Glenn Beck mocked AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka for saying that Dr. Martin Luther King lost his life while fighting for the rights of public union workers. In fact, King was shot while in Memphis to support striking municipal workers, and in his eulogy honoring King, Benjamin Mays -- King's mentor and friend -- spoke of King's dedication to "fighting to get a just wage" for workers.
Beck Mocks Notion That MLK Died Fighting For Labor Rights
Beck: "Dr. King Lost His Life For Collective Bargaining For The Public Unions, Really?" From the March 21 edition of The Glenn Beck Program:
GLENN BECK: Madison is just the beginning, AFL-CIO chief Richard Trumka told a union rally in Annapolis on Monday. Madison is just the beginning; you ain't seen nothing yet, he says. The message? Angry schoolteachers and the unions are the same. Join us April 4th, 2011, a day to stand in solidarity with working people of Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, and a dozen other states, where well-funded right-wing corporate politicians are trying to take away the rights that Dr. King gave his life for.
Wait, wait, hold it, just a second. Dr. King lost his life for collective bargaining for the public unions, really? Did you know that? 'Cause -- that -- we have to update our history books, because I didn't know that. Did you know that?
PAT GRAY: I personally didn't. (Laughs)
BECK: Thank you for that.
GRAY: I didn't know that. I - I was - I'm a little confused, I guess, 'cause, yeah, I thought it had something to do with civil rights, but it was a union deal?
BECK: It was a union deal. Yeah.
STU BURGUIERE: Well, there was the content of the character and the collectiveness of the bargaining was the --
GRAY: Ahh, that's right. How did I miss that?
BECK: Well, to make the point - here's the deal -- April 4th is the 43rd anniversary of the day Martin Luther King was assassinated after speaking on behalf of the striking black garbage collectors in Memphis, Tennessee. So, I'm sure that the fact that they were black and in Memphis had nothing to do with his mention -- with his, uh, message. It was all about unions and collective bargaining. I'm sure that's what it was.
GRAY: You know it was.
BECK: Well, of course.
[Premiere Radio Networks, The Glenn Beck Program, 3/21/11]
Dr. King Was Assassinated While Fighting For A Public Union
King Spoke On Behalf Of Memphis "Public Servants" In His Final Speech. From Dr. King's "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech, delivered the day before his assassination:
The issues is injustice. The issue is the refusal of Memphis to be fair and honest in its dealings with its public servants, who happen to be sanitation workers. Now, we've got to keep attention on that. That's always the problem with a little violence. You know what happened the other day, and the press dealt only with the window-breaking. I read the articles. They very seldom got around to mentioning the fact that one thousand, three hundred sanitation workers were on strike, and that Memphis is not being fair to them, and that Mayor Loeb is in dire need of a doctor. They didn't get around to that.
Now we're going to march again, and we've got to march again, in order to put the issue where it is supposed to be. And force everybody to see that there are thirteen hundred of God's children here suffering, sometimes going hungry, going through dark and dreary nights wondering how this thing is going to come out. That's the issue. And we've got to say to the nation: we know it's coming out. For when people get caught up with that which is right and they are willing to sacrifice for it, there is no stopping point short of victory. [Dr. Martin Luther King, 4/3/1968, via American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees]
King Was Assassinated While In Memphis To Support Public Sanitation Workers. From Stanford University's Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute:
King had arrived in Tennessee on Wednesday, 3 April to prepare for a march the following Monday on behalf of striking Memphis sanitation workers. As he prepared to leave the Lorraine Motel for a dinner at the home of Memphis minister Samuel ''Billy'' Kyles, King stepped out onto the balcony of room 306 to speak with Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) colleagues standing in the parking area below. An assassin fired a single shot that caused severe wounds to the lower right side of his face. SCLC aides rushed to him, and Ralph Abernathy cradled King's head. Others on the balcony pointed across the street toward the rear of a boarding house on South Main Street where the shot seemed to have originated. An ambulance rushed King to St. Joseph's Hospital, where doctors pronounced him dead at 7:05 P.M.
On 8 April King's widow, Coretta Scott King, and other family members joined thousands of participants in a march in Memphis honoring King and supporting the sanitation workers. [Stanford University's Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute, undated]
Memphis Workers Were Fighting For Recognition Of Their Union, Better Wages. From Stanford University's Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute:
On 1 February 1968, two Memphis garbage collectors, Echol Cole and Robert Walker, were crushed to death by a malfunctioning truck. Twelve days later, frustrated by the city's response to the latest event in a long pattern of neglect and abuse of its black employees, 1,300 black men from the Memphis Department of Public Works went on strike. Sanitation workers, led by garbage-collector-turned-union-organizer, T. O. Jones, and supported by the president of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Jerry Wurf, demanded recognition of their union, better safety standards, and a decent wage.
The union, which had been granted a charter by AFSCME in 1964, had attempted a strike in 1966, but it failed, in large part because workers were unable to arouse the support of Memphis's religious community or middle class. Conditions for black sanitation workers worsened when Henry Loeb became mayor in January 1968. Loeb refused to take dilapidated trucks out of service or pay overtime when men were forced to work late-night shifts. Sanitation workers earned wages so low that many were on welfare and hundreds relied on food stamps to feed their families. [Stanford University's Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute, undated, emphasis added]
Mays' Eulogy: King Would Find "No Greater Cause To Die For Than Fighting To Get A Just Wage For Garbage Collectors." Delivering a eulogy honoring King, Benjamin Mays, a mentor to and friend of King, and then president of Morehouse College, said:
Though deeply committed to a program of freedom for Negroes, he had love and concern for all kinds of peoples. He drew no distinction between the high and low; none between the rich and the poor. He believed especially that he was sent to champion the cause of the man farthest down. He would probably say that if death had to come, I am sure there was no greater cause to die for than fighting to get a just wage for garbage collectors. [Benjamin Mays' eulogy of Martin Luther King, 4/9/68, via Bates College]