Martin Luther King Jr. denomination teams up with AFL-CIO for midterms

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A majority black denomination and the country’s largest federation of unions have joined forces in a new voter mobilization initiative ahead of the midterm elections.

Picking up on a partnership from the 1960s, the Progressive Baptist National Convention (PNBC) and the AFL-CIO are launching a faith-based and labor alliance focused on battleground states, where they expect to hold summits with other organizations nuns and unions as well as door-to-door. – canvassing door to exit the vote.

“We need to make sure that people have equal access to vote, that people are registered to have their voices heard,” the Reverend David Peoples, president of the PNBC, said on Thursday ahead of the announcement at the annual session of the denomination in Orlando. “Not telling anyone who to vote for, but just trying to empower people to understand that every vote and every voice counts.”

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He said the PNBC, which was the denominational home of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., has more than 1.5 million members, including more than 1 million in the United States. About 2,000 people were expected to attend the meeting which is due to conclude on Friday.

The PNBC worked with the AFL-CIO to push for passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex or race in hiring, firing and promotions, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which prohibits discriminatory voting. practices that had restricted black voters.

“We share a mission of justice, equity and opportunity for all, especially those in underserved communities, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Fred Redmond said in a statement. “Our movements are uniquely connected. And now more than ever, we need to strengthen that bond, come back together and rebuild the bond between faith and work.

The AFL-CIO is a federation of 57 international and national unions representing 12.5 million workers, according to its website.

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PNBC leaders said their joint plans with the AFL-CIO followed dozens of state laws, such as voter ID bills, which have been enacted since 2021 and have proven disproportionately restrict people of color. They also lobbied for national suffrage lawslike the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which passed the House but not the Senate.

The Reverend Darryl Gray, National Social Justice Commissioner for the PNBC, noted that speakers representing religious organizations and organized labor groups took turns at the microphone during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963, where King delivered his “I Have a Dream Speech”.

Now, Gray said, the voter registration, education and engagement initiative will focus on 11 “consequent states”: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

“It’s back-to-back elections, either gubernatorial races or U.S. Senate races that could affect the landscape of American politics,” said Gray, a Democrat who served in the Kansas Senate in the 1980s and ran an unsuccessful campaign in 2020 for Missouri State Rep. “That could determine the US Senate.”

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Dennis Dickerson, a history professor at Vanderbilt University, said the new conjuncture is significant, given the history of joint lobbying for civil rights legislation and the recent “resurgence of labor activism.” which sparked greater interest in organizing workers.

“This is a natural consequence of that earlier forging of a much closer alliance between the civil rights movement and labor,” said Dickerson, the former historiographer for the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

“Just as the civil rights movement discovered that having labor allies was important for the advancement of civil rights,” he said, “I think that’s also true now that the labor movement sees a great need to have the alliance of these black religious communities. .

The PNBC and AFL-CIO recently worked together, along with many other church and labor groups, in a partnership to improve conditions for workers in the US Postal Service. Peoples called President Biden’s April signing of the Postal Service Reform Act of 2022 an example of “building blocks” as groups like these continue to seek better wages and health benefits for employees of various organizations and companies across the country.

Gray said the new plans would involve meetings at gathering places that church worshipers and union members are familiar with.

“Part of our training, part of our gatherings, part of our organization will be split between houses of worship or houses of worship and workrooms,” he said. “We want to make that connection between the two, and we want these two entities to feel comfortable again like they did in the 60s.”

— Religious News Service


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