Dan Duncan, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Maritime Trades Department, participated in the Memphis, Tennessee I AM Rally for Justice on April 4, 2018. This event is part of a weeklong commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the sanitation workers strike and the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.
The night before his assassination, King gave his famous “I have been to the mountaintop” speech where he also said, “We’ve got to give ourselves to this struggle until the end. Nothing would be more tragic than to stop at this point in Memphis. We’ve got to see it through”
The original strike, which began in February 1968, followed years of segregation, unfair working conditions, and a history of poor race and labor relations in the city. The spark that set off the strike was the deaths of two workers, Robert Walker and Echol Cole, who were crushed by a garbage compactor. Striking workers carried signs with the iconic statement, “I Am a Man,” which became a rallying cry for their plea for recognition of their human dignity.
Shortly after King’s assassination, the city of Memphis recognized AFSCME Local 1733 as the union’s representative.
This week’s Rally for Justice included speeches and music. The kickoff began at 8 a.m. Participants then marched from AFSCME Headquarters to the Mason Temple, where the rally continued from noon until 1:30 p.m. The estimated crowd size is 25,000.
MTD affiliate AFSCME and the Church of God in Christ organized the week’s events.
For more information on the rally and other events, go here: https://www.afscme.org/now/a-historic-weeks-events-commemorate-the-tragedy-and-triumph-of-50-years-ago
For additional historical information about the original strike 1968, go here: http://kingencyclopedia.stanford.edu/encyclopedia/encyclopedia/enc_memphis_sanitation_workers_strike_1968/