On Wednesday, after a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington at the Statehouse, Ohio House Minority Leader Tracy Maxwell Heard (D-Columbus) and other state representatives launched a food drive to support janitors who are preparing to go on strike for higher pay and access to health coverage.
"Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream. That dream was that in our country, if you work hard, you should be able to provide for your family. But that is simply not true for thousands of low-wage workers in Columbus," Rep. Heard said to a group of janitors and community supporters outside the Columbus corporate offices of Fifth Third Bank.
"Here in central Ohio we have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the state. But we also have some of the lowest wages," Heard said. "It is wrong for someone to work full time and still not make enough to put food on the table. That is not the America Dr. King dreamed of 50 years ago. I am standing with the janitors for the right to fight for good jobs and the right to fight for a better future for all of us."
The janitors had a moment of silence, followed by a bell-ringing ceremony at 4:04 p.m. to commemorate the moment when Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech ended on August 28, 1963.
"We're in the midst of an economic platform promoted by the very rich to take advantage of the very poor," said Rep. Mike Foley (D-Cleveland). "There should be more equality in terms of what wages are paid, what health insurance is covered, and what dignity exists on the job. That's why the fight for economic justice needs to continue every day across the country until we get an economy that works for all of us."
The food drive will be held throughout downtown Columbus with donation bins placed outside the buildings where janitors work, said representatives of SEIU Local 1, the union that represents the janitors.
"We are honoring the life of Martin Luther King, a man who in the later stages of his life was focused on economic justice," said Rep. Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton). "If we let workers enjoy a greater share of the value they create for companies like ABM, that's what makes America great.
"In 1950, the average CEO made 20 times more than the average worker. In 1982 it was 42 times more. Today, CEOs make 352 times more than the average worker, and they still don't think it's enough.
"When I was little kid, I got picked on a lot. I never had a bully stop picking on me until I punched him in the nose. I'm proud that you're standing up for yourselves, because that's what it's going to take. They're never going to stop until you do."