Delta Air Lines workers recently made a historic visit to the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. In 1968, Memphis was the site of a pitched battle between the white power structure of the time and more than 1,000 Black sanitation men over the question of whether they would have dignity and a union or not. It is also where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated while defending the human rights, civil rights and union rights of these workers.

Delta Air Lines executives have said they are committed to equity and inclusion and to the legacy of MLK. They have put this in print. They have broadcast it through videos. They have proclaimed it in speeches. And yet, they have only embraced a small portion of the civil rights legacy. They have stood staunchly against MLK’s strong belief in the necessity of unions to raise all workers, but in particular Black workers. 

Delta workers invited corporate executives to join them in Memphis to put actual substance beyond words in taking action to show up for the entire MLK legacy, which includes the right to organize a union. This was done in MLK’s spirit of reconciliation. They unfortunately showed no interest and chose not to come. 

That didn’t stop this group, joined by local Memphis unions and activists, from holding a press conference to explain that they had come to claim the complete heritage of the Civil Rights movement. They asked Delta to stop interfering in efforts to have a union election. They asked Delta to stop calling police on union organizers, a common tactic used against civil rights activists. The workers asked that Delta allow them the right to vote on a union election without harassment.

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