GUEST BLOG: The Spirit of MLK in AFSCME New Jersey

The History of AFSCME began in 1932 in Madison Wisconsin. During the 60s, AFSCME’s struggles were linked to the Civil Rights Movement. AFSCME joined with students and civil rights activists as they took to the streets to protest economic and racial oppression. As these movements began to get national attention, it also brought high profile public figures assistance to the Labor Movement.  

On April 3, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. traveled to Memphis, Tennessee to support AFSCME Local 1733 sanitation workers. Two African American workers had been crushed to death in a garbage truck, not allowed to take shelter anywhere else during a storm while on the job.  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who was organizing the Poor Peoples March, went to Memphis to support the AFSCME Local 1733 labor strike.  On that evening he delivered his famous speech “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” to a packed room of supporters and AFSCME Members. Unfortunately, the very next day this great man was assassinated. Even though he is no longer physically with us, his spirit still lives and moves in the Labor Movement.  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has always supported the idea of dignity for all workers and constantly argued for economic justice for all workers, which are the principles that AFSCME stands on. Dr. King saw the Civil Rights Movement and the Labor Movement as natural allies. We as AFSCME Members today, are often inspired by the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 

New Jersey AFSCME Council 63, has picked up the torch of the passionate leaders before them and embraces the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  The battles in New Jersey over basic working values places AFSCME New Jersey on the front lines, and we stand against any and all individuals, organizations, and political movements who want to turn back the clock of time on economic, political, and social injustice.  AFSCME Council 63 continues to fight against those who disregard economic, labor and women’s equality.  AFSCME, like the spirit of Dr. King, recognizes there are selfish people in politics, organizations, and corporations, who seek to undermine and malign every area of public service and consistently seeks to destroy our union. In such a critical political climate, AFSCME continues to move in the spirit of Dr. King and takes on the challenges that working class people face in this twenty first century.  AFSCME New Jersey, has built a strong, experienced, and dedicated team of leaders.  Under this leadership, AFSCME NJ will get to “The Promise Land.” Like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. so eloquently stated in his speech to those sanitation workers more than 50 years ago, “We may not get there with you, but I want you to know, that we as a people, will get to The Promise Land”.  So, the spirit of Dr. King is not a destination, it is truly a journey that is being traveled by The Green Machine called AFSCME.   

Ronald McMullen 
President AFSCME Council 63