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April 04, 2011

CES Supports April 4: National Day of Solidarity with
Wisconsin and a Tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr.


Coalition for Economic Survival (CES)

CES in Action!

CES Supports April 4: National Day of Solidarity with Wisconsin Honoring MLK, Jr.


April 4: National Day of Solidarity
with Wisconsin and A Tribute
to Martin Luther King, Jr.

On Tuesday evening, April 4, 2011, some 2,300 people from organized labor and its supporters jammed First A.M.E. Church in a National Day of Solidarity with Wisconsin on the 43rd anniversary day marking the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Memphis.

Dr. King's last act was standing with striking sanitation workers. On April 4, two of the leaders of that strike, Rev. James Lawson and William Lucy, retired Secretary-Treasurer of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Workers (AFSCME) joined L.A. workers and supporters at First AME Church of Los Angeles for a rousing and inspirational rally in Solidarity With Wisconsin Workers and in Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. First AME Church Pastor John Hunter and SEIU-ULTCW President Laphonza Butler also spoke.

CES Members Turnout in Support of Workers' Rights
This special event, organized by the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, at this historic church also provided a performance by First AME Church's acclaimed gospel choir, 'the Brookinaires.'

Members of the Coalition for Economic Survival (CES) were honored to support and participate in this important event.


Civil Rights Leader Rev. James Lawson Spoke


Click on the Picture to Listen
to Rev James Lawson's Stirring Speech
Rev. James Lawson was a leading theoretician and tactician of nonviolence within the American Civil Rights Movement. He continues to be active in training activists in nonviolence.

Rev. Lawson became pastor of Centenary Methodist Church in Memphis, Tennessee in 1962. In 1968, when black sanitation workers went on strike for higher wages and union recognition after two of their co-workers were accidentally crushed to death, Reverend Lawson served as chairman of their strike committee.

Reverend Lawson invited Dr. King to Memphis in April 1968 to dramatize their struggle, which had adopted the slogan I am a Man. Dr. King delivered his famous "Mountaintop" speech in support of the strike in Memphis on April 3, 1968, the day before his assassination.

Reverend Lawson moved to Los Angeles in 1974 to lead Holman United Methodist Church where he served for 25 years before retiring in 1999.

Retired AFSCME Secretary-Treasurer William Lucy Spoke

For over three decades William (Bill) Lucy was at the forefront of the labor movement. As Secretary-Treasurer of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) for 30-plus years, Lucy helped the group grow from 200,000 to over 1.4 million members in 3,500 unions nationwide. He also helped define the role of African Americans in the labor unions when he founded the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) in 1972.

The Memphis sanitation workers had formed AFSCME Local 1733 in 1964, but the Memphis city government refused to acknowledge the union. In 1968 the workers decided to strike. Lucy traveled to Memphis to lend his support. Pickets and marches were met with police batons and beatings. Replacement workers were brought in. Strikers were arrested. It was chaos.

The strike's logo was "I am a Man," a sentiment that struck a deep chord within Memphis's African-American community, which supported the strikers by providing meals and raising funds. After two months, the sanitation department still would not budge. Striker morale began to wane. Finally, AFSCME convinced Martin Luther King Jr. to become involved.

Lucy said he "saw King bring tears to the eyes of strikers and their families just by walking into a meeting." King assured the strikers that the right to unionize was a civil right. It was also the only way to escape the racism they suffered on the job. On the morning of April 4th, 1968, King was preparing to lead a striker's march when an assassin's bullet took his life. International outcry over King's death brought an intense spotlight on Memphis and the city had no choice but to settle the strike. Lucy was part of the negotiations that led to the recognition of the sanitation workers' union.

The Fight Continues......................

Today, labor union fighting to protect collective bargaining rights and to secure good jobs is a fight that is directly linked to the fight that Dr. Martin Luther King and others waged in the 1950s and 1960s.  The April 4: National Day in Solidarity with Wisconsin workers was an event that honored the past struggles and was a commitment to carry on this fight today and in the future.

Listen to the Acclaimed 1st AME Church 'Brookinaires' Gospel Choir
CLICK HERE to View More Pictures From the
April 4th: National Day of Solidarity With Wisconsin Workers
and Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


Coalition for Economic Survival (CES)
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Los Angeles, California 90020
Ph:  (213)252-4411 


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