly expanding civil rights movement knew they needed a game changer.

Fifty years later, we are still benefitting from the achievements of this march: the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and countless other successes focused on making the American Dream a reality for all. Our work towards realizing Dr. King’s dream, however, is not finished.

Today, we live in a time where wealth is concentrated with such a small number of people that it threatens the very democracy we all hold dear. Wages for middle class Americans have remained stagnant for years, while those in the Top 1% have seen their real income increase by over 240% since 1979. Intolerable racial gaps in employment and wages have stubbornly persisted. What’s more, labor unions who won the 40 hour work week and workplace safety regulations are often fighting for their right to continue standing up for working Americans.

This is not the America the marchers in 1963 envisioned. Our country is capable of producing enough good paying jobs for everyone. It is not too much to ask that if you work a full time job in America, you should be able to support your family.

I believe in a country where everybody counts and everybody matters, and I will continue fighting for liberty and justice for all Americans.

50th Anniversary: 1963-2003
March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom

August 28, 1963: More than 250,000 people flooded into Washington, D.C. from around the country for the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.” They were energized that day by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “I Have A Dream” speech.

Unions were major backers of the march, including the United Auto Workers, the American Federation of Teachers and the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. The march was organized by A. Philip Randolph, longtime president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, activist Bayard Rustin and UAW president Walter Reuther.

This month, the nation’s unions plan a massive presence at the 50th commemoration of the 1963 March on Washington. They’ll renew and re-emphasize that march’s themes of jobs and freedom as strongly now as they were emphasized 50 years ago.

Several marches in the Twin Cities also will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and King’s “I Have a Dream” speech (see page 13 of the current issue).

To mark this important anniversary, the Labor Review is pleased to offer several reflections on the continuing legacy of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.