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New Yorkers, MLK III Support Living Wage Law
Lauren Kelley

April 12, 2011
View the Original Article

Martin Luther King, Jr. is best known as a civil rights crusader who bravely fought against racial injustice in the 1950s and '60s. A perhaps lesser known fact about King is that he was also a tireless supporter of the American labor movement as a whole, and was in fact fighting for a living wage on the day he was assassinated in 1968.

That's what King's son, Martin Luther King III, told a crowd gathered in New York City on Monday to mark the 43rd anniversary of his father's death.

"In his view, it was both a moral necessity and a civil right that every working American should earn enough to live a decent life and not worry about basic survival," King III said at the event.

He also explicitly endorsed the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act, which is under consideration by the City Council (a hearing is expected later this month).

In a statement, King III said: "New York City offers a national roadmap for continuing my father’s unfinished work of economic justice….We need the living wage movement to succeed and spread to other parts of the country. Countless stories of the working poor today are about people making impossible choices: food or rent, clothing or electricity. When we pause over those stories, and understand their painful significance, we grasp something fundamental about a country as wealthy as ours: no working person should have to settle for surviving over living. It’s that simple."

"A majority of City Council members back the legislation," he added. "Now I urge the rest to embrace it."

The event brought together city officials, residents and community, faith and labor leaders to commemorate the late Dr. King and rally for the living wage bill, which would ensure a minimum $10 hourly wage for workers at businesses renting from city-subsidized developments. Although the bill would not boost wages for all (or even the majority of) New York workers, it would still represent an important victory and a step in the right direction. A number of other U.S. cities (most notably San Francisco) passed similar laws years ago and have slowly expanded upon them.

The sticking point in the living wage debate is City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who has remained mum on the issue. Her support of the bill would go a long way towards ensuring it has the supporters it needs to overrule the mayor's all-but-assured veto.

So tell Quinn you stand with MLK III and New York City workers, and you think she should too.