Memphis sanitation strike

1968 American strike / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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The Memphis sanitation strike began on February 12, 1968, in response to the deaths of sanitation workers Echol Cole and Robert Walker.[1][2]  The deaths served as a breaking point for more than 1,300 African American men from the Memphis Department of Public Works as they demanded higher wages, time and a half overtime, dues check-off, safety measures, and pay for the rainy days when they were told to go home.[2]

Memphis sanitation strike
Part of the Civil Rights Movement
The strikers' slogan was "I AM a Man".
DateFebruary 12 – April 16, 1968
(2 months and 4 days)
Caused by
Resulted in
  • City of Memphis
Lead figures

Sanitation workers

  • T. O. Jones

Southern Christian Leadership Conference

Mayor of Memphis

The Memphis sanitation strike was led by T.O. Jones and had the support of Jerry Wurf, president of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).[3][4][2]  The AFSCME was chartered in 1964 by the state; the city of Memphis refused to recognize it.

Mayor Henry Loeb refused to recognize the strike and rejected the City Council vote, insisting that only he possessed the power to recognize the union.[1][4][5] The Memphis sanitation strike prompted Martin Luther King Jr.'s presence, where he famously gave the "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech a day before his assassination.