By Sheri Williams
Union members and labor leaders joined with more than 30,000 marchers earlier this month for the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day March to celebrate the legacy of the civil rights icon.
For many of those who gathered for the five-mile journey through Sacramento, the day was also about showing solidarity in the face of national politics that are damaging to working families.
“California, and Sacramento, is at the forefront of fighting for dignity and respect for all Americans, and all working families,” said Sacramento Central Labor Council executive director Fabrizio Sasso, who gathered with other members of the CLC for the event. “Now more than ever, labor unions are a vital part of organizing the resistance to harmful federal policies that are attempting to erode our rights and give even more power to the rich. Today is about reminding ourselves and those in Washington, D.C. that we will not be silent in the face of injustice.”
Unions joining in the march included Teachers & Classified School employees, Security Guards, Public Agency employees, Janitors, Home Care Workers, California Teachers Association, SEIU Local 2015, AFSCME Local 146 and others.
Los Rios Federation of Teachers executive board member Belinda Lum, who attended the event, told media that, “Our union stands for a lot of what Martin Luther King stood for, which is economic rights for all workers, for diversity, and for making sure that everybody has equal opportunities.”
Her fellow union board member William Miller, a chemistry professor at Sacramento City College, told media, “It’s an opportunity to bring our community together and celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King.”
Many unions also participated in two other MLK Day marches, one arranged by Sacramento Black Lives Matter and the other an event that takes place in north Sacramento around Grant Union High School.
Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, an annual attendee of the march, was one of many politicians who participated.
Steinberg said the MLK march is his favorite day of the year.
“This is the essence of Sacramento, and it’s more relevant than ever,” he told local media. “People need to feel a sense of community, that not all is lost. It reminds us what Dr. King and other civil rights heroes went through, and they never gave up, never gave in. That’s what we need to do. There’s only once choice, and that is to fight for the best of our values and against bigotry.”
Congressman Ami Bera of Elk Grove also joined the Sacramento event.
“It’s about continuing to fight for that dream,” Bera told media.
State Assemblyman Kevin McCarty told media that the current political climate was pushing more people to speak out.
“People are galvanized. They want to get more involved in civic affairs and voting, whether it’s the women’s march or the Dr. King march. You know, I think you will see a lot more engagement at the ballot box,” McCarty said.
Jim Cooper, a state Assemblyman from Elk Grove, had a similar take on the day.
“Folks are upset,” Cooper said. “And you vote at the ballot to effect change.’’