MLK Holiday Observance Features Community Service

IAM members and members of AFL-CIO unions
IAM members joined with members of AFL-CIO unions to prepare homes for low income residents in Detroit during this year’s Martin Luther King’s Holiday Observance.

Few states are struggling more to overcome the effects of recession than Michigan and few cities have as many challenges as Detroit. Decades of outsourcing and fierce competition from a global auto industry have left the once vibrant manufacturing center decimated with vast stretches of vacant homes and abandoned businesses.

Detroit’s rich industrial history stands side-by-side with a civil rights history that is no less important. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech was prepared and first delivered in Detroit, weeks before the speech was presented to the world from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

It is fitting that this year’s AFL-CIO Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Observance was held in Detroit, where the prospect of a job in the auto industry drew hundreds of thousands of African Americans from Southern states and where the promise of the American Middle Class was delivered for so many.

In addition to affirming Detroit’s importance with their presence, more than 500 participants at this year’s MLK Observance fanned out across the city for two days of community service that included painting and repairing homes for low- income residents, restoring facilities at agencies providing services for children and adults, preparing and serving food for residents at a substance abuse treatment center, reading to local school children and repairing a center for at-risk teenage girls.

“The community service work that is done during the MLK Observance each year is a great example of how the labor and civil rights community are still working together to help communities in need,” said IAM Chief of Staff to the International President Diane Babineaux, who led a delegation of IAM members to this year’s Observance. “Our work is in stark contrast to the efforts of right-wing politicians who are using the current economic crisis as an excuse to roll back collective bargaining rights and impose Jim Crow-like restrictions on voting rights.”

Among the current and most serious challenges facing the City of Detroit is the looming prospect of an Emergency Manager, an official appointed by the state’s GOP governor with the authority to cancel labor contracts, sell public property and close public schools.