by Clyde Weiss | June 08, 2011
Induction ceremony at the U.S. Department of Labor. (Photo credit: Fred Watkins)
Forty-three years after their courageous strike for dignity and the right to collective bargaining, 1,300 Memphis sanitation workers – members of AFSCME Local 1733 – were officially installed into the U.S. Department of Labor’s “Labor Hall of Fame.”
The June 4 ceremony, at the University of Memphis, was the department’s second and final installation event. The first ceremony occurred in April in Washington, DC. View a video of that ceremony here.
“The Memphis sanitation strike was about the basic right of collective bargaining and the dignity and respect that workers deserve for their labor,” says AFSCME Pres. Gerald W. McEntee.
“The sanitation workers, as members of AFSCME, have given our union a proud legacy. Their inclusion in the Labor Hall of Fame not only makes us recall their struggle, but challenges us to continue their fight wherever the rights of workers is threatened.”
The induction of the sanitation workers into the Hall of Fame marks the first time a group of workers has been included for taking collective action. Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis, who officiated at both events, discussed the strike’s impact on U.S. history in a column written in The Commercial Appeal. She notes:
“The 63-day strike marked an important turning point in the fight for civil rights and workplace equality across America. It was a successful catalyst for efforts to secure collective bargaining rights for public service workers in many states across the country.”
The 1968 strike also marked the last campaign for justice of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He traveled to Memphis to join the battle, but was assassinated before the strike ended. In shame, the city agreed to settle the strike.
Learn more about the Memphis sanitation strike here.