Press Release- All Labor Has Dignity



Contact: James Williams, First Vice President, Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP Branch

Phone: (919) 819-0364




Panel discussion will highlight present-day challenges for workers, unions


CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – In January and February, it is not uncommon to come across Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous speeches quoted by politicians, news outlets or friends on social media.


On March 18, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s “All Labor Has Dignity” speech – one not as well-known as others but with a message that still resonates today. 


That speech came in support of striking sanitation workers in Memphis, but its themes remain relevant in recent news like teachers in West Virginia and Oklahoma going on strike.


“All Labor Has Dignity” is also the theme of the event, which will be held from 3-5:30 p.m. at the United Church of Chapel Hill, located at 1321 M.L.K. Jr Blvd, Chapel Hill. It will feature a panel discussion with scholars, workers and union organizers on present-day challenges of workers.  The Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman, president of the North Carolina NAACP, will give the keynote address and the event is free and open to the public. 


“Economic injustice was a centerpiece of Dr. King's efforts 50 years ago and is still a part of the fabric of American society,” said James Williams, first vice president of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Branch of the NAACP. “We’re commemorating the milestone but also acknowledging the courage and struggle of the organizations and activists fighting on behalf of workers today.”


Angaza Laughinghouse, chair of the organizing committee of the North Carolina Public Service Workers Union—UE Local 150, said there were many contemporary examples of workers courageously engaged in labor battlefronts and that the struggle continues.

“There was labor organizing in the Jim Crow era among workers in tobacco, textiles, the service and hospitality industry well before Dr. King’s speech,” Laughinghouse said. “But when Dr. King joined with other national faith and civil rights organizations to support the Memphis sanitation workers and their labor union, he and the other organizers broke new ground in broadening labor rights, civil rights and human rights into a much bigger social justice movement.”

At the request of the fledgling AFSCME Local 1173, Dr. King came to Memphis from his travel launching the Poor People’s Campaign and delivered his “All Labor Has Dignity” speech to more than 25,000 people, the largest indoor gathering the civil rights movement had ever seen.


“Dr. King assailed the government's refusal to acknowledge the poor in this speech,” Williams said.  “This speech shows him widening his focus, including respect for all labor as a human right.” 


The event is co-sponsored by the North Carolina State AFL-CIO, Fight For $15 and a Union, Black Workers for Justice, the North Carolina Public Service Workers Union—UE Local 150, Farm Labor Organizing Committee and the North Carolina A. Philip Randolph Institute and Education Fund.


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