NELP Mourns the Passing of Congressman John Lewis

Following is a statement from Rebecca Dixon, executive director of the National Employment Law Project:

The National Employment Law Project (NELP) mourns the passing of Congressman John Lewis. He was not only a giant of the civil rights movement, but someone who remained committed to the fight for justice, democracy, and freedom for Black people throughout his entire life.

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In his lifetime, John Lewis spoke out against deep injustices, including Jim Crow policies and racist policing, and he spoke for and took action on voting rights, workers’ rights, immigrant rights, LGBTQ rights, and human rights—inspiring others to get into “good trouble” along the way.

Though he is rightly most remembered for his courageous efforts in securing and protecting voting rights, he will also be remembered for his legacy as a tireless advocate for workers and the unemployed. From the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom to his work during the Great Recession and the current economic crisis, he never stopped fighting for unemployed people and their families.

Rep. Lewis was a long-time member of the House Ways and Means Committee, which means the unemployment insurance program was within his jurisdiction. We remember that during the Great Recession, he attended every hearing and every event where unemployed workers shared their stories, and made a point to come and meet every one of them, offering his support, his prayers, and his comfort, deeply touching each person.

NELP honors Congressman John Lewis’s life, and we are grateful that he and the civil rights movement he was a part of paved the way for those of us who work on issues of labor and economic justice. His words from the March for Jobs and Freedom continue to light our way:

“We march today for jobs and freedom, but we have nothing to be proud of, for hundreds and thousands of our brothers are not here. For they are receiving starvation wages or no wages at all. While we stand here, there are sharecroppers in the Delta of Mississippi who are out in the fields working for less than three dollars a day, 12 hours a day.”

“…What did the federal government do when local police officials kicked and assaulted the pregnant wife of Slater King and she lost her baby? To those that have said, “Be patient and wait,” we must say that we cannot be patient. We do not want our freedom gradually, but we want to be free now. We are tired, we are tired of being beaten by policemen. We are tired of seeing our people locked up in jail over and over again, and then you holler, ‘Be patient.’ How long can we be patient? We want our freedom, and we want it now.”

Rest In Power, John Lewis.

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