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Honoring Dr. King and the Fight for Labor Dignity


In 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his life while standing alongside sanitation workers on strike in Memphis, Tennessee. The day before the civil rights leader was assassinated, King delivered his renowned “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech in which he uplifted the struggle of the 1,300 Black sanitation workers in Memphis who toiled in harsh conditions for long hours and low wages.

King dedicated his life to the fight for racial and economic justice and was a steadfast supporter of the labor movement. He spoke at union conventions and walked picket lines with workers. Union members and leaders marched with King in the “March for Jobs and Freedom” and the Teamsters donated in support of King’s civil rights work.

“The principles that Dr. King fought and died for are the principles that guide our union and the entire labor movement today,” said General President Sean M. O’Brien. “Dr. King led the fight for equal pay for equal work — he was a union man at his core. We know Dr. King would be standing with Teamsters and all workers today as we confront Corporate America to win a better life for the working class.”

This year, Teamsters are channeling King’s dream of worker dignity with a day of action at UPS facilities all over the country. As Teamsters continue building an historic movement for the strongest UPS contract in Teamster history, local unions will be holding parking lot rallies and leafletting at the gates of UPS centers to call on the company to “Deliver on the Dream.” Among the issues raised during these actions, UPS Teamsters are demanding that Martin Luther King Day and Juneteenth be paid holidays for all members.

UPS Teamsters are also standing up against pay discrimination and unlivable wages with demands to end two-tier wages, raise pay for part-timers, end excessive overtime, and stop unfair discipline and harassment from management. The fight at UPS and its outcome will set the tone for worker organizing and labor contract battles nationwide.

“Dr. King understood the importance of solidarity and workers taking collective action,” said General Secretary-Treasurer Fred Zuckerman. “To honor his legacy and continue his struggle for justice, we must take on the fight at UPS and every workplace. We must take a stand for the rank-and-file members who power this union and show employers the power we have as workers.”