Thursday, March 31, 2011

Rev Martin Luther King Jr: I've Been to the Mountain Top for collective bargaining rights

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered this speech in support of the striking government employees (sanitation workers) at Mason Temple in Memphis, TN on April 3, 1968 — the day before he was assassinated.

He was there to lend his support to sanitation workers who were on strike, protesting terrible working conditions and low wages. Taylor Rogers and Elmore Nickelberry were among the 1,300 who walked off the job in 1968.

Rogers remembers picking up tubs of garbage that were full of holes. "That garbage would leak all over you," he says. By the time he got home, his clothes were dirty and full of maggots that had fallen on him.

"I had maggots run down in my shirts, and then maggots would go down in my shoes," Nickelberry says. "And we worked in the rain — snow, ice and rain. We had to. If we didn't, we'd lose our job. They said, 'A garbage man wasn't nothing.'"

Rogers says, "It was awful." One day, two workers, who had gone into a trash compactor to escape the rain, were crushed to death. "Sometimes you cry," Nickelberry says.

"Sometimes you get mad and get up in the morning and ... say, 'I ain't going to work.' ... I had to work because that's the only way I could feed my family."

'All We Wanted Was Some Dignity'

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