Bringing HR Back: The King’s Speech


The top HR stories over the past 18 months have been sexual harassment and pay equality. Since I have written about sexual harassment at length I want to write a bit more about pay equality. You know the statistics, women (white women) take home about 80% of what white men take home. Black men earn roughly the same amount, but black women earn even less, around 75% of what white men earn. Hispanic men and women earn even less than that. However Asian men and women earn a lot, in fact Asian men earn 15% more than white men. (not sure how they are pulling that off, but they are according to the numbers).

The week of April 2nd – 4th 2018, we have seen teachers walk off the job in a strike demanding higher wages for themselves and more resources for teachers. Many of us know or heard of teachers buying supplies out of their own money to help kids receive the things that they need, including food, clothes, shoes, books, pens, pencils and paper. Teachers from Oklahoma and Kentucky walked out of class in protest of low pay – all while president trump suggests arming teachers with handguns versus the proper resources.

On March 24, 2018, students from all over country descended upon Washington DC to protest gun laws in America after the latest school mass shooting in Parkland, FL.  Known as the March for Our Lives. There were supporting rallies in every state in the union – everyone. Also in March, there were protests in Sacramento California, after the police shot another unarmed black man. Protesters blocked entrance to the NBA’s Sacramento Kings basketball game, prompting the owner to speak out against police brutality and violence in the community.

So many protests, Black Lives Matter, Women’s Rally, A Living Wage, and etc.

Why protest? Why take to the streets to try and effect change? The answer is simple and it’s all laid out in the King’s Speech… no not the movie, the man himself, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

2018 marks the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s death but his words and actions still hold strong today and are extremely valid.

We are taught in school that Dr. King lead the movement for Civil Rights for blacks and desegregation. And while that is true, it’s only a part of his mission. He staged non-violent protests, marches, demonstrations, and speeches aimed at bringing attention and corrective action to human rights for all human beings, fair and equal treatment in society by all citizens, and pay equality.

In the 1960’s, Dr. King saw how economic empowerment and opportunity was critical in the treatment of men and women and a key piece to solving the puzzle of poverty. King came to Memphis, Tennessee in April of 1968 to help striking sanitation workers receive fair pay and treatment – and not just fair treatment by the City of Memphis, because back then the white sanitation workers drove the truck while the black sanitation workers hung off the back of the truck in all kinds of bad weather.

Garbage collection was very different back then, there was no mechanical arm that would swing out and lift the garbage bin, in fact there was no bin like today. They used iron cans and people didn’t bring their cans to the curb, no, the black workers had to go in the backyard and lift the cans up and carry them to the front, dump the trash and take the can back into the backyards. Many white citizens would make sure their garbage was as disgusting as possible and they would poke holes in the bottom of the cans so that whatever was in it could leak onto the black sanitation workers.

Then at the end of the day, those black sanitation workers had to walk home smelling like death. They had to go home to their wives and children feeling less than a man. When they went on strike it was with the mantra of “I AM A MAN”. Meaning, I am a man just like you and I deserve equality in all its forms.

Fast-forward to today and what are protesting? Equal treatment. To be treated like a man, a woman – a human being. We are protesting the minimum wage. Racism. Sexism. Political divisiveness.

In 2018, we are still using the tools left to us by Dr. King and it looks like his legacy endures.