I Am 2018 - On February 1st, honor the 1968 Memphis sanitation workers & their fight for justice

50 years ago this April 4th, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. While Dr King is celebrated as a key leader of our nation’s civil rights movement and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, American union members also recognize him as a key leader of our nation’s labor movement – and, in fact, he came to Memphis in the spring of 1968 in order to organize support for municipal sanitation workers who had gone on strike for union recognition.

The strike was inspired by a tragedy. On February 1, 1968, two Memphis sanitation workers, Echol Cole and Robert Walker, were working in a torrential rain storm. The city had provided them with no rain gear or any way to get out of the storm, so they took shelter in the only place available to them – the back of their garbage truck. Without any warning, the truck malfunctioned, and the two workers were crushed to death.

When the city responded to their deaths with indifference, Cole and Walker’s union brothers in AFSCME Local 1733 decided to go on strike. They sought to win recognition not only for their union, but for their humanity – thus, they chose “I AM A MAN” as the motto of their strike.

This February 1st, union members across the country will commemorate our brothers, Echol Cole and Robert Walker, on the 50th anniversary of their tragic deaths. The Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO urges all unions and allied organizations, and all union members and working people in the Delaware Valley, to join us in observing a minute of silence at 1:00 PM on February 1st, 2018.


Here are ways you can participate in I AM 2018: