Tens of thousands of people gathered at The National Mall to mark the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on Saturday. Most people don’t know it was for “Jobs and Freedom.” Even fewer people know what the demands of the march were. Well, here are ten things the organizers, representing different organizations and ideologies, were able to agree on as demands.
- Comprehensive and effective civil rights legislation from the present Congress — without compromise or filibuster — to guarantee all Americans:
Access to all public accommodations
Adequate and integrated education
The right to vote
- Withholding of Federal funds from all programs in which discrimination exists.
- Desegregation of all school districts in 1963.
- Enforcement of the Fourteenth Amendment — reducing Congressional representation of states where citizens are disfranchised.
- A new Executive Order banning discrimination in all housing supported by federal funds.
- Authority for the Attorney General to institute injunctive suits when any Constitutional right is violated.
- A massive federal program to train and place all unemployed workers — Negro and white — on meaningful and dignified jobs at decent wages.
- A national minimum wage act that will give all Americans a decent standard of living. (Government surveys show that anything less than $2.00 an hour fails to do this.)
[The minimum wage at the time of the march was $1.15/hour. After adjusting for inflation, $1.15 in 1963 is equal to $8.78 in 2013. Today in 2013, the federal minimum wage is only $7.25, significantly lower than what it was 50 years ago. After adjusting for inflation, the $2.00/hour minimum wage called for in the March demands would be equal to a minimum wage of $15.27 today, more than twice what it actually is.]
- A broadened Fair Labor Standards Act to include all areas of employment which are presently excluded.
- A federal Fair Employment Practices Act barring discrimination by federal, state, and municipal governments, and by employers, contractors, employment agencies, and trade unions.
The list is both depressing and inspiring. Depressing because the nation has failed to achieve so many of them. Inspiring because they are so admirable and just. So let’s continue to fight for them!