On February 1, 2018, Council President Cole joined the City of San Diego sanitation workers, San Diego Department of Environmental Services, UDW/AFSCME 3930, and AFSCME Local 127 for a moment of reflection to honor and commemorate the sacrifices of Echol Cole and Robert Walker, two Memphis sanitation workers crushed to death by the compactor of the truck on February 1, 1968.
This tragedy caused the Memphis sanitation workers to galvanize and over 1,300 workers walked off their jobs. On March 18, 1968, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. joined the striking Memphis sanitation workers and committed to continue coming to the city and supporting the sanitation workers until their goals of union recognition and dignity for workers were achieved.
One month later, on April 4, 1968, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was again in Memphis to support the striking workers and was gunned down by an assassin’s bullet.
Dr. King’s assassination only strengthened the courageous sanitation workers as they gained national support that grew to a silent and peaceful march of over 42,000 people led by Coretta Scott King.
This ended the strike on April 16, 1968, with a settlement that included union recognition and wage increases.
Held at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park, the moment of reflection was for the 50th Anniversary of Cole and Walker’s tragedy, their sacrifice, the movement they inspired, and the sanitation workers who are still fighting for better working conditions.