Thursday, March 31, 2011

Rev Martin Luther King Jr: I've Been to the Mountain Top for collective bargaining rights

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered this speech in support of the striking government employees (sanitation workers) at Mason Temple in Memphis, TN on April 3, 1968 — the day before he was assassinated.

He was there to lend his support to sanitation workers who were on strike, protesting terrible working conditions and low wages. Taylor Rogers and Elmore Nickelberry were among the 1,300 who walked off the job in 1968.

Rogers remembers picking up tubs of garbage that were full of holes. "That garbage would leak all over you," he says. By the time he got home, his clothes were dirty and full of maggots that had fallen on him.

"I had maggots run down in my shirts, and then maggots would go down in my shoes," Nickelberry says. "And we worked in the rain — snow, ice and rain. We had to. If we didn't, we'd lose our job. They said, 'A garbage man wasn't nothing.'"

Rogers says, "It was awful." One day, two workers, who had gone into a trash compactor to escape the rain, were crushed to death. "Sometimes you cry," Nickelberry says.

"Sometimes you get mad and get up in the morning and ... say, 'I ain't going to work.' ... I had to work because that's the only way I could feed my family."

'All We Wanted Was Some Dignity'

See also:

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The 100th Anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist fires

The meeting room walls in the Dept of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health are lined with poster-sized photographs of people who died at work.

These public servants, who have no budget yet for this year and are operating under a continuing resolution from a dysfunctional Congress, are used as punching bags by a workforce which it has made to be one of the safest in the world; that is, when OSHA is allowed to police profiteers who use immigrants as disposable labor.

OSHA wall posters now can include the workers who were kidnapped, locked in, and sexually assaulted at the DeCoster egg farms over the past 25 years.

WaPo's Howard Meyerson discusses the horrific tragedy of the Triangle fires:

The seamstresses were just getting off work that Saturday, some of them singing a new popular song, “Every Little Movement (Has a Meaning of Its Own),” when they heard shouts from the eighth floor just below. They saw smoke outside the windows, and then fire. As David Von Drehle recounts the ensuing catastrophe, in his award-winning book “Triangle,” just a couple minutes later the ninth floor was fully ablaze.

* * * *

[M]any, facing the choice of death by fire or death by impact on the city streets, chose the latter and leapt. Down they came, some already engulfed in flame — first a few, then a torrent, before the horrified crowd that had gathered by the building, which was just off Washington Square in the heart of New York’s Greenwich Village.

When it was over, 146 people had either died by fire or jumped to their deaths. Most were young women, almost entirely Jewish or Italian immigrants, many still in their teens, one just 14.

Every little movement has a meaning of its own,
Every thought and feeling by some posture can be shown,
And every lovelight that comes a stealing
All your dreams must be revealing
All its sweetness in some appealing little gesture
All of its own.