Labor and Civil Rights: Bold Legacies and New Directions
In a 1961 speech at the 4th Constitutional Convention of the AFL-CIO, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. declared that labor’s historic tradition is also that of the civil rights movement. He called for the two movements to realize their bond and work together. Today, King’s call is as pressing as ever. The return of some of the core problems from King’s era is threatening to reverse the progress we have made since the 1960s—economic inequality is growing; racial and class segregation is increasing; and voting rights are being called into question. In addition, the scale of incarceration, especially of young black men; the growth of student debt and the erosion of public education; the accelerating pace of global climate change; and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity have become defining public issues of our era.
Two of today’s most transformative leaders, North Carolina NAACP president and the architect of the Moral Mondays movement, Reverend William Barber, and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, the head of the country’s largest labor federation, will discuss strategies and prospects for grassroots social transformation. What legacy does the Reverend King leave for thinking about the issues of the 21st century? What untapped potential is available for two movements whose dynamism once shaped America? As the labor force divides into high-tech employees and minimum wage workers, what are the opportunities for finding common ground? What are the sustainable organizational and social vehicles for progress? How do the labor and civil rights movements respond to the new challenges of climate change, digital technology, rising costs of education, and globalization?
The discussion will be moderated by William Morris of the Bloomington Human Rights Commission.