Fri04182014

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Pro-labor coalition vows to ‘push back” against Tea Party, GOP

A coalition of faith, labor and civil rights organizations has formed to challenge what key participants see as an attack on labor unions’ rights to exist by the Tea Party movement and the Republican Party. A coalition of faith, labor and civil rights organizations has formed to challenge what key participants see as an attack on labor unions’ rights to exist by the Tea Party movement and the Republican Party.

 
 Faith and labor organizations must unite to end poverty, racism and violence, said Dr. Leland Brown, a SCLC national board member, who often went to jail with his friend, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (Photo by Tyrone P. Easley)

The Memphis Baptist Ministerial Association, The Memphis Police Association, The Memphis Firefighters Association, The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1733 and the local chapters of The Southern Christian Leadership Conference(SCLC) and Operation Push make up the new coalition. On Tuesday, leaders from the groups met in South Memphis to discuss objectives and next steps.

The memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was the backdrop as the speakers referred to King’s sacrifice for social justice as their inspiration. The Rev. Dr. Dwight Montgomery, local SCLC president, served as the toastmaster and framed the occasion.

“We have to be advocates for human rights just as there are advocates for animal rights. The advocates for animal rights were able to get a $7 million shelter with central air and heat for animals,”‘ said Montgomery.

 “While you have dogs and cats getting central air and heat, there will be human beings who are unemployed and underemployed whose utilities are going to be cut off.”

Admonishing his fellow ministers to take the meeting seriously, Montgomery said, “Dogs and cats aren’t coming to nobody’s church to pay tithes and offerings but they are being taken care of. The gravity of the situation will hit in the pocket book when you notice that the offerings have gone down.”

Attorney Lewis K. Garrison, who represented the sanitation workers during the 1968 strike and is a noted critic of the “official” version of who killed Dr. King, spoke briefly on growing up white in segregated America. Garrison said his passion for equality and justice for all grew from his desire to question the status quo of his youth.

Dr. L. LaSimba Gray, who is the local head of Operation Push, said the advancement of civil, labor and human rights always come from earnest struggle.

‘”From the dream to the monument, civil rights and voting rights came about through blood and sacrifice,” said Gray, making reference to his recent visit to the newly opened King Memorial in Washington, D.C.

 Exhorting the crowd never to quit in the quest for equality, Gray declared his longstanding belief in a partnership between the faith community and labor.

“The opposition to the dream of Dr. King is pushing. We must push back and don’t quit.”

Dr. Leland Brown, a SCLC national board member who often went to jail with his friend, Dr. King, made reference to Dr. King’s projection that difficult days were ahead. Faith and labor organizations must unite to end poverty, racism and violence, said Brown, as the crowd rose to its feet.

 Montgomery gave special recognition to Paul Shaffer, a personal friend and candidate for City Council District 9-Position 1. Montgomery committed to personally supporting Shaffer in his run against incumbent City Councilman Kemp Conrad, who many associate with the effort to bring about privatization of the city’s sanitation services.

Contacted about the coalition of faith and labor organizations that have him in their crosshairs, Conrad was ready to return fire.

“I have been supportive for what is good for all of Memphis both black and white,” said Conrad. “The citizens of Memphis will have a choice to support someone who is for all of Memphis or a union leader like Pat Shaffer who only represents the special interest of unions and their members.”

 Conrad said he had the utmost respect for Dr. King and the principles for which he stood and ultimately died. And he maintained that many of the unions’ positions to prevent outsourcing of some city jobs to private companies are detrimental to the advancement of the African-American community and African-American businesses in particular.

The local Tea Party had not been reached for comment by TSD press time.

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