On December 11, 1961, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke at the AFL-CIO’s Fourth Constitutional Convention at the Americana Hotel in Miami Beach, Florida. The speech is not long, just 30 minutes, but it’s tremendously historic, both in its content and its timing. In this speech, King connected the civil rights movement and labor movement, calling them “the two most dynamic and cohesive liberal forces in the country.” King encouraged the AFL-CIO to "help erase all vestiges of racial discrimination in American life, including labor unions," as well as to provide financial support to the civil rights movement. Until recently this speech only existed on a reel of tape in the Meany Labor Archives at the University of Maryland College Park, but for this year’s AFL-CIO Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Civil and Human Rights Conference (Jan. 16-17 online) the AFL-CIO and the Archives digitized the speech and gave us permission to bring it to you here on Labor History Today. Labor historian Joe McCartin tells us how had King come to be there, the context for his quiet but powerful challenge to the American labor movement, and what that speech says to us now, 61 years later. Our other story today is the perfect follow-up to Dr. King’s speech; it’s about the fight by DC trash collector Marvin Fleming and his union, AFSCME, against job discrimination in the 1960’s. On this week’s Labor History in Two: Give Us Our Daily Bread (1898) and Standing Against Wage Theft (1915).
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