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is synonymous with investments and profits, the South Carolina planter had given the rising young American Republic its basic economic philosophy. We are reminded of how durable this rationale for slavery has been when we hear the same argument being used today in defense of U.S. business investments in South Africa.
The Charleston hospital worker's strike is also the product of the activities of the last decade of the civil rights struggle. The years of day-to-day voter registration work done by Esau Jenkins and his colleagues and the political education which the community has gotten from this are part of the groundwork that was laid. Septima Clark's pioneering work on John's Island, outside the city, in developing a Citizen's Education Program to wipe out illiteracy and replace this handicap with a new sense of confidence is another part of the foundation. Many members of the Island work in the hospitals in Charleston. Then there is the emergence in recent years of a group of young brothers in Charleston of Afro-American expression who are properly sensitive to economic conditions and are producing a leadership of the quality of William Saunders.
The Charleston hospital strike also represents a landmark in the growth of concern in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with the problems of the poor in general, the working poor included. Beginning in 1963 with a limited involvement with the grievances of Negro steel workers in Atlanta and active participation with striking workers at the Scripto Pen Company in that city a couple of years later; then active involvement with garbage workers in Memphis, Atlanta and St. Petersburg last year; and the tragic assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., its founder and first president- these experiences profoundly helped to shape the SCLC commitment to the striking hospital workers in Charleston.
The nearly three million hospital and nursing home workers throughout the country are probably the largest bloc of underpaid urban workers in the nation. They represent a powerful potential for the Poor People's Campaign and in their ethnic composition embrace a cross-section of the poor. Consequently, SCLC responded favorably to a proposal from Local 1199 that they cooperate in an organizing campaign among hospital workers. Local 1199 of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Workers (AFL-CIO) had a record of achievement in organizing hospital workers in New York and New Jersey, improving wages and conditions. Having formed a National Organizing Committee they were now prepared to extend themselves to projects in Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Charleston.