The final, less-remembered phase of Martin Luther King Jr.'s life was his pivot from the pursuit of racial equality to economic justice -- the Poor People's Campaign. It was a turn even more threatening to the established order, gathering steam up until the date of his assassination in Memphis, where a sanitation worker's strike had become a centerpiece of the cause.
It is only right then, that tomorrow, the 46th anniversary of Dr. King's final speech to those workers, will be marked at Mary Saunders Park in Hollywood -- in the midst of a new Gilded Age -- by a mass gathering of working people seeking a living wage, decent working conditions, and a small measure of respect for their difficult labor.
Maria (last name withheld to deter retaliation), a food service worker at Miami International Airport, is one of those planning to attend. Speaking through a translator (she is a Honduran immigrant and a U.S. citizen) she told New Times "One of the reasons workers should get paid more is that they are the reason the company succeeds. Because of their hard work, the company moves ahead. Whether you have a title or not, the work we do is just as hard or even harder."
In six years, Maria has seen two raises from her original, minimum wage, but that stopped two years ago, when her employer cried poverty. A single mother of two boys, Maria works a second job to support her family. Yum Brands, parent company of the restaurant she works at, had annual profits of more than $1 billion in each of the past three years.
T (full name withheld to deter retaliation) works for security at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. "The airlines are making the big bucks," he told us, "and we're getting underpaid. The subcontractors don't respect us or respect our work. Most of us are working two jobs. Pretty hard for someone with a family and little kids."
After seven years, T said his pay has risen to $7.93 an hour. "There's no vacation time, no sick time, no benefits." Not unionized, T said he hopes to see that come about so workers can "sit down and dialogue with management."
Low Wage Rising Thursday, April 3, 6:30 p.m. Mary Saunders Park (Carver Ranches Recreation Center), 4750 SW 21st Street, West Park For more info: Julie Karant @ (646) 584-9001/[email protected]
Fire Ant -- an invasive species, tinged bright red, with an annoying, sometimes-fatal sting -- covers public affairs and culture in Palm Beach County and elsewhere. Got feedback or a tip? Contact [email protected]