Bryan Scarcella, 32, exhorts the crowd to mutual struggle and people power.

Note: Michael Enriquez of Stand Up KC introduced Scarcella at the PeaceWorks Annual Meeting March 11 and called him “a perfect representation of how broken our economy is.” Scarcella, 32, has had low-wage and fast-food jobs his entire working life. Now a leader in Stand Up KC, he’s striving for $15 an hour minimum wage and a union.

 

We have to remember how working people get our power. Fifty years ago, speaking to those Memphis sanitation workers on strike, Dr. King said, “We can all get more together than we can apart; we can get more organized together than we can apart.”

And this is the way we gain power. Power is the ability to achieve purpose, power is the ability to effect change, and we need power. What is power? Walter Reuther said once that “power is the ability of a labor union like UAW to make the most powerful corporation in the world—General Motors—say yes when it wants to say no.” That’s power.

Our power is stronger when we are together, when we organize. When we unite—black, white, and brown workers—we have the power to make the most powerful corporation in the world today, McDonalds, say yes, when IT wants to say no. We cannot allow ourselves to be divided by racism, sexism, homophobia, or any other attempts to divide us. Because racism hurts black and brown workers, but it also hurts white workers. An injury to one is an injury to all! And no one is free until we’re all free.

My low pay means not having access to health care. It means I haven’t turned on the heat in my apartment for years.

Workers like me have been without these things for too long. But when all workers come together—black, white, and brown, gay and straight workers, men and women, native-born and immigrant workers—nothing can stop our power to win better for all of us!

Fifty years ago, Dr. King stood on the strike lines in Memphis because he knew workers needed unions to have equal treatment, dignity, and respect on the job. That is as true now as it was then. Today our movements are ready to do whatever it takes to win a union so that all Americans—not just the wealthy and powerful—can have a shot at a decent life.

Together, we WILL make companies say yes when they want to say no!