On Thursday, February 1, 2018, Teamster Officials, Affiliates and members gathered outside the office of Teamsters Joint Council No. 25 to observe a moment of silence with Sanitation Truck Drivers to remember two Memphis Sanitation Employees that lost their lives while on the job fifty years ago.

Mr. Echol Cole and Mr. Robert Walker, both Memphis Sanitation Employees, died due to a fatal trucking malfunction accident on February 1, 1968. These individuals’ families subsequently received no retribution or retirement benefits from the City of Memphis for their tragic loss.

After this horrific event, more than 1,300 black male employees from the Memphis Department of Public Works fought against the City of Memphis in a historic strike in an effort to secure improved safety standards, a proper wage scale based on the amount of work completed, and a stronger voice at work. These Employees faced unacceptable working conditions and discriminatory abuse.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. marched alongside the striking employees and and recited his famous “Mountaintop” speech. The Employees’ Union, AFSCME Local 1733, provided desperately-needed financial support to the Employees and their families in an effort to cushion their terrible hardship.

“This is what being a strong Teamster is truly about. We fight every day on behalf of workers to achieve better working standards, increased safety precautions and procedures and we demand proper training while on the job and throughout the workplace. We bolster other labor unions for the very same reasons: to celebrate union victories together, and of course, commemorate the sacrifices of those union members who fought hard before us.”  -Terrence J. Hancock, President of Teamsters Joint Council No. 25

“This is what being a strong Teamster is truly about,” said Terrence J. Hancock, President of Teamsters Joint Council No. 25. “We fight every day on behalf of workers to achieve better working standards, increased safety precautions and procedures and we demand proper training while on the job and throughout the workplace. We bolster other labor unions for the very same reasons: to celebrate union victories together, and of course, commemorate the sacrifices of those union members who fought hard before us…it’s an honor, it’s our job.”

Labor unions and their respective members in cities around the country came together on this day to commemorate the lasting impact of Brother Cole and Brother Walker’s tragic deaths, the courage demonstrated by these Sanitation workers and Dr. King, and the inspiration these events had on the Labor Movement worldwide.

Teamsters Joint Council No. 25 is the premier labor organization providing invaluable support and services to all Local Union Affiliates throughout the State of Illinois and Northwest Indiana.