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MLK, Jr’s Garbage Men Might Lose Their Jobs!

From an outraged Associated Press:

Decades after King’s death, Memphis jobs at risk

By ADRIAN SAINZ | April 3, 2013

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — They rode the streets of Memphis in creaky, dangerous garbage trucks, picking up trash from home after home, toiling for a sanitation department that treated them with indifference bordering on disdain. In 1968 those workers took to the streets, marching with civil rights leader the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to demand better working conditions, higher pay and union protection.

Forty-five years after King was killed supporting their historic strike, some of the same men who marched with him still pick up Memphis’ garbage — and now they are fighting to hold on to jobs that some city leaders want to hand over to a private company.

It would seem that having a job for life as a unionized garbage man in Memphis is yet another new civil right.

"It looks like they’re trying to take us down again," said 81-year-old Elmore Nickleberry, one of the original strikers who still drives a garbage truck at night for the sanitation department. Nickleberry is expected to take part in a Thursday march to honor King’s sacrifice on the 45th anniversary of his death.

81 and he still drives a garbage truck?

But city council members who favor privatization say the city can’t afford to ignore a chance to save $8 million to $15 million in a tough economy.

As the leaders and workers stake out their positions on today’s jobs, the shadow of the struggles of 1968 looms over them.

Forty-five years ago, Nickleberry and Memphis’ 1,300 other sanitation workers were overworked and underpaid, picking up others’ grimy, leaking waste without proper uniforms. They faced the daily risk of severe injury or death while working with malfunctioning garbage trucks.

They took a job no one else wanted, mostly black workers picking up the trash of white people, serving in what some scholars liken to an urban extension of plantation life on the cotton fields that fueled Memphis’ economy…

After two workers were crushed to death in a truck’s compactor, the sanitation workers went on strike Feb. 11. They demanded a raise that would take them off welfare lines. The situation had obvious racial undertones: Most of the workers were black, and city officials standing against the union were white.

White Democrats.

With the slogan "I am a man," the workers also wanted the respect and dignity that comes with doing a low-paying, back-breaking job with great pride and effort.

King came to Memphis to support them. He delivered his last public speech April 3, declaring, "I’ve been to the mountaintop."

The next day, standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel, King was killed by a rifle bullet fired by James Earl Ray from a boardinghouse across the street.

Of course, Mr. King wasn’t killed because of their strike. But that doesn’t matter.

The assassination led to riots in Memphis and several U.S. cities. But the strike, stained forever with King’s blood, turned to victory when the city acquiesced to a 10-cent raise and succumbed to other demands, including unionization.

Labor scholars call it a watershed moment…

Undoubtedly pages of our schools’ textbooks are devoted to it. Just like they ignore how the public sector unions has destroyed America’s cities.

This article was posted by Steve Gilbert on Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013. Comments are currently closed.

2 Responses to “MLK, Jr’s Garbage Men Might Lose Their Jobs!”

  1. USSFreedom

    Just wondering how the PRIVATE company will save all those millions? Maybe, the great State of Tennessee handing out Drivers Licenses to illegals may have something to do with it.

  2. MLK would be a gun owner, after he saw what these trolls have done to the work he died for.

    That’s all I’m saying.


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