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Statement of Anna Burger, Change to Win Chair, on Martin Luther King's Birthday

Monday, January 16, 2006

January 16, 2006

We are celebrating the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr., under whose leadership millions of people joined together to change the nation and win equal protections under the law for every citizen of this great country.

With his words, Dr. King gave us the courage to challenge America and the strength to change it. Through his actions, he showed us that together we can succeed in forcing our nation to live up to its ideals and the promise of the American Dream.

As we celebrate Dr. King's legacy, the American Dream is under attack. For working families, the promise of a living wage as a reward for hard work, access to medical care, and a secure retirement are under siege. The economic security that defines the American Dream is being eviscerated and destroyed.

Today, America is at a crossroads. The question is: do we as a nation believe that hard work pays, that health care is a right, and that our seniors should have economic security and be able to retire with dignity?

Dr. King was assassinated fighting for the rights of sanitation workers to join a union in Memphis, Tennessee. They eventually won that right, and the wages, health, and retirement benefits that come with a union contract. In remembering Dr. King, we must ask ourselves, what are we doing to help achieve his dream for every American?

Last September, seven unions representing six million workers formed the new Change to Win labor federation. We formed this new federation because we believe, as Dr. King did, that the only mechanism for workers to advance their economic security is the labor movement.

We also believe that, while the world has changed, the labor movement has failed to change with it. Change to Win unions believe that if we are going to reverse the decline in workers standards, we need to change. And we are. We are focusing our resources on organizing tens of millions of workers who are without union representation. We are shifting our resources into organizing, integrating the operations of our seven unions, developing effective strategies to deploy the billions of dollars that we have control or influence over, and building alliances based on employers with unions around the world.

The mission of the Change to Win Coalition is to restore the American Dream, to renew hope, opportunity and prosperity for American workers and their families. Only by uniting millions more workers in a strong and innovative union movement can we ensure that work is valued and rewarded in America, hold global corporations and elected public officials accountable to working people, improve the services we provide to our communities and create hope for a better future for our children and grandchildren.

Like Martin Luther King, we want to work with everyone to achieve our goal of building a 21st century American Dream.

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