The original March on Washington was titled the March for Jobs and Freedom, and labor unions were heavily tied into the event that is better known for its civil rights theme.
As the 50th anniversary of that march was commemorated on Saturday, labor unions were again involved, though their clout has fallen since 1963. Private sector labor union rates hit their peak a decade before the Rev. Martin Luther King's historic "I Have a Dream" speech, and they have been dropping ever since.
"If there ever was a time when jobs were relevant, it is right now," National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel told The Hill
prior to Saturday's event.
The American Federation of County, State and Municipal Employees, the American Federation of Teachers, the Service Employees International Union and the NEA were among unions involved in Saturday's commemoration.
"We want to figure out a way that we can drive raising the minimum wage at the same time that we create the ability for workers to join together and raise their wages beyond the minimum wage,” SEUI President Mary Kay Henry told The Hill. "Lifting the minimum wage is important, but equally important, we think, we have to restore the ability of workers to be able to come together and bargain their wages up across the economy again."
A press release issued
by United Food and Commercial Workers International Union before Saturday's march read, "In spite of the advances we have made since the March on Washington 50 years ago — including the election of our first African American president — the dream of freedom, economic equality and jobs has not been realized."
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