A New Poor People’s Campaign

In 1968, Martin Luther King and the SCLC waged the Poor People’s Campaign in an attempt to bring the country’s attention to the economic needs of the underprivileged and underserved. King and the other leaders of the campaign recognized that racial justice and economic justice are intricately intertwined, and to truly liberate the American people, we would have to fight to scourge our nation of both white supremacy and corporate greed.

Part of what came out of that campaign was an Economic Bill of Rights, drafted by the Committee of 100, a group of poor Americans formed to lobby for their economic rights. They came up with the following rights that every American deserves:

  1. The right to a meaningful job with a living wage
  2. The ability to get a secure and adequate income for those unable to get a job
  3. Access to land for economic uses
  4. Resources and capital for poor people trying to promote business
  5. A larger role in government for ordinary people

Unfortunately, the campaign was unable to achieve these critical reforms, and since 1968 wealth disparity has only grown greater in this country, and our need for drastic changes to our economy are even more necessary.

Recently, Rev. Dr. William Barber of the North Carolina NAACP, stepped up to lead a new Poor People’s Campaign. In announcing the effort, Rev. Barber argued that “the fights for racial and economic equality are as inseparable today as they were half a century ago. Make no mistake about it: We face a crisis in America. The twin forces of white supremacy and unchecked corporate greed have gained newfound power and influence, both in statehouses across this nation and at the highest levels of our federal government.”

Rev. Barber couldn’t be more correct in his analysis of our current cultural failure regarding both racial relations and the influence of powerful oligarchs. We need to break the grip of moneyed and racist interests on a scale not seen since the trust-busting days of Teddy Roosevelt. Barber has called this renewed effort ‘A National Call for a Moral Revival,’ and I think he’s spot on.

In my time on the Asheville City Council, I’ve worked to fight for the economic rights of the working poor in our community. I’m a strong advocate for the Living Wage Campaign waged by Asheville’s Just Economics. During my time in office, the City of Asheville has adopted Just Economics’ wage as a baseline for all hiring and as a fundamental requirement for any corporate entity seeking tax benefits from the City. I’ve also fought for a living wage requirement for contractors with the City, but Republicans in Raleigh thwarted that plan.

I support Rev. Barber and the Poor People’s Campaign, and I urge my supporters to as well.

Link to Poor People’s Campaign: https://poorpeoplescampaign.org/

Link to Ashevile’s Just Economics: https://justeconomicswnc.org/