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For Immediate Release

Contact: Ryan Rudominer, Always Essential, ry…

January 17, 2022

Always Essential: Dr. King Taught Us About The ‘Dignity’ and ‘Worth’ Of Essential Workers More Than Half a Century Before the Pandemic Gave Us the Term

On Monday, Always Essential issued the following statement in recognition of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

“As we reflect on the extraordinary life of Martin Luther King Jr, we remember Dr. King’s unwavering solidarity with exploited workers fighting for justice, and we renew our commitment to carrying his legacy forward.


“Need we have to remind Starbucks and other union-busting corporations and Right-Wing politicians using MLK Day to masquerade as allies of Dr. King on social media as they spend the rest of the year attempting to undo his legacy. Dr. King was a fierce defender of workers’ rights and friend of the labor movement, which he referred to as ‘the principal force that transformed misery and despair into hope and progress.’


“Let’s not forget, Dr. King’s final cause was fighting alongside 1300 striking Black members of the Sanitation Workers Union in Memphis demanding higher wages and safer working conditions after the deaths of two Black city workers.


“The pandemic itself also reinforces the lessons that Dr. King taught us about the ‘dignity’ and ‘worth’ of essential workers more than half a century before the pandemic gave us that term.


In the words of Dr. King, “Whenever you are engaged in work that serves humanity and is for the building of humanity, it has dignity, and it has worth. One day our society must come to see this. One day our society will come to respect the sanitation worker if it is to survive, for the person who picks up our garbage, in the final analysis, is as significant as the physician, for if he doesn’t do his job, diseases are rampant. All labor has dignity.”


Always Essential is a campaign of working people, activists, and organizations joining together to transform what’s possible for essential workers — especially those in low-wage sectors who are disproportionately Black and other workers of color. We are working in cities, counties, states, and at the federal level to put essential workers first and build the lasting change we want to see.