While the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington received a lot of attention, the roots of the march as well its very title have been forgotten. The march was spearheaded by labor leaders, and it was called The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Most of the speeches at the event focused not just on civil rights, but on labor issues.
Recall that the marchers in ‘63 demanded “jobs.” On that note, today we find ourselves at a loss in combating unemployment. But unions possess the legal means to fight for shorter hours, which offers an effective means to create jobs. This is not academic; Germany enjoyed the lowest unemployment rate among industrialized countries during the recent crisis as a result of reducing work hours.

We now have a way to accurately commemorate the 50th anniversary of the I Have A Dream speech. It’s a fact that the ‘63 march was an outgrowth of the labor movement; environmental measures offer cost savings to union members; lower household costs make it more viable to press for shorter hours and create jobs. These are facts, not an idealistic dream.