VOL. 133 | NO. 32 | Tuesday, February 13, 2018
Marchers Mark 50th Anniversary of Start of 1968 Strike
By Bill Dries
Several hundred people marched Downtown Monday, Feb. 12, to mark 50 years to the day that the historic 1968 sanitation workers strike began. (Daily News/Bill Dries)
Several hundred people marched from Clayborn Temple to City Hall Monday, Feb. 12, 50 years to the day that the 1968 sanitation workers strike began.
The march, coordinated by the new Poor People’s Campaign being organized by Rev. William Barber, leader of the national Moral Mondays movement, and the Fight for $15 minimum wage effort, retraced the route the striking workers in 1968 took in daily marches.
Many in Monday’s crowd were not born in 1968. But a few union leaders and sanitation workers from the 1968 strike were at the head of the march along with U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen.
The Hamilton High School and Memphis Mass Bands were part of the march as well until the last two blocks when those in the march walked in silence to the Civic Center Plaza outside City Hall.
A group of 10 buses brought in marchers, many from other cities to join local ministers and religious leaders and local activists in the Fight for $15 and Poor People’s Campaign efforts.
Barber didn’t attend but the marchers heard a recorded message from him linking the cause of a $15 minimum wage to that of the 1968 strikers who he said, “simply wanted dignity and a living wage.”
“The Bible is also clear that we must be willing at times to shut down the factories, to shut down the malls, to get into the street, to cry, to wail and to make it known that it doesn’t have to be this way,” he said.
Baxter Leach, one of the 1968 strikers told the group the march brought back memories.
“All of those days we marched for justice to stand up for the rights of our children,” he said. “It’s cold out here. I hope y’all get what want. If you want it, stand up. We stood up to be men.”
The Memphis Democrat said the march recalled Dr. Martin Luther King’s last crusade “not for civil rights per se but for economic justice which is a civil right.”
“A $15 minimum wage is a civil right of this generation,” he said as he urged those in the march to register to vote and register others to vote in the upcoming mid-term elections and reverse Republican efforts including the recent tax reform bill Cohen called “a tax scam.”
“We’ve got to take back the Congress in November and we’ve got to take the White House back,” he said.
Earlier in the day Monday, protesters tried to close the McDonald’s restaurant at 2073 Union with demands for a $15 minimum wage and a union to represent workers. McDonald’s has been a target of Fight for $15 protests in recent years.