On August 24, 2013, civil rights organizations, union members, interfaith leaders, and progressives from across the country gathered by the thousands in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC to commemorate the historic 1963 March on Washington where Martin Luther King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech and hundreds of thousands of citizens rallied for civil rights and jobs.
While we have made much progress over the past 50 years, carrying on the fight for social and economic justice is just as relevant today as it was then. Our nation faces persistent unemployment with jobless rates in the African American community that are nearly double the national average. Collective bargaining rights, a concept which Martin Luther King championed as part of the civil rights movement, are under attack today as never before, shutting an untold number of workers out of the American Dream. Attacks on minority voting rights are sweeping the nation, disenfranchising voters and undermining our democratic process. And jobs that provide a living wage are becoming scarcer by the day.
In New Jersey, the minimum wage ballot question presents a unique opportunity to fight for the values represented during the March on Washington. As a founding partner of Working Families United for New Jersey, Inc. the New Jersey State AFL-CIO has been actively engaged in efforts to raise awareness about New Jersey’s minimum wage ballot question which would raise the state minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.25 per hour and include a cost of living adjustment. Through the coalition we helped to distribute critical information on voter registration and the minimum wage to 67 labor and community sponsored buses traveling to DC.
The connection between the fight for economic justice and raising the minimum wage is clear. Raising the minimum wage would lift workers out of poverty, provide the stability needed for economic mobility, help workers keep pace with rising costs, and allow families to provide better opportunities for their children.
The New Jersey State AFL-CIO is proud to honor the legacy of the civil rights leaders and thousands of citizens who gathered on the national mall in 1963, and urges all in New Jersey to continue our fight for jobs and economic justice by voting “Yes” on the minimum wage ballot question this November 5th.