Wednesday, August 28, 2013

"Not an End, But a Beginning"

"Nineteen Sixty-Three is not an end, but a beginning."

50 years ago today, one of the greatest speeches in the history of our Country was given on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.  I strongly recommend you read it.  It is a reminder of the stark injustices that prompted hundreds of thousands of people to march on Washington, D.C., for "Jobs and Freedom".  Many forget that the March was organized by both labor and civil rights groups with disparate missions and petitions for change.

These were their goals:
  • Passage of meaningful civil rights legislation.
  • Immediate elimination of school segregation.
  • A program of public works, including job training, for the unemployed.
  • A Federal law prohibiting discrimination in public or private hiring.
  • A $2-an-hour minimum wage nationwide.
  • Withholding Federal funds from programs that tolerate discrimination.
  • Enforcement of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution by reducing congressional representation from States that disenfranchise citizens.
  • A broadened Fair Labor Standards Act to currently excluded employment areas.
  • Authority for the Attorney General to institute injunctive suits when constitutional rights are violated. [U.S. News & World Report, September 9, 1963]
 Jobs and Freedom.

As with any other celebrated moment in history, the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom has had the edges smoothed to popularize the event for public consumption.  The March is often referenced in the shadow of Dr. King's death and the victorious spotlight of Civil Rights legislation.  I remember how this was taught when I was in elementary, middle, and high school - a climax leading to a conclusion.  That conclusion is so readily accepted that it has been confirmed in law by the Supreme Court in their determination that provisions of the Civil Rights Act have expired in satisfaction.

But the question we need to ask ourselves is if we are going to celebrate the 1963 March on Washington as a national accomplishment and if the goals were so obvious that we accept them as truth and if we are going to consider ourselves absolved of racial injustice then why is it acceptable to leave the job unfinished?

The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom understood that the latter was permissive so long as the former was unsatisfied.  Said otherwise - freedom is premised on strength.  We can disagree about the manner in which we grow the economy and create jobs, but it is clear that the organizers we are celebrating today had very particular demands for uplifting and protecting the working class. 

In 2013, a $2 minimum wage would equate to $15.27 an hour with full time wages amounting to approximately $32,000.00 a year. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25, allowing $15,080.00 a year for full-time employment.  It is no surprise that injustice persists in this environment.

We shouldn't be afraid to have this conversation.  Polls have shown that most Americans support a living wage for full-time employment.  At the very least, all Americans support what happened 50 years ago today.

Have a great Wednesday doing what you love.