By PAUL MAVERICK
Workers, labor leaders, Los Angeles politicians, prominent civil rights figures, and their allies attend a cookout and rally at the First African Methodist Episcopal (FAME) church in South Central Los Angeles on April 4, 2011, to commemorate the life’s work of Martin Luther King, Jr., who was assassinated on this day in 1968. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers grills up Wisconsin bratwurst, then attendees go inside to hear messages of solidarity with Wisconsin workers and links to the legacy of MLK, who – as the attendees are reminded – was not just a civil rights leader, but also a labor leader.
Speeches are given by Pastor John Hunter, head of the First AME church of Los Angeles; Maria Elena Durazo, executive secretary-treasurer of the LA County Federation of Labor; Laphonza Butler, president of United Long Term Care Workers; Jackie Brown, a school cafeteria worker; Oscar Montelongo, a lineman for the Department of Water & Power and member of IBEW; Bill Lucy, past president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME); and civil rights pioneer Reverend James Lawson.
The first video below provides a five-minute overview of the event. For the complete remarks of selected speakers, a series of spotlight videos follows after.
In the first spotlight video from the event, Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz discusses why he’s come out in support of Wisconsin labor, as well as how good union jobs are a cornerstone of the city’s upcoming harbor and train construction projects. He also makes reference to the historic importance of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of March 25, 1911 in New York City, in which 146 mostly immigrant workers lost their lives.
The video below contains the full remarks of Maria Elena Durazo, the Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor (AFL-CIO).
The video below contains the full remarks of Reverend James Lawson, the civil rights pioneer. In a wide-ranging and often impassioned speech, Lawson describes how he first met Martin Luther King, Jr., and he notes several key points of contact throughout the civil rights movement. In addition, Lawson shares his thoughts on King’s assassination.
Lawson also denounces the group current governors who are stripping workers of their collective bargaining rights as “plantation owners” and “petty tyrants,” and he invokes the struggles of common people, which he says have led to “every gain” of the past two hundred years.
Lawson is given an affectionate introduction by Maria Elena Durazo, head of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor. She highlights several of Lawson’s accomplishments, before he takes the dais.
The following video contains the complete remarks of Bill Lucy, the past president of the Association of Federal, State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), which is the same union that was seeking recognition for the Memphis sanitation workers in 1968, when MLK came to town to help their cause. Lucy worked with Dr. King on this final campaign.
Bill Lucy was AFSCME president for over thirty years, founder of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, and he was active in the struggle against apartheid.
The next video contains the full remarks of Laphonza Butler, the president of United Long Term Care Workers, which is part of the Service Employees International Union. ULTCW is the second-largest union local in the country, and it is made up of 190,000 homecare workers in California.
The video below contains the full remarks of Pastor John Hunter of the First AME Church, at the April 4, 2011 event.
The final video presents the full remarks of Oscar Montelongo, a lineman for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, and a shop steward for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Montelongo is filled with emotion as he speaks of how well he can provide for his children, thanks to his union job.