Surviving Memphis sanitation workers involved in 1968 strike awarded $50K grants

The Memphis City Council voted Tuesday to award $50,000 grants to surviving retired workers who were employed by the city at the time of the historic 1968 sanitation workers strike, reports the Commercial Appeal. The strike was ongoing when civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis.

“We can never make up the sacrifices these men made financially,” council chairman Berlin Boyd said as the council pondered the significance of the vote.

The city initially thought 14 strikers were still alive, but discovered one had died and three more came forward and are being verified now, Public Works Director Robert Knecht said. The final number of surviving strikers is thought to be in the 14-20 range.

“We’re going to have to go and do a little research,” Knecht said after the vote.

… If more money is needed or more survivors are found, the council can appropriate more money, several council members said. The council approved $900,000 for the grants from reserves, although council members said they would revisit the amount if more survivors come forward or the city can increase the size of the grants.

The council also approved the creation of a 401(a) retirement plan — the public sector version of a 401(k) — for active sanitation workers. Because of a deal the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) made during the strike, workers receive Social Security benefits instead of a city pension. As the city improved its pension benefits over the years, the gap between the benefits of sanitation workers and other city employees widened.

One Response to Surviving Memphis sanitation workers involved in 1968 strike awarded $50K grants

  • Elaine Taylor says:

    I am the daughter of one of the surviving 1968 sanitation workers who was left of the list when the grant was first announced. My father Mr. Kelly Lofton 86 yo, worked for the City of Memphis from 1951-1995, and was a part of the 1968 sanitation strike and should have been awarded the grant. We have found out on Sept. 9, 2017, in a letter from the City of Memphis, that my father was not eligible for the grant because they say in worked part time during the strike, and was not hired full time until 1972. This is shocking news to my entire family, because my father never worked part time. I am very upset and sharing this story to anyone who will listen. The fact is when the Mayor announce the grant for the survivors he made no comments on who would be eligible; only that they be survivors of the 1968 strike. I think this is a slap in the face by the City of Memphis, to disqualify my father after the years of sacrifice he made.

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