Working people across the United States have stepped up to help out our friends, neighbors and communities during these trying times. In our regular Service + Solidarity Spotlight series, we'll showcase one of these stories every day. Here’s today’s story.
On Tuesday, AFSCME released the first episode of “I AM Story,” a new podcast detailing the history and legacy of the 1968 Memphis sanitation strike. Fifty-five years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated there while supporting the strike. The comprehensive series will examine the origins of the strike and events leading up to King’s death, and the aftermath of the strike.
“The deaths of Robert Walker and Echol Cole in the back of a garbage truck on that cold, rainy day in 1968 set off a strike in Memphis like no other,” said AFSCME President Lee Saunders. “Black sanitation workers took a courageous stand, a stand that drew the American labor movement and the civil rights movement together to change the course of our history.”
Today, the fight continues for fair wages, safe working conditions, collective bargaining rights and more. We also are still fighting to ensure that our children are able to learn this history, with radical politicians banning books like Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop from school shelves.
Underscoring the lasting impact of this moment on AFSCME’s history, Saunders said, “In order to move forward, we cannot forget what happened in Memphis. The sanitation strikers put their lives on the line for dignity and respect on the job—not just for themselves, but for everyone being mistreated and everyone whose rights were being denied. We will continue to educate our communities and organize around the strikers’ iconic slogan, ‘I Am a Man,’ which still holds so much power after all these years.”