Teamsters Honor The Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. By Organizing Sanitation Workers Nationwide

Ron Herrera
Jan 15, 2018 · 3 min read

Today, we honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a man who dedicated his life to empowering communities of color and to fighting for the rights of working people. Dr. King has a special connection to the work that we do as Teamsters. Let us not forget that on his final days, he was in Memphis Tennessee, supporting sanitation workers who were on strike fighting for dignity and respect in their workplace. Dr. King and those brave sanitation workers are heroes who can teach us valuable lessons as to why our movement is more important now than ever before.

This past year, we lost one of those heroes — Alvin Turner, a leader of the historic 1968 sanitation strike. It was Mr. Turner who came up with a phrase that became synonymous with civil and worker rights — “I Am A Man”. During his life, when brother Turner stood up, he picked up a lot of other men with him. That’s the mark of a true man. For too long, too many sanitation workers have been struggling just to survive, paycheck to paycheck. That’s no way to live.

This past year we’ve seen a con man take office, we’ve seen blatant racism and ignorance move out of the shadows, into the streets, and into the halls of power. We’ve witnessed one of greatest robberies of all time, in the form of a tax bill that takes money from children and the poor and gives it to billionaires and the corporations they run.

The question now is, what will we do about it? Will we sit back, and say it’s someone else’s job to fix? Will we take the scraps that get tossed our way? Or will we finally stand up, lifting our brothers and sisters with us? As Teamsters, we know what we must do to win. We must organize in our workplaces and in our communities to win back our voice and push back against an agenda that promotes racism, and corporate greed. We must work together to clean up an industry that is amongst the most dangerous in the country, taking limbs and lives, while leaving workers with very little. Fifty years after one the most monumental strikes our industry has ever seen, the men and women who keep our cities clean still struggle to get by; living one surgery away from bankruptcy.

I’m here in Memphis as a man inspired by the sacrifices of men like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Alvin Turner. I came here from Los Angeles as a Teamster committed to helping others stand up. I march today with the members of Teamsters Local 667 in Memphis, and with Teamsters from across the country, all committed to lifting up the lives of sanitation workers everywhere. For us, the march won’t end today but will continue on to the jobsite, to the state house, to Capitol Hill, and even the White House. The march won’t end until we have the justice dreamed of by Mr. Turner and Dr. King. I hope you’ll join us.

Teamsters Local 396 represents UPS and Sanitation workers in Southern California. The Local Union also serves Members in other miscellaneous industries such as logistics, recycling and feed delivery services.

Ron Herrera

Written by

Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 396

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