Senate Passes Resolution to Commemorate 50th Anniversary of Memphis Sanitation Workers' Strike

Posted on March 1, 2018

WASHINGTON, March 1, 2018 – United States Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Doug Jones (D-Ala.) today released the following statements on Senate passage of a resolution to recognize the 50th anniversary of the 1968 strike of Memphis sanitation workers, an historic event in the Civil Rights movement. The senators introduced the resolution on February 13. 

“Fifty years ago, 1,300 African-American sanitation workers in Memphis took a stand for freedom. This resolution honors their legacy,” Alexander said. “It is important that our children grow up learning about the contribution these Tennesseans – and many others – made to racial justice -- and I'm glad the Senate passed this resolution."

“The Memphis sanitation workers strike was a pivotal moment in America’s civil rights struggle. Fifty years later, we honor the courage of these workers who personified Dr. Martin Luther King’s message: ‘The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy,” said Cardin. “This is a story that must be told to and understood by future generations because the struggle for freedom continues to this day.”

"The Memphis sanitation workers who led and participated in the strike displayed a great deal of courage in pursuit of equality, and I am proud to join my colleagues in honoring their legacy,” said Corker. “This is a significant part of Tennessee and American history, and it’s important that future generations know about the contributions and sacrifices that have been made to better our country.”

“After enduring years of poor working conditions and low pay, 1,300 African-American sanitation workers in Memphis risked their livelihoods and joined together to put an end to the discrimination they faced every day at their jobs,” said Jones. “This resolution honors their sacrifice, their commitment to economic equality, and their often overlooked, but essential, contribution to the civil rights movement.”

In 1968, 1,300 African-American sanitation workers in Memphis went on strike in order to protest working conditions -- there was a history of discrimination in pay and benefits and hazardous working conditions. On February 12, 1968, the workers went on strike, demanding recognition of the union and increased pay. On April 3, 1968, Dr. King addressed a rally of 10,000 African-American workers and residents, members of the clergy, and union members at Mason Temple, the Memphis headquarters of the Church of God in Christ. On April 29, 2011, the 1,300 sanitation workers were inducted into the Department of Labor’s Labor Hall of Honor.

U.S. Representative Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) introduced the House resolution on January 30. 

###