AFSCME mourns the loss of Alvin Turner, a participant of the 1968 Memphis, Tennessee, sanitation workers’ strike for higher wages, better working conditions and the right to organize.
Turner was one of 1,300 sanitation workers who went on strike for two months to win dignity on the job and recognition of their union, AFSCME Local 1733.
The nonviolent strike brought Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to Memphis, where he was assassinated before the struggle reached its successful conclusion. Turner passed away on Sept. 18 at the age of 83.
To honor Mr. Turner’s legacy, a street will be named for him. Memphis Councilman Joe Brown, presented the resolution to place signs on Dunlap Street at Chelsea Avenue, across from Turner’s home, and at other locations along Dunlap. The signs should be up by November, he said.
“I would not be in the City Council if it wasn’t for these people,” he said. “Turner was a good man — he deserved it.”
In 2013, a stretch of Beale Street in front of AFSCME Local 1733 was renamed “1968 Strikers Lane” in honor of the sanitation workers.
In May 2011, the strikers were honored by the U.S. Department of Labor and were inducted into its Hall of Honor for their role in what the agency called the “watershed moment in the civil rights movement that sparked a wave of African-American unionization across the South.”
Dr. King “didn’t die in vain,” Turner said at the Hall of Honor ceremony. “If it hadn’t been for Dr. King coming to Memphis, we wouldn’t have won.”
Before the ceremony at the Labor Department, Turner and seven other members of the original group of striking workers met with President Barack Obama at the White House.
Referring to the nation’s first African-American president, then-Labor Sec. Hilda Solis told the group later, “He stands on your shoulders. If it was not for you, he might not be our president.”