Advancing MLK’s Dream of Economic Justice in MA
Monday, January 16, 2023
Advocates for low-income workers in the Commonwealth said today is a reminder of the need to continue to advance Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream of economic justice for all, including an increase to the minimum wage and more affordable housing.
The Poor People's Campaign was mobilized by Dr. King in 1967 and helped low income workers in cities like Boston to demand better wages, unemployment insurance and education.
Shailly Gupta-Barnes, policy director at the Kairos Center and the Poor People's Campaign, said Massachusetts has seen decades of little progress, and still has a long way to go.
"People are living in the state of almost constant, precarious insecurity, and that's about two-and-a-half million people in the state of Massachusetts," Gupta-Barnes pointed out.
Gupta-Barnes argued lawmakers need to renew the successful pandemic-related programs that led to a dramatic decline in poverty in the Commonwealth, including the expanded Child Tax Credit.
In his 1964 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, King said, "There is nothing new about poverty. What is new is that we have the resources to get rid of it."
Gupta-Barnes sees last year's passage of the Fair Share Amendment, which created a new tax on million-dollar incomes to pay for public education and transportation, as one example of those resources, and the organizing efforts it took to make it happen.
"Building up the power and organizing, and the leadership of poor and low-income people, and becoming the kind of force - what he called a 'new and unsettling force' - to wake this nation up," Gupta-Barnes urged.
Gupta-Barnes added Dr. King was ahead of his time in uniting various communities to work for economic justice and equity, and today the Poor People's Campaign works to continue his legacy.
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