Dignity of Work

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“Whenever you are engaged in work that serves humanity and is for the building of humanity, it has dignity and it has worth. One day our society must come to see this. One day our society will come to respect the sanitation worker if it is to survive, for the person who picks up our garbage, in the final analysis, is as significant as the physician, for if he doesn’t do his job, disease are rampant. All labor has dignity.”

Speech to AFSCME sanitation workers, Memphis, March, 18 1968

Dignity of work means hard work should pay off for everyone, no matter who you are or what kind of work you do.

But for far too many people in this country today, hard work isn’t paying off like it should. People are working harder and producing more than ever before. But their wages are flat and the cost of everything from healthcare, to rent, to college tuition is up. Even people with good-paying jobs don’t feel stable. And many people find it difficult, if not impossible, to save for retirement.

As we work to change that for everyone, we must also acknowledge that it’s even worse for women and people of color – not only because they face the same economic challenges at even higher rates, but because they face those challenges while also having to navigate sexism and racism that make it even harder to get ahead, no matter how hard they work.

When work has dignity, everyone can afford health care and housing. They have power over their schedules and the economic security to start a family, pay for daycare and college, take time off to care for themselves or their families when they are sick, and save for retirement. When work has dignity, our country has a strong middle class.

These are just some of Sherrod’s ideas. Throughout the tour, he hopes to hear yours as well. And working together, we can make hard work pay off for everyone.

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