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Daily Newscasts

NY Labor Unions Helping Fulfill MLK's Dream of Equality

April 3, 2008

New York, NY - On the 40th anniversary of Martin Luther King's assassination, a pair of new studies shows that unions play a major role in lifting black workers to positions of equality. The reports, by the Fiscal Policy Institute and the Center for Economic Policy Research, say unions raise the pay of African-American workers by 12 percent, and more than one-third of New York's black workers are union members.

David Dyssegaard Kallick with the Fiscal Policy Institute is not surprised by the study results. He says unionization was part of Dr. King's vision.

"Toward the end of his career, he began to speak out more frequently on how blacks needed to earn a decent salary to achieve real equality in America, and I think he saw labor unions as one of the key ways to make it into the middle class."

Kallick says King's support of trade unions was reflected throughout his life. King was in Memphis to support efforts to unionize the city's municipal sanitation workers when he was murdered, forty years ago on Friday. Kallick explains King supported their cause, and believed that unions stand for the dignity of workers.

"What King said was, 'All labor has dignity. You're reminding, not only Memphis, but the entire nation, that it's a crime for people to live in this rich country and receive starvation wages.'"

The CEPR report is available online at State-by-state unionization statistics can be found at

John Robinson/Don Mathisen, Public News Service - NY