Fifty years ago on February 1, 1968, two sanitation workers, Echol Cole and Robert Walker, lost their lives in the back of a garbage truck in Memphis, TN. Their tragic deaths sparked a movement: 1,300 of their AFSCME Local 1733 brothers stood together, risked everything, and went on strike. They demanded dignity and respect. They marched in the streets carrying placards with four simple, but powerful words: "I AM A MAN."
On Feb. 1, 2018, 50 years later, AFSCME, its labor affiliates and civic leaders across the nation, honored those workers tragically lost, and the labor struggle that followed with moments of silence, rallies, speeches, actions and more. Now it's our duty as unionsists to keep the vigilance going! Visit IAm2018.org
to learn more about the strong history of the AFSCME movement and how you can take action.
A storm on February 1, 1968, forced two brother sanitation workers to seek shelter in the back of their truck. The workers repeated warnings to management about faulty equipment proved tragically prophetic that day when the truck's compactor kicked on, crushing the two men to death. Their coworkers decided they had had enough. Their deaths sparked the walkout of 1,300 fellow AFSCME sanitation workers.
In honoring their legacy, and the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King who gave his life for their struggle, together, we resolve February 1 as a day to wake up America. There is so much to be done, so much business unfinished from 1968. America needs to re-engage with workers' aspirations: for dignity on the job, for quality public services, for prosperity to be shared among all of us, for human rights for everyone.
"America needs to re-engage with workers’ aspirations: for dignity on the job, for quality public services, for prosperity to be shared among all of us, for human rights for everyone," said AFSCME Local 1733 Interim President Keith Johnson of Memphis, who encourages AFSCME sisters and brothers to stand in solidarity with him and his union members.
Moment of Silence: An open letter from AFSCME Local 1733 Interim President (Memphis)