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NEA President Touts Role of Labor in Civil Rights Movement

Weaver says unions must work together for equality in public education

WASHINGTON - February 11, 2008 -

National Education Association President Reg Weaver discussed the role of labor unions in the development of the civil rights movement in a speech today before government workers.  Weaver delivered the keynote speech to approximately 350 attendees at the American Federation of Government Employees’ (AFGE) Women’s and Fair Practices Departments’ 2008 Civil Rights Luncheon.

“The labor movement has fought for fair wages, fair treatment in the workplace, and a fair chance to get ahead,” said Weaver.  “The labor movement has been a force for fairness in every aspect of American life – including the civil rights movement.”

In his speech, Weaver recalled the efforts of Black civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph to organize sleeping car porters on passenger trains.  Randolph recognized that the labor movement represented “the great masses of workers,” and therefore has “the moral responsibility for its commitment to the principle of civil rights.” Randolph went on to organize the 1963 March on Washington with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The theme of this year’s Civil Rights Luncheon was “Have We Done Enough?”  NEA believes that more must be done to close achievement gaps based on race, ethnicity, income levels, language background, disability status and gender.

“Organized labor remains one of the strongest voices for those who are without power, without equal opportunity and without hope,” said Weaver.  “Public education is the key that opens the door of opportunity for every working family in this nation.  We must work together to provide equal opportunity to every child in America through great public schools.”

For more information on NEA’s achievement gaps initiatives, please go to


The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing 3.2 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

Contact: Sara Robertson  (202) 822-7823