Memphis Signs Agreement Principle Allowing Sanitation Workers To Get Retirement Pay

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(Memphis) The face of garbage collection in Memphis may be about to change.

After 59 years driving a garbage truck for the city, 82-year-old Elmore Nickleberry for the first time feels he may be able to afford to retire.

"It's a long time coming and I been waiting for that," Nickleberry said.

A tentative agreement signed Monday between the mayor and the sanitation workers' union, AFSCME, put a retirement option a step closer to reality.

The fine details are still being worked on, but ultimately it will allow some 70 to 80 longtime workers to  retire based on their years of service.

They could get around $400 for each year of service up to a $1,000 a year for life.

After death, a spouse could collect 50% of that amount.

It still has to be worked out how that will be paid.

The retirement plan will be funded through a $2.25 a month increase in garbage fees.

In turn, garbage customers will see 60 new garbage vehicles on the streets, picking up just about every kind of debris, and workers putting in longer hours to make 100 more stops.

The city will also get thousands of new trash and recycling bins.

"At this point the city will benefit because we have better equipment to do a more efficient job. Employees will benefit because they have men that have been here who can go home and enjoy their retirement," Gail Tyree with AFSCME said.

On the pending anniversary of one of Dr. King's most famous marches, many say it couldn't be a better time to finally give those Dr. King marched for something they have long deserved.

"Just to give a small measure. This is not total justice for the workers. It's just a small measure to say we recognize you cannot make it on a Social Security check," Memphis Mayor A C Wharton said.

The sanitation workers opted out of the city's pension plan years ago, choosing to keep more money in workers' pockets.

Now some  people say this retirement option is essentially a gift.

City Council takes this up at its meeting Tuesday.

One council member is already questioning if the mayor's move obligates the city to certain terms and if the citizens need to pay  for this program.

Click here to see the agreement principle.