WE ARE ONE!                                SOLIDARITY RALLY, APRIL 4, 2011                                  Lessons From E...
On Public Sector UnionsWhen public hospital managers refused to meet with workers she wrote “Employees who are quite evide...
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Quotes from the “We Are One” Solidarity Rally, Eleanor Roosevelt and Martin Luther King, Jr., April 4. 2011


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Quotes from the “We Are One” Solidarity Rally, Eleanor Roosevelt and Martin Luther King, Jr., April 4. 2011

  1. 1. WE ARE ONE! SOLIDARITY RALLY, APRIL 4, 2011 Lessons From Eleanor RooseveltDr. Martin Luther King was killed on April 4th 1968, while in Memphis to support striking city sanitationworkers who were demanding recognition, respect, and dignity. Today, that same demand is being heard acrossthe country. Let us honor Martin Luther King on the anniversary of his death by remembering the call to actionof his friend and colleague Eleanor Roosevelt, first lady of the world.On December 8, 1961, Martin Luther King and Eleanor Roosevelt were featured speakers at the AFL-CIOConvention in Florida. Dr. King called the labor movement and the black freedom movement the “two mostdynamic and cohesive liberal forces in the country.” Mrs. Roosevelt called on the delegates to live up to theirfounding ideals of “really helping the people to better conditions, to a better way of live which is part of thebasis of democracy.” Both the young civil rights leader and the aging human rights champion called for apolitically active and racially integrated labor movement as a vital part of an inclusive democracy. Workers’rights are human rights and everyone has a right to a voice at work.Eleanor Roosevelt, one of the most admired women in the world, was a member of the AFL-CIO’s NewspaperGuild for over 25 years and a staunch advocate for unions, which she came to view as a “fundamental elementof democracy.” Under her guidance, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 23.4, declares thateveryone has the right to form and join a trade union. She believed everyone should join a union and sheargued for union rights in the public sector, while also campaigning to defeat state right-to-work laws:On Joining UnionsIn a speech to striking IBEW workers Eleanor Roosevelt said “I have always thought that it was important thateveryone who was a worker join a labor organization.” American Federationist, March 1941As the country prepared for war she defended unions, writing “I do believe the right to explain the principleslying back of labor unions should be safeguarded, that every workman should be free to listen to the pleas oforganization without fear of hindrance or of evil circumstances.” My Day, March 13, 1941Preparing for peace, she argued for full employment at home and economic aid abroad, challenging employerswho think “this is the time to break the power of labor through destroying their unions…We need a big nationalincome with money kept in circulation [through wages] if we are not to go through another depression.” My Day, September 19, 1945A peace economy was not easy and she argued for a system where “All interests shall be equally considered andconcessions shall never be expected from one side only.” My Day, September 27, 1945 AFL-CIO Convention, 1961 Eleanor Roosevelt’s Union Card, 1961
  2. 2. On Public Sector UnionsWhen public hospital managers refused to meet with workers she wrote “Employees who are quite evidently notreceiving a living wage and are dissatisfied with their conditions of work would simply be slaves if they wereobliged to work on without being able to reach their employers with their complaints and demand negotiation…You cannot just refuse to meet with people when they want to talk about their basic human rights.” My Day, May 13, 1959When workers at the city and non-profit hospitals organized she concluded that “The same reason thatcompelled us to put so much strength into union leaders’ hands where industry was concerned is going tocompel us to do the same thing where hospital boards are concerned.” My Day, June 3, 1959For teachers, police, and fire fighters there was no “method of complaint and adjustment that could take theplace of collective bargaining with the ultimate possibility of a strike.” “Under the present set-up teachers haveno other recourse but to strike to draw attention to the legitimate complaints.” My Day, April, 13, 16, 1962On Right-to-Work LawsAs the fight for state right-to-work laws developed she wrote that “To protect collective bargaining and theinterests of the workers are, in my view, the right thing to do and when state laws oppose this, I think the statelaws are wrong.” My Day, December 17, 1954As co-chair of the National Council of Peace, established to defeat right-to work laws in six states, she declaredit was time “for all right-thinking citizens, from all walks of life, to join in protecting the nation’s economy andthe working man’s union security from the predatory and misleading campaigns now being waged by the U.S.Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers.” NCIP Press Release, July 9, 1958When human rights were invoked she took offense saying that the proposal to extend right-to-work laws “doesnot concern itself one iota with human rights or the right to work…but is a calculated and cunning smoke screento beguile the innocent and unknowing.” New York Times, October 6, 1958.When California ballot language suggested FDR would support right-to-work laws, Eleanor Rooseveltresponded “The American public understands very well that Franklin Delano Roosevelt would never havesupported such a reactionary doctrine.” AFL-CIO News Service, September 18, 1958In SummaryWhen asked where human rights begin, Eleanor Roosevelt answered, “In small places close to home…theneighborhood…the school…the factory, farm and office…Unless they have meaning there they will have littlemeaning any where.” Remarks at the United Nations, March 27, 1953And in her closing statement to the CIO she told the delegates, “We can’t just talk. We have got to act.” CIO Convention Proceedings, 1955. www.bofarrell.net WE ARE ONE! www.WE-R-1.org