REMEMBERING DR. KING -- The Oregon House will not be in session on Monday, in deference to the Martin Luther King, Jr. state holiday. (The Oregon Senate will convene for limited business.) State employees have the day off, and most other Oregon AFSCME locals have MLK Day as a holiday in their contracts as well. All AFSCME offices will be closed.
There will always be a special tie between AFSCME and King, because King was in Memphis that fateful day in support of striking AFSCME members with the city's sanitation department. And while we run a very similar story every year at this time, we always hear from someone new who says, "Thank you, I didn't realize the history between AFSCME and Dr. King."
The one person in AFSCME's world with the closest connection to Dr. King is AFSCME International Secretary-Treasurer Bill Lucy. Today Lucy is the longtime second-highest elected official in the International union, but in 1968, Lucy was a young AFSCME community organizer working with Dr. King in Memphis.
April 4 of this year will mark the 39th anniversary of Dr. King's assassination. Again, King was in Memphis in support of striking city sanitation workers, who had recently formed AFSCME Local 1733. The City of Memphis refused to recognize the union, which led to the strike and the ensuing civil unrest. As mentioned, Lucy was there. He worked side-by-side with King on several occasions in Memphis, shared the stage with him at numerous events and was busy assembling people for another march and rally nearby when King was killed.
Lucy always stresses that Dr. King's legacy only lives on when AFSCME members everywhere fight for the rights of their union brothers and sisters.
"Despite how it might appear on the surface, the fight in Memphis was never about black issues - it wasn't about race," said Lucy. "Memphis was about dignity and fairness for any and all workers, no matter their color. Dr. King would have been the first to tell you that."
This is, in part, why MLK Day is so important to AFSCME. And, by the way, longtime Oregon AFSCME Political Coordinator Mary Botkin was at the forefront of the fight to deem MLK Day a holiday in Oregon. Our state was among the first to designate a King holiday; it is now, just recently, an observed holiday in all 50 states.
Edited by Don Loving, Council 75 Public Affairs Director