The right to assemble is one of the fundamental rights people have in America. As long as you follow the rules, anyone and everyone can get together all they want. So I have no problem with unions wanting to assemble mass protests.
But in an attempt to link civil rights and “workers’ rights,” they are calling for such gatherings to take place on April 4th. The significance of that date? It is the day that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, TN in 1968. King was on his 4th (and unfortunately final) trip to Memphis to support an ongoing sanitation strike by black workers, who were being paid less and treated worse than their white counterparts. There had been rallies and marches, and King had been there to help bolster the worker’s effort to be treated equally. In that effort, he lost his life and black america lost its “Drum Major.”
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For some reason, unions feel that their efforts to maintain the level of power they have now equates to that effort in 1968, that civil rights–treat me the same as the white workers–and workers “rights” are linked. My question is, how so?
In 1968, segregation was still the norm in a lot of places. To be black meant to be treated differently. Forget the idea that other than skin color, a person was a person. Those workers were treated like 2nd class workers. The fight to get them their equal pay and treatment was unquestionably a fight for the inalienable right to be treated as equals.
It’s now 2011. Exactly how, in the ongoing labor disputes, are union workers NOT treated equally? Collective bargaining, while a legal right in some jurisdictions, is not an inalienable right, no matter how loudly people yell to the contrary. As I have mentioned previously, Democrats on the federal level who said such in support of the Wisconsin protesters were speaking doubletalk, since they have made no effort to say or do anything in support of collective bargaining for federal workers since they lost the right to do so under Jimmy Carter. Speaking of Wisconsin, the bill that was passed (and is currently on hold due to a judge’s ruling) still allows union workers to bargain for their pay. I and millions of others have the ability to do this one on one with any perspective employer. The public employees would no longer have the ability to negotiate on benefits and perks. For the most part, I and the millions are in the same boat. So really, what the bargaining on benefits and perks would be for is special treatment. Granted, many in Wisconsin opposed the bill passed by Gov. Walker and the Republicans there. But you’re not going to convince me that they have some inalienable right to 100% funded pension and free healthcare, at taxpayer expense, during a time of a major budget shortfall.
Now, I’m sure that these unions will most likely get the support of many black organizations in their April 4th protests. But from this black person, I look at connecting two completely different rights as an insult to MLK and what he fought for.
I’ll end it with a quote from Byron York, writing on the topic in the Washington Examiner:
Will it work? After all the demonstrations, and all the speeches, will the public watch protests by angry, nearly all-white, middle-class school teachers with excellent health and retirement plans and think of Martin Luther King? Trumka’s AFL-CIO and the big unions are very rich and very powerful. They have the ability to get their message out. But their April 4 strategy might be too ambitious even for them.