As working families celebrate the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington this Aug. 28, which accelerated the nation’s own march toward social and economic justice, it's important to note union members played a big role in spreading the message that social justice is economic justice. The march, which propelled the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, was conceptualized by labor leaders at the time—along with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.—including, A. Philip Randolph, AFL-CIO vice president and president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, and Bayard Rustin, field coordinator, who called for the march. Along with the leadership of Randolph and Rustin, the UAW, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union and the Transport Workers (TWU) were instrumental in supporting the march.
The AFL-CIO Executive Council said in a recent statement:
Guided by the call for jobs and freedom in 1963, the AFL-CIO and our affiliated unions will honor the legacy of a civil and human rights movement that helped liberate an entire nation from the chains of oppression and segregation.
We believe the best way to ensure the legacy of the 1963 March on Washington is continued and the promise of jobs and freedom is fulfilled is to reflect, to inform, to educate and to take action.
This anniversary, the AFL-CIO and its affiliate unions call for new and innovate ways to commemorate the march, including:
- A national symposium on jobs and freedom that will bring the labor movement together with national civil and human rights organizations, progressive think tanks and others to examine and discuss how we forge a new model of economic growth—one in which everybody who wants to work can find a decent job, everybody who wants to join a union is able to do so, workers can afford to buy the things they make, we actually make things in America again and prosperity is broadly shared.
- Establishing a scholarship program to help talented high school seniors from families in need—including union families and those in the community—to help pay for the costs of higher education.
- Supporting teaching staff and classrooms to help educate young people on the vital connection between workers’ rights and civil rights, including adopting school(s) and other initiatives that connect union workers to students.
Read the entire statement: Support for the Commemoration of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the March on Washington.