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Martin Luther King Addresses AFL-CIO Convention

Dec. 11, 1961 - Dr. Martin Luther King told organized labor today that it had “not adequately used its great power, its vision, and resources to advance Negro rights.” The civil rights leader made this and other charges in a speech to the convention of the AFL-CIO in Bal Harbour, Fla. He was warmly received. Dr. King acknowledged that labor had done more than any other force in America to better the conditions of Negroes. But he added: “In spite of this, some unions, governed by the racist ethos, have contributed to the degraded economic status of the Negro. Negroes had been barred from membership in certain unions and denied apprenticeship training and vocational education. In every section of the country, one can find labor unions existing as a serious and vicious obstacle when the Negro seeks a job or upgrading in employment. Labor must honestly admit these shameful conditions and design the battle plan that will defeat and eliminate them.”

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