Archive for April 30th, 2011


weekly address

Ending Taxpayer Subsidies for Oil Companies


43 years later….

President Barack Obama talks with participants from the 1968 Memphis sanitation strike, an iconic campaign in civil rights and labor rights history, during a meeting in the Map Room of the White House, April 29, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

Professor Michael Honey: On Feb. 1, 1968, two sanitation workers in Memphis, Echol Cole and Robert Walker, rode out a driving rainstorm by climbing inside one of the Sanitation Division’s old “wiener barrel” trucks. The walls inside the packer were caked with putrefying garbage of all sorts—yard waste, dead chickens, moldy food.

Cole and Walker’s soiled, worn-out clothes smelled of garbage. The city did not provide them with gloves, uniforms or a place to shower. They did hard, heavy work, lifting garbage tubs and carrying them on their shoulders or heads or pushcarts to dump their contents into outmoded trucks.

As crew chief, Willie Crain drove the loaded garbage packer along Colonial Street, he heard the hydraulic ram go into action, apparently set off by an electrical malfunction. He pulled the truck over to the curb immediately but the ram was already jamming Cole and Walker back into the compactor.

The men were crushed like so much garbage.

They were black like nearly everyone else working in sanitation — except the white bosses. Memphis assigned hauling garbage to blacks only and relied on cheap wages and the dictatorial rule of white supervisors to win its awards as one of the nation’s cleanest cities.

These avoidable deaths rubbed raw long-existing frustrations. The sanitation workers had no rights and could do nothing about it.

But on Feb. 12, Lincoln’s birthday, they did something about it. Nearly 1,300 black men in the Memphis Department of Public Works, giving no notice to anyone, went on strike. For nearly two months, these men marched every day. They endured beatings, arrests and tremendous economic hardship in the dead of winter. With the help of Martin Luther King Jr., they eventually won….

Read full article here







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