Thursday Music: We Shall Overcome

Birth of a Freedom Anthem:

FRESNO, Calif. — FIFTY years ago today, on March 15, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson announced plans to submit a new voting rights bill before a joint session of Congress. His speech came after several weeks of violence in and around Selma, Ala., that had taken the lives of two civil rights activists and left dozens of others bloodied. Seventy million Americans watched on television as Johnson, a Texas Democrat who had supported segregationist policies early in his career, proclaimed racial discrimination not a “Negro problem” but “an American problem.” It is not, he said, “just Negroes, but really it is all of us, who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice.” Then, after a pause, he added, “And we shall overcome.”

Few Americans could have missed the significance of these four words. Since the early 1960s, “We Shall Overcome” had served as the unofficial anthem of the civil rights movement. Protesters sang the song during the 1963 March on Washington, the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer campaign and the demonstrations in Selma. As the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. watched the broadcast in a Selma living room, a tear ran down his cheek.

And yet encapsulated in this famous song is a story that escaped many Americans then, and that continues to escape many today, one that should not be lost as we commemorate the golden era of the civil rights movement.

Read the rest of the article from the New York Times that outlines the history of the song…it is rather interesting!

The myth of the minimum wage worker

This pretty much debunks the myths about minimum wage workers as being primarily teenagers who live at home with mom and dad.

Minimum Wage

As has been noted elsewhere, an increase in the minimum wage would help pull a lot of folks out of poverty, but most especially people of color.

People of color are far more likely to work minimum wage jobs, as they represent 42 percent of those earners even though they make up just 32 percent of the workforce.

That big number is in large part thanks to the overrepresentation of people of color in low-wage restaurant industry jobs. Over 500,000 of those lifted out of poverty by a raise in the minimum wage would be restaurant workers, 300,000 of whom would be workers of color.

I wanted to post this today, a day honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., because fifty-one years ago Dr. King gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, D.C., and one of the ten demands specifically articulated by Dr. King and the rest of the march’s organizers was a “national minimum wage act that will give all Americans a decent standard of living. (Government surveys show that anything less than $2.00 an hour foils to do this.)”

Adjusted for inflation, the $2.00 an hour national minimum wage demanded by Dr. King and the organizers of the march in Washington, D.C. would be over $15.00 an hour.

A quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I felt this was fitting, given today is the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s “I have a dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

– Dr. Martin Luther King., Jr.

Unions as a Civil Right

In a recent Op-Ed by written by Richard D. Kahlenberg and Moshe Z. Marvit, who advocate for adding the right to organize a labor union, without employer discrimination, to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

Here is an excerpt, I recommend the whole read:

Other skeptics suggest that because laws now exist providing for worker safety and overtime pay, American employees no longer feel the need to join unions. But polling has shown that a majority of nonunion workers would like to join a union if they could.

In fact, the greatest impediment to unions is weak and anachronistic labor laws. It’s time to add the right to organize a labor union, without employer discrimination, to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, because that right is as fundamental as freedom from discrimination in employment and education. This would enshrine what the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. observed in 1961 at an A.F.L.-C.I.O. convention: “The two most dynamic and cohesive liberal forces in the country are the labor movement and the Negro freedom movement. Together, we can be architects of democracy.”

The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes that “everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.” The First Amendment has been read to protect freedom of association, and the 1935 National Labor Relations Act recognized the “right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations,” but in reality, the opportunity to organize is a right without a remedy.

Meet the New Hate, Same as the Old Hate

Salon has an interesting interview with Arthur Goldwag, author of the new book The New Hate: A History of Fear and Loathing on the Populist Right.  He argues that the racist and conspiracist approach of today’s right-wing nut jobs is “largely the same as it was 50 years ago.”

But what caught my attention was this question and answer because I think it goes a long way towards understanding recent attacks on public workers in Wisconsin.

Why is this resurgence of the “old hate” happening now?

We’re going through a historic shift in this country.  We were on an incredible run of prosperity in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, thanks to the New Deal social compact, thanks to big unions, thanks to very strong regulation – thanks to all the things that Glenn Beck’s followers think are the most evil things in the world.  Fairly unskilled, uneducated people were able to earn a good living, and send their children to college.  And that’s changed.  Income inequality is growing.  If you look at American history, the bottom has dropped out of rural people’s lives every five years, but there used to also be a manufacturing class that made a decent living.  There used to be a route for people that weren’t well educated to make a decent living.  There isn’t anymore. There’s a lot of anxiety about our individual positions in our society, and our country’s position in the world. If you’re not educated to be able to understand it, and you’re trapped in a disadvantaged life, you might become really, really angry. (emphasis added)

I believe that this is, fundamentally, correct.  His assessment of the level of anger and vitriol in the undereducated population is being exploited by the right wing of the GOP in ways that are, ultimately, detrimental to their own interests.  Rather than expressing solidarity with public workers who, while not paid as well as private sector workers in general, certainly retained levels of benefits not seen in the private sector since the 1970s.  And that was achieved, of course, through collective bargaining.

You want to see envy in action, here it is.  If you think the 99% envy the wealth of the 1%, private sector workers, many of whom have ceded more benefits and more compensation to their employers demands, are most certainly envious of the benefits of their public sector brothers and sisters.  You can hear it in their rhetoric.  The rich capitalize on this envy through the omnipresent right wing media who stoke these fires of jealousy into action against working-class Americans.  They’ve even convinced these “useful idiots” that “right to work” laws will benefit workers! As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said,

In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as ‘right to work.’ It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights.Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone…Wherever these laws have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer and there are no civil rights. We do not intend to let them do this to us. We demand this fraud be stopped. Our weapon is our vote.  (Martin Luther King, speaking about right-to-work laws in 1961)

Instead of standing in solidarity with the public sector and demanding the same benefits from their private sector employers, these cowards resort to jealous tantrums against “pampered” public sector workers.  These class traitors demand that the benefits bargained by public sector workers be slashed to the same meager levels they suffer in the private sector.  All the while, heaping opprobrium onto the very institution, the labor union, that could help raise them up.

Working class people tearing down working class people.  The capitalists have certainly won.

Jay Gould’s dystopian worker’s paradise has certainly come to pass…

I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half.

Paul Ryan Dishonors Martin Luther King, Jr.

Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’
Martin Luther King, Jr.

On Martin Luther King, Jr. day, a teacher from Racine refused an award because it was given to him by Paul Ryan (R-Wall St.). The same Paul Ryan who has perpetually been adamantly against extending unemployment benefits for the unemployed workers in his district(which has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country), protections for General Motors and thousands of other American jobs and also has his sites set on dismantling Social Security and Medicare as we know it.

Al Levie had this to say about his refusal of the award from Pink Slip Paulie:

“I would not accept the award from Paul Ryan because Paul Ryan is a lackey for the 1 percent,” he said. “Paul Ryan had no business at a Martin Luther King event, it’s totally hypocritical. On the one hand he votes to slash health care, while on the other hand, King dedicated his life and he died for it, for people to have adequate healthcare, to have adequate jobs.”

“King made it very clear that he was on the side of working people,” he continued. “Ryan on the other hand, he has absolutely no affinity for the working class and for him to come to an event where somebody of King’s stature was honored is wrong.”

This tremendously upset the right wing as people like the rights brilliant orator Andy "go to hell" Breitbart labeled this "Liberal Hate".

No way that Paul Ryan (R-$350 bottles of wine) would ever treat anyone with such contempt, right?

Packer/Badger Schedule anyone?

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

MLK Jr. Day 2012 and in OUR very own Capitol building in Madison, Sherrilyn Ifill, a law professor and a civil rights lawyer tied Reverend King to todays current political events. Governor Scott Walker looked very uncomfortable but the speech is brilliant and here it is: