Issued January 17, 2022
WASHINGTON, DC -- Service Employees International Union (SEIU) International President Mary Kay Henry released the following statement today honoring the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr:
“Martin Luther King Jr. will forever be remembered as a prolific organizer for racial and economic justice, and an audacious champion for American democracy. Standing alongside John Lewis and so many other heroes during the Civil Rights Movement, Dr. King’s work to secure voting rights for Black people was rooted in the belief that all Americans should have the freedom to vote, no matter their color, zip code or occupation.
“Today, the crown jewel of Dr. King’s legacy, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, remains on life support. Instead of working to win elections on the merits of their platform, Republicans across the country are resorting to Jim Crow-era tactics, passing racist anti-voter legislation targeting communities of color, criminalizing voter assistance, and making vote-by-mail less accessible during a global health pandemic. White nationalists, galvanized by the Big Lie, even attacked the U.S. Capitol on January 6th in an attempt to prevent the certification of the 2020 election. They are intentionally working to silence Black, brown, API, Indigenous and other people of color, to maintain their stranglehold on power.
“As we commemorate the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr, it is clear that our nation stands at a crossroads: to either protect the freedom to vote or allow the ascent of authoritarianism. Right now Congress has the opportunity to uphold the legacy of Dr. King, John Lewis and other civil rights leaders who made sacrifices to ensure every person has an equal voice in our nation’s affairs by unrigging the rules by ending the filibuster and passing the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act and the Washington DC Admission Act.
“These bills are necessary to actualize Dr. King’s vision for building a more equitable economy that works for all people no matter what we look like, where we’re from or what we do for a living.
"To uphold Dr. King’s legacy, Congress must protect and build upon his voting rights legacy, and advance his vision for economic justice. It’s also time to act with urgency to pass bold legislation like the historic Build Back Better Act, create good jobs, expand access to care for our most vulnerable citizens, build a pathway to citizenship, address climate change and environmental injustice and reimagine our justice system.
"Congress must also honor Dr. King’s work by making it easier for working people to join unions. He understood the connection between the fights for voting rights and union rights in uplifting communities of color. This is why Dr. King stood up with Memphis sanitation workers on the day when he was killed. "
"SEIU members and worker leaders in the Fight for $15 and a Union refuse to let self-interested politicians and the wealthy corporations backing them kill Dr. King’s dream for a better America. We will continue to demand that the Congress end state attacks on voters by passing the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act and the Washington DC Admission Act. We will also hold the political and corporate leaders accountable for trying to silence our voices.”