Machinists March in Memphis for MLK Remembrance

IAM members from across the Southern Territory march down a portion of Beale Street in Memphis, TN, renamed ‘1968 Strikers Lane,’ to commemorate the sanitation workers’ strike that coincided with the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Members of the Machinists Union joined with members of the American Federation of State, City and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) union and over 1,000 marchers in Memphis, TN, to mark the 45th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. The march passed by the Loraine Motel, where the assassination occurred and traveled down historic Beale Street in downtown Memphis.

The day began with Memphis city officials dedicating a portion of Beale Street to the 1,300 sanitation workers who walked off their jobs in February 1968, after two workers were crushed and died in a poorly-maintained garbage truck that malfunctioned. On the day he was killed, Dr. King was in Memphis to support the sanitation workers’ strike, which ultimately led to higher pay and safer working conditions.

Among those who addressed the marchers at the Loraine Motel was King’s son, Martin Luther King III. “Forty-five years ago this day my father stood behind us on his way to a dinner,” said King. “In a real sense he lost, but many would say, gave, his life. I lost and my siblings lost a father, my mother lost a husband, but I think the Nation gained an understanding of a message and a movement, a movement that has continued to transform this nation ever since and I would venture to say that will continue to transform this nation as long as human beings are willing to come together and organize and be committed to make sure the change comes.”

“The issues that cost Dr. King his life are still very much with us today,” said IAM Headquarters Chief of Staff Diane Babineaux. “Voting rights, labor rights and safe working conditions are under attack today just as they were 45 years ago. While we mourn the loss of Dr. King, we cannot afford to mourn in silence. If we are to prevail, we must make our voices heard.”

Union members were also in Memphis to support AFSCME-represented sanitation workers as well as city firefighters, who were recently forced to take a 4.6 percent pay cut. “The issues really are the same today as they were in 1968,” said Southern Territory GVP Bob Martinez. “Worker rights remain under fire, and the city is looking for ways to cut the wages and benefits of these proud public servants. We will continue to fight for the same thing Martin Luther King Jr. was fighting for.”