Martin Luther King on Workers' Rights

Martin Luther King was a powerful advocate for unions and workers rights. See his last speech to striking sanitation workers and read what he had to say about workers' rights.

Martin Luther King's Speech to Striking Memphis Sanitation Workers

On April 3, 1968, Martin Luther King gave his last speech to support sanitation workers on strike for union recognition in Memphis. The next day King was assassinated.


Martin Luther King on Right-to-Work Laws

"In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as 'right to work.' It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights. It is supported by Southern segregationists who are trying to keep us from achieving our civil rights and our right of equal job opportunity. Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone.Wherever these laws have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer and there are no civil rights. We do not intend to let them do this to us. We demand this fraud be stopped. Our weapon is our vote."

King speaking on right-to-work laws in 1961.


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As the country honors the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we remember his often ignored contributions to the labor movement. Dr. King understood the ties between labor rights and civil rights. He gave his life while supporting striking sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee. He spoke firmly against right-to-work laws, saying that “in our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as ‘right to work.’ It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights.”

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