I. The More Things Change, The More They Stay the Same

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1 The 1968 Sanitation Workers Strike Commemoration Film Screening events of I Am A Man: From Memphis, A Lesson In Life Produced by the Memphis Tourism Foundation, 2009 Study Guide for Faith Communities Sponsored by the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference it is a crime for people to live in this rich nation and receive starvation wages The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Address at Mass Meeting at the Bishop Charles Mason Temple (1968) I. The More Things Change, The More They Stay the Same The Origin of the Sanitation Workers Strike (1968) On 1 February 1968, two Memphis garbage collectors, Echol Cole and Robert Walker, were crushed to death by a malfunctioning truck. Twelve days later, frustrated by the city s response to the latest event in a long pattern of neglect and abuse of its black employees, 1,300 black men from the Memphis Department of Public Works went on strike. Sanitation workers, led by garbage-collector-turned-union-organizer, T. O. Jones, and supported by the president of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Jerry Wurf, demanded recognition of their union, better safety standards, and a decent wage. At this same time, William Bill Lucy served as the associate director of AFSCME s legislation and community affairs divisions. The union, which had been granted a charter by AFSCME in 1964, had attempted a strike in 1966, but it failed, in large part because workers were unable to arouse the support of Memphis s religious community or middle class. Conditions for black sanitation workers worsened when Henry Loeb became the mayor of Memphis in January Loeb refused to take dilapidated trucks out of service or pay overtime when men were forced to work late-night shifts. Sanitation

2 workers earned wages so low that many were on welfare and hundreds relied on food stamps to feed their families. 1 Today, in the U.S. Supreme Court case of Janus v. American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, attorneys will argue that public employees who refuse to join a labor union can nonetheless be required to pay the portion of union dues that cover the expenses of collective bargaining, contract administration, and grievance adjustment purposes; objectors to union membership or policy may not, however, have their dues used for other ideological or political purposes. The Janus vs. American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees is one specific US Supreme Court case that could gut the potential for labor union organizing and protections for workers in the public sector. Suggested Discussion Questions: 1. How do we see these same conditions -- unions fighting for recognition, unsafe working environments, and unlivable wages -- plaguing the lives of workers today? How are workers still a vulnerable group when we consider healthcare provisions, livable wages, and legal protections? 2. Where are the future jobs in goal economy? What is the current vision for the future participation of humans vs. robots and bar codes in the global economy? 3. How might the church return to its roots to support job creation and economic business development in line with the future global economy? 1 e_1968/

3 II. Fighting Powers & Principalities The Method of the Sanitation Workers Strike: Nonviolent Direct Action You may well ask, Why direct action? Why sit-ins, marches, etc.? Isn t negotiation a better path? You are exactly right in your call for negotiation. Indeed, this is the purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and establish such creative tension that a community that has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Letter From a Birmingham Jail (1963) From the beginning of the strike, workers employed nonviolent direct action to speak truth to power. On February 22, 1968, sanitation workers and their supporters engaged in a sit in to pressure the Memphis City Council to recognize the union and raise wages. After their demonstration was disrupted by police officers, Rev. James Lawson -- a Methodist pastor and tutor in nonviolent direct action -- organized Community on the Move for Equality (COME), which trained young people of all colors and sanitation workers in the philosophy and methods of nonviolent direct action. As a result, over 100 people were arrested.

4 Dr. King realized that the strategy of nonviolent direct action would not succeed if he did not return to Memphis to complete the campaign. After a divisive meeting on 30 March, SCLC staff agreed to support King s return to Memphis. He arrived on April 3rd and was persuaded to speak by a crowd of dedicated sanitation workers who had braved another storm to hear him. A weary King preached about his own mortality, telling the group, Like anybody, I would like to live a long life--longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. 2 Influences on Dr. King s philosophy of Nonviolent Direct Action: Rev. Howard Washington Thurman Rev. Dr. Benjamin Elijah Mays Mahatma Gandhi Rev. James Lawson Bayard Rustin Diane Nash Suggested Discussion Questions: 1. How can nonviolent direct action still be an effective strategy to speak truth to power? 2. COME was organized in the basement of a Memphis church on February 24, What is the role of the faith community in organizing movements for social change? 3. What other methods of nonviolent direct action can be used to raise consciousness and disrupt the social order? 4. In what way might your community of faith or community organization engage in nonviolent direct action today? Sit-ins Boycotts Marches Public hearings Strikes Voter registration and education Lawsuits 2 King Jr., Martin L. "I've Been to the Mountaintop," in A Call to Conscience: The Landmark Speeches of Dr Martin Luther King Jr., ed. Clayborne Carson and Kris Shepard (Hachette Book Group, 2001).

5 Accountability sessions Town Halls Elections Hunger strikes Kneel in (at churches) III. From Civil Rights to Human Rights I Am A Man: A Declaration of Humanity Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. declared that all labor has dignity. The struggle for sanitation workers rights was also a struggle to reclaim their inherent dignity and humanity. The sanitation workers strike was an expansion of the civil rights movement s focus. Dr. King was a personalist as a result of his training at Boston University School of Theology. As a result, Dr. King believed that any affront to the human personality was an affront to the image of God. To this end, Dr. King used the momentum for the agapic energy (energy produced by the love of humankind) 3, nurtured by the Civil Rights Movement to fuel the struggles for human rights and labor rights in Memphis. 3 Cope, Cassie. Civil rights leader explains how she leveraged agapic energy to bring change. The State Media Company. (Carolina Regional Publishing, 2014).

6 Suggested Discussion Questions: 1. How do we see the intersection of civil rights and human rights in our contemporary society? 2. What are some of the human rights violations workers experience today? 3. If we accept the premise that all labor has dignity, what does it look like for our government to treat all workers equitably in America? 4. Dr. King was a pastor who used religious authority to fight for the rights of workers. How can religious leaders use their platforms to advance the cause of labor justice and human rights? SACRED TEXTS Deuteronomy 24:14-15 Do not take advantage of a hired worker who I poor and needy, whether that worker is a fellow Israelite of a foreigner residing in one of your towns. Pay them their wages each day before sunset, because they are poor and are counting on it. Otherwise, they may cry to the Lord against you, and you will be guilty of sin. (NIV)

7 James 5:14 Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. (NIV) Leviticus 19:13 Do not defraud or rob your neighbor. Do not hold back the wages of a hired worker overnight. (NIV) Matthew 20:2-5 He agreed to pay then a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard. About nine in the morning, he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, You also go and work in my vineyard and I will pay you whatever is right. And so they went. * GLOSSARY (To share before discussion questions in order to support a common understanding). Economic Justice- Economic justice is a component of social justice. It is a set of moral principles for building economic institutions, the ultimate goal of which is to create an opportunity for each person to create a sufficient material foundation upon which to have a dignified, productive, and creative life beyond economics. Nonviolent direct action- Examples of nonviolent direct action (also known as nonviolence, nonviolent resistance, or civil resistance) can include sit-ins, strikes, workplace occupations, blockades, or hacktivism, while violent direct action may include political violence or assaults. Intersection of civil rights and human rights- the ways in which human rights violations and multiple discriminations in the execution of citizenship places a devastating impact on their victims.

8 Religious authority- Religious authority is an ultimate source of authority containing accurate and authoritative knowledge about God or a deity who can give guidance on how their believers should behave.

9 Timeline for the 1968 Sanitation Workers Strike in Memphis 4 Tuesday, Feb. 1 - Two sanitation workers, Echol Cole and Robert Walker, are killed in an accident on a city truck. Monday, Feb Memphis sanitation and public employees strike after last-minute attempts to resolve grievances fail. Newspapers claim 200 workers of 1,300 remain on the job but only 38 of 180 trucks move. Mayor Loeb says strike is illegal but says "this office stands ready... to talk to anyone about his legitimate questions at any time." Tuesday, Feb An International Union official flies in from Washington to meet with the mayor. He calls for union recognition, dues checkoff and negotiations to resolve the workers' grievances. The mayor says he'll hire new workers unless the strikers return to their jobs. 4 Complete chronology:

10 Sunday, Feb. 18- AFSCME International President Jerry Wurf arrives and says the strike can end only when the workers' demands are met. The Memphis Baptist Ministerial Association arranges a meeting between the mayor and union leaders moderated by a Memphis rabbi. It goes until 5 a.m. Tuesday, Feb.20 - The union and the NAACP call for a citywide boycott of downtown merchants. Thursday, Feb. 22 A Memphis City Council sub-committee headed by Councilman Fred Davis urges that the city recognize the union, in rowdy meeting with council chambers packed by more than 1,000 strikers and supporters. Meeting adjourns without action. Friday, Feb. 23 The city council refuses to recognize the union. Police attack strikers during a march on Main Street, using mace. Saturday, Feb Black leaders and ministers form citywide organization to support the strike and the boycott. City obtains a court injunction to keep union from staging demonstrations or picketing. Sunday, Feb Ministers call on their congregations to boycott and march. Monday, Feb Daily marches begin, amid rumors that a compromise has been received by the mayor. Tuesday, Feb The mayor backs down on the compromise. Hundreds demonstrate at city hall. Courts cite 23 union members for contempt of court. Thursday, Feb Mayor Loeb sends each striker a letter inviting him back to work without union recognition. Two strike leaders arrested for jaywalking. Union files suit in federal court. Friday, March 1 - Mayor meets with black ministers. Windows at his home are broken and he blames the strikers. Federal judge rejects union's suit. Sunday, March 3 - Eight-hour gospel singing marathon at Bishop Charles Mason Temple raises money for strikers and shows community support.

11 Monday, March 4 - State Sen. Frank White proposes bill to create state mediation board to resolve impasse. Mayor opposes it. Tuesday, March 5 - Ministers announce the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. will come to Memphis, as 116 strikers and supporters are arrested for sitting in at city hall. Wednesday, March 6 - Seven union leaders given 10- day sentences and fines for contempt of court. Strikers stage a mock funeral at city hall, lamenting the death of freedom in Memphis. Thursday, March 7 - City Council votes against dues checkoff proposal. Friday, March 8 - Trash fires in South Memphis are blamed on strike supporters. Saturday, March 9 - At mayor's suggestion, National Guard begins holding riot drills. Monday, March 11 - Students skip high school to participate in march, led by black ministers. Two students arrested. Wednesday, March 13 - Nine demonstrators arrested at Main and McCall. Police claim they threatened shoppers. Thursday, March 14 - National NAACP leader Roy Wilkins addresses meeting of 10,000 or more and expresses support for a firm, peaceful protest. Six pickets are arrested and charged with blocking the Democrat Road sanitation depot entrance. Saturday, March 16 - Mayor says entire city should vote on dues checkoff questions in August. Union says no. Monday, March 18 - Newspapers claim strike is failing as scabs operate 90 garbage trucks. But 17,000 Memphians attend rally where Dr. King calls for a citywide march on March 22. Wednesday, March 20 - Mayor restates his opposition to union demands. Friday, March 22 - Record snowstorm blocks Dr. King s return. March is canceled. City and union agree to mediation. Round-the-clock meetings begin.

12 Wednesday, March 27 - SCLC Leader Ralph David Abernathy addresses rally in support of strikers. Mediation talks collapse. Thursday, March 28 - March from Clayborn Temple, led by Dr. King, is interrupted by window breaking. Police move into crowds with nightsticks, mace, tear gas and gunfire. A 16-year old boy, Larry Payne, is shot to death. Police arrest 280, report about 60 injured, mostly blacks. State legislature authorizes 7 p.m. curfew and 4,000 National Guardsmen move in. Friday, March 29 - Some 300 sanitation workers and ministers, march peacefully and silently from Clayborn Temple to City Hall escorted by five armored personnel carriers, five jeeps, three huge military trucks and dozens of Guardsmen with bayonets fixed. President Johnson and AFL-CIO President George Meany offer assistance in resolving the dispute. Mayor Loeb turns them down. Sunday, March 31 - Ministers urge restraint. Dr. King cancels trip to Africa and plans return to Memphis to lead peaceful march. Attempts to renew mediation of strike fail. Monday, April 1 - Curfew is lifted. Tuesday, April 2 - Hundreds attend funeral for Larry Payne. National Guard withdrawn. Wednesday, April 3 - Dr. King returns to Memphis and addresses rally, delivering his "I've been to the Mountaintop" address. Thursday, April 4 - A sniper, later captured and identified as James Earl Ray, assassinates Dr. King as he stands on the balcony outside his room at the Lorraine Motel. Friday, April 5 - Federal troops and Atty. Gen. Ramsey Clark are in Memphis as FBI begins international manhunt for assassin. President Johnson instructs Undersecretary of Labor James Reynolds to take charge of mediation to settle the strike. Saturday, April 6 - Reynolds meets with Mayor Loeb in the first of a long string of meetings-first with one side, then the other, rarely together. Monday, April 8 - Mrs. King and dozens of national figures lead a peaceful memorial march

13 through downtown in tribute to Dr. King and in support of the strike. Tuesday, April 9 - Funeral services are held in Atlanta for Dr. King. Wednesday, April 10 - Reynolds steps up meetings with city and union officials, most without publicity. Tuesday, April 16 - AFSCME leaders announce that agreement has been reached. The strikers vote to accept it. The strike is over. Resource Listing: Illustrator: Tara Jacoby Cope, Cassie. Civil rights leader explains how she leveraged agapic energy to bring change. The State Media Company. (Carolina Regional Publishing, 2014). Honey, Michael K. Going Down Jericho Road: The Memphis Strike, Martin Luther King s Last Campaign. (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2008).

14 King Jr., Martin L."Address at Mass Meeting at the Bishop Charles Mason Temple," 18 March ng_at_the_bishop_charles_mason_temple/index.html King Jr., Martin Luther. All Labor Has Dignity, ed. Michael K. Honey (Boston: Beacon Press, 2011). King, Martin Luther Jr. If the Negro Wins, Labor Wins, in A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King Jr., ed. James M. Washington (New York: HarperOne, 1986), p King Jr., Martin L. "I've Been to the Mountaintop," in A Call to Conscience: The Landmark Speeches of Dr Martin Luther King Jr., ed. Clayborne Carson and Kris Shepard (Hachette Book Group, 2001).

15 Appendix A. Copy of the Boycott Strategy Paper written by Rev. Dr. Henry Logan Starks, chief strategist for the Memphis Downtown Boycott *Note: In 2017, a handwritten copy of this strategy paper was found by Dr. Starks daughter Rev. Dr. Almella Starks- Umoja. It is an amazing instruction on the art of organizing and mobilization. Working Strategy for the Boycott February 24, 1968 I. Stay away from downtown and all branch stores of downtown business. II. No new clothes for Easter. III. Strategy to make the boycott work: 1. Systematic demonstrations nonviolent 2. Monday poster walks up and down Main Street concentrating on Parel Lowenstein 3. Tuesday demonstrations at some of the branch stores Julius Lewis, Goldsmiths, Lowenstein s, etc. 4. Write a leaflet that will be handed out at each demonstration. 5. A telephone committee to make calls across the city ask every sanitation worker, every minister every member of every church to call at least five (5) other persons urging them to stay away from downtown stores and all their branches and to plan no new clothes for Easter. IV. The Ministers 1. Organize an Action Committee in each church 2. Take offerings for the campaign 3. Have a Telephone Committee call every member to carry out the boycott 4. Have every member call at least (5) others 5. Ministers can also move about their neighborhood encouraging people not to buy from downtown stores or branches and Loeb barbeque. 6. The ministers might also try a large march downtown every other day or something

16 7. Another possibility is for churches on a designated Sunday leave their churches at a designated hour and march together downtown for a major prayer service. 8. Ministers can urge Soul force (see definition under V). 9. Stop buying the newspaper- the two daily s (sic). Call and cancel paperboy. V. Discipline for the Effort 1. Soul force is the mark of our effort a. Soul force means goodwill, good humor, a feeling of respect and affection for each other a recognition of our dignity. b. We will apply soul force to each other and to all of our opponents. c. This means that we will not provoke or participate in violence. Our strength will lie in this. VI. Let the Strategy Committee work throughout the week and plan strategy week by week. In other words, we should be ready Wednesday or Thursday with the next steps in our actions. VII. VIII. IX. Organization 1. A large committee that represents the whole community. 2. A Strategy Committee that will carry out the responsibility for all the action. a. Transportation Committee b. Telephone Committee c. Minister s Committee d. Food Relief Committee e. Barber Shops and Beauty Shops Committee f. Social Clubs and Fraternal Committee (Each of these committees should be on the Strategy Committee) A movement headquarters with secretarial help and night and day telephones. Another possibility would be to have a Youth Chairman to involve youth and young people.

17 Appendix B. Labor Justice Litany SDPC Labor Justice Sunday, February 4, 2018 A Litany for the Rights and Dignity of the Poor (adapted from Bill of Rights for the Poor by Rev. Dr. Frederick Haynes, III) L: We, God s people, believe in the liberation and empowerment of oppressed people all over the world. We believe that the criminalization and dehumanization of the poor is immoral and against the will of God. We believe, as Dr. Martin Luther King said, injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. P. All people, including the poor, have the right to pursue life, liberty and happiness without institutional barriers. We stand in opposition to the continuation of racism, sexism, classism, imperialism and policies which result in the disenfranchisement of all marginalized people. L: The poor are human beings, created by God, with a right to public policies which invest in them and in their well-being. P: We call for partnerships between corporate and community-based groups which open doors and invest in the least of these.. L: One in every six children in America is a victim of poverty; one in every three children of color is growing up in poverty. To be pro-life is to be supportive of the needs of poor children, too many of whom do not have access to quality health care, education and housing. P: Lord, in your mercy, hear us! (continued)

18 L: All people should have equal protection under the law as is stated in the United States Constitution, and the poor must be protected from injustice meted out by the justice system. To be poor is not a crime. We call for an end to their criminalization in our justice system. P: Lord, in your mercy, hear us! L: We call for unequivocal civilian control of our neighborhoods and citizen review boards which have the power to discipline police officers who engage in abusive treatment of human beings, many of whom s only crime is that they are poor. P: All forms of human oppression must be dismantled. Lord, hear our prayer! L: While many criticize the poor for their plight, the fact of the matter is that many poor people are underemployed, working two to three jobs and still unable to make ends meet.. Employers often steal their wages by making them work hours for which they are not paid. P: The poor have the right to full employment and a guaranteed income that equip them to rise above poverty. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer and convict those who employ the poor to treat them as they themselves would want to be treated! L: Punishing the poor by exploiting them is not in alignment with the will of God, who maintained that how we treat the least of these is how we treat the God we say we love. P: The God of Justice cannot be pleased. We call for pay equity for women, for people of color, for all marginalized people; we call for legislation which protects and honors their work and their humanity. L: All women have the right to be treated with dignity. Lord, hear our prayer and mobilize us to work for their protection and justice. P: We, God s people believe in the liberation and empowerment of oppressed people all over the world. We covenant with You, almighty God, to work for the liberation, protection and fair treatment of all of Your children. We know that until all of us are free, none of us are free. A: We believe in the moral imperatives given by God and in the premise that this should be one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. We stand, shoulder

19 to shoulder, hand in hand, to work against the immoral policies and systems which cause too many people to live in and suffer from poverty. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer! Suggested Facilitation Approaches Suggested approach to discussion with community members: After viewing the film, gather the attention in the room with a song or an image. Suggested approach to discussion with congregations: After viewing the film, gather the attention in the room by having everyone read aloud a few sentences from the first paragraph from section I. The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same. Suggested approach to discussion with youth and young adults: After viewing the film, gather the attention in the room by having everyone to write or text the following hashtag: #IAMCHANGE Credits Written by: Devon Crawford Contributors: Dr. Iva Carruthers, Mary Crayton, Joyous Joiner, Dr. Almella Starks-Umoja, Dr. Ithihari Toure, and Tiauna Boyd Webb \

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