Living History

History came to life at the Teamsters 29th International Convention. Two figures from the historic 1968 Memphis sanitation strike told their tale of determination to a rapt audience.

Alvin Turner and Baxter Leach didn’t stop their union activism after the 1968 strike. In fact, they are still doing all they can today on behalf of workers in the industry, including participating in Teamster organizing campaigns.

“The word ‘hero’ is thrown around way too easy. These two men are heroes and they are unbelievable,” said Chuck Stiles, Vice President of Local 728 in Atlanta, while introducing them. “They are a wealth of knowledge and they never, ever stop. The reason these guys fight so hard is they know what unions did for them, how the power of the union lifted them up.”

“You all make me feel good. You all have shown me nothing but love and I thank you. If ever you need me, I’m available,” Turner said to a standing ovation.

The audience held up signs that read, “I Am A Man,” modeled after the signs carried in the 1968 strike.

Ron Collins, a Waste Management Teamster in Memphis, spoke after Leach and Turner and told how far the union has brought waste workers since 1968.

Ron Herrera, International Vice President and Director of the Teamsters Solid Waste and Recycling Division, also talked about how far the waste campaign has come in recent years and the challenges still facing workers in the industry. He impressed upon the audience the importance of unions working together in a coordinated fashion, and the importance of looking to the past for inspiration.