Philosophy & Theology

Carrying on Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.‘s Fight For Living Wages
“Injustice Anywhere is a Threat to Justice Everywhere.”

The issue is injustice. The issue is the refusal of (the city of) Memphis to be fair and honest in its dealings with its public servants, who happen to be sanitation workers. . . . Now we’re going to march again and force everyone to see that there are thirteen hundred of God’s children here suffering, sometimes going hungry, sometimes going through dark and dreary nights wondering how this thing is going to come out. That’s the issue. —Memphis, Tenn., April 3, 1968

When speaking to the striking sanitation workers, Dr. King said:
You are demanding that this city will respect the dignity of labor. So often we overlook the work and the significance of those who are not in professional jobs, of those who are not in the so-called big jobs. But let me say to you tonight that whenever you are engaged in work that serves humanity and is for the building of humanity, it has dignity and it has worth. —AFSCME Memphis Sanitation Strike, April 3, 1968

Earlier that same year at a labor meeting, he wrote:
When there is massive unemployment in the black community, it is called a social problem. But when there is massive unemployment in the white community, it is called a Depression. We look around every day and we see thousands and millions of people making inadequate wages. Not only do they work in our hospitals, they work in our hotels, they work in our laundries, they work in domestic service, they find themselves underemployed. You see, no labor is really menial unless you’re not getting adequate wages. People are always talking about menial labor. But if you’re getting a good (wage) as I know that through some unions they’ve brought it up . . . that isn’t menial labor. What makes it menial is the income, the wages. —Local 1199 Salute to Freedom, March 1968

King believed that the struggle against racism and the struggle for economic justice were
inextricably connected. In his Letter to Amalgamated Laundry Workers, January 1962 he wrote: As I have said many times, and believe with all my heart, the coalition that can have the greatest impact in the struggle for human dignity here in America is that of the Negro and the forces of labor, because their fortunes are so closely intertwined.

On March 18, 1966, King called for Congress to boost the minimum wage. He wrote: We know of no more crucial civil rights issue facing Congress today than the need to increase the federal minimum wage and extend its coverage. . . . A living wage should be the right of all working Americans.

Other Secular References

We are all tied together in a single garment of destiny. An inescapable network of mutuality. I can never be what I ought to be until you are allowed to be what you ought to be. (Martin Luther King Jr.)

“…the real reason that we must use our resources to outlaw poverty goes beyond material
concerns to the quality of our mind and spirit. Deeply woven into the fiber of our religious
tradition(s) is the conviction that (humans) are made in the image of God, and that they are souls of infinite metaphysical value. If we accept this as a profound moral fact, we cannot be content to see (people) hungry, to see (people) victimized with ill-health, when we have the means to help them….” (Martin Luther King Jr.)

“Only broad and fundamental dissent will allow us to confront—not only material poverty—but the poverty of satisfaction that afflicts us all… So if we are uneasy about our country today, perhaps it is because we are truer to our principles than we realize, because we know that our happiness will come not from goods we have, but from the good we do together.” (Robert F. Kennedy)

“Poverty is the real weapon of mass destruction.” (James A. Forbes Jr.)

“Some men [people] see things as they are, and ask why. I dream of things that never were, and ask why not.” (George Bernard Shaw)

In the beloved community created of people of all faiths…“We get together and celebrate the goodness of our God that is better than all the stuff this world offers.” (John Perkins)

Now you’re doing something else here. You are highlighting the economic issues. You are going beyond purely civil rights to questions of human rights. That is distinct. Now, our struggle is for genuine equality, which means economic equality. For we know now, that it isn’t enough to integrate lunch counters. What does it profit a man to be able to eat at an integrated lunch counter if he doesn’t have enough money to buy a hamburger? What does it profit one to have access to the hotels of our cities, and highways, when we don’t earn enough money to take our family on a vacation? (Martin Luther King Jr.)

“It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man [person] stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he [or she] sends forth a tiny ripple of hope and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression….” (Robert Kennedy)

“Now is the time to make an adequate income a reality for all of God’s children, now is the time for city hall to take a position for that which is just and honest.” (Martin Luther King Jr.)

“Once social change begins it cannot be reversed. You cannot uneducate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore.” (Cesar Chavez)

“If you have come to help me you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” (Aboriginal Activist Sister)

One thought on “Philosophy & Theology

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *