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  Public Employee Press

PEP Feb 2001
Table of Contents
  La Voz

Public Employee Press

Members honor Dr. Martin Luther King


Hundreds of District Council 37 members filled the union hall Jan. 11 to pay homage to the slain civil rights leader the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The DC 37 Political Action and Legislation Department organized the event to celebrate Dr. King’s birthday, to commemorate his dreams and to rally union members to stand up and be counted at the election polls.

Dr. King, who was killed in Memphis as he organized support for a strike by sanitation workers in DC 37’s parent union, AFSCME, would have been 72 on Jan. 15.

Guest speaker Lloyd Henry, a City Council member from Brooklyn’s 45th District, reflected on Dr. King’s lifelong struggle to win civil rights and end disenfranchisement for African Americans. In DC 37 tradition, the event culminated with songs and a candlelit ceremony.

“This is not just our story as a people, but it’s our story as an institution,” said DC 37 Administrator Lee Saunders. After a viewing of “At the River I Stand,” a documentary on Dr. King’s involvement in the 1968 strike, Mr. Saunders reminded the audience that DC 37’s militancy was born out of the civil rights struggle, which reached a major turning point in Memphis.

“If Dr. King were alive today, he would be awfully, awfully upset with the events that took place in Florida last November,” Mr. Saunders said, “because King died for the right to vote and to have each vote counted.”

In an unprecedented decision, the United States Supreme Court justices selected their preferred candidate as president. In response, union leaders are urging members to work even harder to get co-workers, friends and family involved in the political process as registered voters.

“We registered 8,500 new voters in 2000 — mainly in New York City’s minority communities,” said DC 37 Deputy Administrator Eliot Seide. DC 37 is organizing its largest-ever voter registration drive in 2001 (see page 5) to achieve its goal of having 100 percent of its eligible members registered.

The union is poised to flex its political muscle as New Yorkers elect a new mayor, new City Council members, a public advocate and a comptroller in November and a new governor in 2002.

“Any politician seeking office — and expecting to win — must come to DC 37 first,” Mr. Saunders said. He vowed that the union would work to elect only politicians “who treat us with dignity and respect.”

“We will not sit back and say, ‘It’s all right’,” he added. “We must never forget what happened in Florida in November 2000.”



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