(Senate - February 13, 2018)

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[Congressional Record Volume 164, Number 28 (Tuesday, February 13, 2018)]
[Page S909]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []

                         SUBMITTED RESOLUTIONS


                            IN THE WORKPLACE

  Mr. ALEXANDER (for himself, Mr. Corker, Mr. Cardin, and Mr. Jones) 
submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee 
on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.:

                              S. Res. 404

       Whereas, in 1968, 1,300 African-American sanitation workers 
     in Memphis, Tennessee, fought for collective bargaining 
     rights and equality in the workplace;
       Whereas, in the struggle for rights of workers, the 
     American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees 
     (referred to in this preamble as ``AFSCME'') integrated the 
     labor movement and the civil rights movement in a demand for 
     basic human rights and respect for all men and women;
       Whereas Black employees doing most of the low-wage work in 
     Memphis had almost no health care, pensions, or vacation, 
     worked in deplorable conditions, and were shown disrespect by 
     White supervisors;
       Whereas 40 percent of the workers qualified for welfare in 
     order to supplement their low salaries and were denied the 
     opportunity to improve their working conditions by Memphis 
     Mayor Henry Loeb and the City Council;
       Whereas, on January 31, 1968, 22 Black sewer workers who 
     reported for work were sent home when it began raining, 
     losing pay for that day, while White workers were not sent 
     home and received full pay for that day;
       Whereas, the following day, February 1, 1968, sanitation 
     workers Echol Cole and Robert Walker sought refuge from a 
     downpour in the hamper of a garbage truck amid putrefying 
     garbage and were crushed to death when the compactor 
       Whereas, on February 12, 1968, Memphis sanitation and 
     public employees went on strike after attempting last-minute 
     negotiations with Mayor Loeb and the city on the terms of 
     their employment, demanding that the city recognize the union 
     and provide a pay increase to $2.35 an hour from an average 
     of $1.70, as well as overtime pay, and promotions based on 
     merit irrespective of race;
       Whereas, in response to the demands of the workers, Mayor 
     Loeb, on February 13, 1968, threatened to hire replacements 
     unless workers returned to work;
       Whereas, on February 18, 1968, the President of AFSCME, 
     Jerry Wurf, arrived in Memphis and negotiations began in the 
     basement of St. Mary's Episcopal Church with Rabbi James A. 
     Wax of Temple Israel representing the Memphis Ministerial 
     Association, mediating between the city and striking workers, 
     assisted by Local 1733 President T.O. Jones and AFSCME 
     Director of Legislative and Community Affairs William Lucy;
       Whereas, after an all-night vigil outside City Hall on 
     February 19 through 20, 1968, the National Association for 
     the Advancement of Colored People and union workers called 
     for a boycott of downtown businesses;
       Whereas, on February 23, 1968, 1,500 strikers and 
     supporters organized a march to the Memphis City Hall, where, 
     11 days after the initial strike, the City Council refused to 
     recognize the union;
       Whereas, in the following days, 500 White labor union 
     members joined members of the clergy and sanitation workers 
     in a march downtown, 116 strikers and supporters were 
     arrested during a peaceful demonstration, and hundreds of 
     high school students joined in another march led or supported 
     by members of the clergy, including Rabbi Wax, the Reverend 
     Frank McRae of St. John's United Methodist Church, Father 
     Nicholas Vieron of Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, and 
     Dean William Dimmick of St. Mary's Episcopal Church;
       Whereas, on March 4, 1968, a proposal by State Senator 
     Frank White to create a State mediation board to resolve the 
     stalemate was rejected by Mayor Loeb;
       Whereas, on March 5, 1968, the Memphis Ministerial 
     Association announced that Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 
     would be traveling to Memphis on behalf of striking workers;
       Whereas, on March 7, 1968, the City Council voted to reject 
     union dues checkoff for sanitation workers;
       Whereas, throughout March 1968, national civil rights 
     leaders, including Roy Wilkins, Bayard Rustin, Ralph 
     Abernathy, James Bevel, Andrew Young, and Jesse Jackson, 
     among others, came to Memphis to rally the strikers;
       Whereas, on March 28, 1968, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, 
     Jr., and the Reverend James Lawson of Centenary Methodist 
     Church led a march from the gathering spot for sanitation 
     workers at Clayborn Temple and on to Beale Street, which was 
     marred by window-breaking and disintegrated into a riot as 
     police responded with tear gas and gunfire;
       Whereas, also on March 28, 1968, 16-year-old Larry Payne 
     was shot to death by a Memphis police officer, police 
     arrested 280 mostly Black demonstrators, and the State 
     legislature authorized a 7:00 p.m. curfew that was enforced 
     by 4,000 members of the National Guard moving into Memphis;
       Whereas in response to the death of Larry Payne, Rev. Dr. 
     Martin Luther King, Jr., called the mother of Larry Payne, 
     Lizzie, offering consolation, and vowed to visit Lizzie on 
     the return of Dr. King to Memphis;
       Whereas, also on March 28, 1968, and in response to the 
     promise of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to return to 
     Memphis to lead a march based on the principles of 
     nonviolence, the city obtained a temporary restraining order 
     in Federal court forbidding such a march;
       Whereas in response to the temporary restraining order, 
     AFSCME General Counsel Mel Wulf asked the firm of Burch, 
     Porter and Johnson and attorneys Lucius E. Burch, Jr., David 
     Caywood, Charles Newman, and W.J. Michael Cody to work on 
     lifting the order to allow the march to proceed;
       Whereas Louis Lucas and Walter Bailey of the Ratner and 
     Sugarmon firm were deeply involved in representing Rev. Dr. 
     Martin Luther King, Jr., and striking workers for the 
     duration of the labor dispute;
       Whereas, on April 3, 1968, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, 
     Jr., addressed a rally of 10,000 Black workers and residents, 
     members of the clergy, White liberals, and union members at 
     Mason Temple, the Memphis headquarters of the Church of God 
     in Christ, for what would be the last speech of Dr. King, 
     forever known for the lines ``I have been to the mountain 
     top'' and ``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'', linking the civil rights and labor movements and 
     foreshadowing his fate;
       Whereas, on April 4, 1968, a daylong hearing on the 
     injunction by the city resulted in an order from United 
     States District Court Judge Bailey Brown in the late 
     afternoon allowing the march, with some restrictions, to go 
     forward on April 5, 1968;
       Whereas, on April 4, 1968, the day after his rallying cry 
     for compromise, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was 
     assassinated by a sniper on the balcony outside of his 
     Lorraine Motel room in Memphis;
       Whereas, on April 4, 1968, Memphis and cities across the 
     United States erupted in violent protests and rioting;
       Whereas, on April 5, 1968, Rabbi James A. Wax led a march 
     from St. Mary's Episcopal Church to City Hall and confronted 
     Mayor Henry Loeb with the people of the United States 
     watching on all 3 networks, telling Mayor Loeb ``There are 
     laws far greater than the laws of Memphis and Tennessee, and 
     these are the laws of God'';
       Whereas, on April 8, 1968, an estimated 42,000 people, led 
     by the wife of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Coretta 
     Scott King, and her children, peacefully marched in memory of 
     Dr. King and in support of the requests of the union;
       Whereas, on April 16, 1968, AFSCME announced that a 14-
     month contract had been agreed to and accepted, and included 
     union dues check off, a grievance procedure, and wage 
     increases of 10 cents per hour in May and another 5 cents per 
     hour in September, ending the 3-month strike;
       Whereas, on April 29, 2011, the 1,300 sanitation worker 
     strikers were inducted into the Labor Hall of Honor in the 
     Department of Labor; and
       Whereas, today, the integration of the civil rights and 
     labor movements remains a work in progress and requires our 
     continued vigilance: Now, therefore, be it
       Resolved, That the Senate--
       (1) recognizes the 50th anniversary of the coordinated 
     struggle of workers during the 1968 Memphis sanitation 
     workers strike to voice their grievances and reach a 
     collective agreement for rights in the workplace;
       (2) honors the perseverance of the 1,300 members of Local 
     1733 in urging social and economic equality in the workplace;
       (3) honors the memory and inspiring contribution of Rev. 
     Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in the ultimate resolution of 
     the labor dispute;
       (4) recognizes the contributions of all those named and 
     unnamed who participated in the fight for justice during the 
     strike; and
       (5) recognizes there is work to be done to improve both 
     racial and labor relations.