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Sanitation Workers In Memphis Join Local 667

On April 8, 43 years and four days after Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated supporting sanitation workers in Memphis, current workers who are fighting for respect on the job voted 50-20 to join Local 667. There are 79 workers—drivers and helpers—in the bargaining unit at Advanced Disposal in Olive Branch, Mississippi.

“It’s overwhelmingly great—it’s historic for this area when you think back to 1968 and the struggle those sanitation workers went through,” said Illya Hamilton, a recycle-truck driver at Advanced Disposal.

Local 667 Business Agent James Sproles started work on the campaign and worked with President Norman Wayne Pairmore and Secretary-Treasurer Ronnie Parkinson. Their hard work on the campaign got the momentum rolling and then Chuck Stiles and John Mahoney of the Waste and Recycling Division assisted the local union with house calls and campaign strategy.

“These workers have had to endure years of getting no respect and they’ve worked under horrible conditions,” Pairmore said. “They remained united in their fight for a better life at work and we will work hard to negotiate a first contract that delivers for them. My team at the local took office in January—it’s great to have such a big victory after a few months.”

“The election was about getting the respect they deserve,” Stiles said. One helper was fired for eating a snack in the break room while the driver was preparing his truck for the day, Stiles said. Another helper who was hit by a car and rushed to the intensive care unit of an area hospital was fired while in the care unit. Workers also suffer from heat exhaustion and the company does not provide bottled water on the trucks.

Alvin Turner, a leader in the Memphis sanitation workers’ strike of 1968, assisted in the campaign and talked with workers.

“I’m a union man,” Turner said. “Any way I can help I will. I had a whole lot of people helping me when I needed help in 1968.”

“I’m really excited about this victory,” said Robert Cole, another recycle-truck driver, who was fired March 3. The company claims Cole solicited support for the union on company property while on work time, but Cole said he was off the premises and off work. “They fired me because I was the main organizer,” he said.

Cole said he and two other co-workers who were fired hope to win their jobs back at a future labor board hearing.