Hotline: 678-408-1354

Justice and Equity and Workplace Rights

Justice and Equity and Workplace Rights

Black-and-white photo of seven March on Washington leaders including A. Philip Randolph and John Lewis in front of the Lincoln Memorial.
March on Washington leaders (L-R): Executive Director of the National Catholic Conference for Interracial Justice Mathew Ahmann; Chairman of the Demonstration Committee Cleveland Robinson; President of the American Jewish Congress Rabbi Joachim Prinz; Founder of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters A. Philip Randolph; activist Joseph Rauh Jr.; Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee Chair John Lewis; and National Chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality Floyd McKissick.

It’s been 60 years since Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. That day is rightly remembered as a pivotal moment for the nation’s civil rights movement. King’s speech acknowledged America’s history of racial inequity and insisted that racial equity was a nonnegotiable component of America’s future success. 

History has proved him right. Decades of dismantling systemic inequality has created more opportunities for all Americans, and greater diversity has widespread benefits. We have yet to achieve King’s dream of universal equity, but we have made progress, and as King noted in a separate speech, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

While the March on Washington’s impact on racial justice in America is widely acknowledged, its focus on jobs is less often remembered. But for many of the event’s organizers and participants, racial justice and economic opportunity were inseparable. In the decades following the march, several of its participants have been inducted into the Labor Hall of Honor for their contributions to the nation’s workforce. 

A. Philip Randolph 

As the founder of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, Randolph played a pivotal role in the civil rights movement, advocating for racial equality and workers’ rights. He pushed for better wages and working conditions for all workers, and actively sought to connect Black workers with good jobs while working for the Brotherhood of Labor. Randolph’s efforts extended beyond labor rights, as he was a driving force behind the 1941 March on Washington Movement, pressuring President Roosevelt to desegregate defense industries. His commitment to nonviolent protest and coalition-building set the stage for future civil rights activism, including Martin Luther King Jr.’s campaigns. Randolph persuaded Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman to fight discrimination in war industries, federal employment and the armed services. 

Rep. John Lewis, who spoke at the March on Washington as a student leader, said of Randolph years later, “without A. Philip Randolph, there wouldn’t have been a March on Washington… He should be looked at as one of the founding fathers of a new America, a better America.”

Rev. Addie Wyatt

Wyatt was the first Black woman to hold a senior office in an American labor union – as the president of her local meat-packing union in Chicago and as International Vice President of the United Food and Commercial Workers. She advocated for the rights of women, racial minorities and all workers. “Racism and sexism is an economic issue,” she said. 

Bayard Rustin

Rustin was a passionate advocate for labor, civil and human rights, who insisted on nonviolent demonstration. His personal courage – he was openly gay in an era when living honestly could have terrible consequences – has inspired generations of activists. As the director of the A. Philip Randolph Institute, he coordinated the AFL-CIO’s work on civil rights and economic justice, believing that the labor movement could play a pivotal role in improving economic opportunity for Black workers and all Americans.  

Walter P. Reuther

A leader of the United Automobile Workers, Reuther believed the role of the labor movement was not simply to improve working conditions, but to improve lives within communities. He fought for civil rights, better health care, affordable housing and the environment. In his remarks at the Lincoln Memorial 60 years ago, Reuther said, “our slogan has got to be fair employment, but fair employment within the framework of full employment, so that every American can have a job.”

Soon after the March on Washington, King travelled to Memphis, Tennessee to support the sanitation workers striking for better safety standards, a decent wage and union recognition. The strike, like the march, underscored the intersection of racial equity and economic opportunity. On April 3, he called for racial justice and fair work practices in Memphis, saying, “Let us stand with a greater determination. And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge to make America what it ought to be.” He was assassinated the next day. A few weeks later, Coretta Scott King, the Southern Christian Leaderships Conference and union leaders led more than 40,000 marchers through Memphis to honor King and support the strikers, who negotiated a deal on April 16. 

Randolph, Wyatt, Rustin and Reuther helped bring about one of the most important days in America’s history, the March on Washington – but their contributions to America’s workers and communities were lifelong. Their legacy lives on today, when the urgency for equal rights and universal justice are as pressing as ever. Like King, they continued to push for racial equity and economic opportunity throughout their lives. As the Department of Labor’s inaugural chief diversity and equity officer, I’m proud to continue their relentless fight for equity at work and beyond.

King’s words are as true today as they were when he first said them: “Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.” 


Alaysia Black Hackett is the chief diversity and equity officer for the U.S. Department of Labor.



Wed, 08/23/2023 – 13:02

Alaysia Hackett

Sourced from Us Dept of Labor

Leave your thoughts

Contact Us

Eltas EnterPrises Inc.
3978 Windgrove Crossing
Suite 200A
Suwanee, Georgia
30024, USA

Subscribe to our Newsletter