City and state leaders honor sanitation workers

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Mayor Jim Strickland and other city and state leaders honor sanitation works from 1968 and current workers at a private ceremony Saturday afternoon.

So much has changed since 1968. The equipment has been upgraded, workers are treated better, all things sanitation workers went on strike to fix though much has improved there's much more in store.

Mayor Jim Strickland sit alongside Ambassador Andrew Young and Reverend Jesse Jackson. A sight that didn't seem possible in 1968.

"The atmosphere was one of fear and hostility on the part of the mayor and I'm glad we have the mayor here as a friend," Young said.

City Sanitation workers once fought for dignity, rallied for changes and remained courageous even in the face of adversity by going on strike.

Those actions are still shaping the future.

"For the first time in 50 years they have an equal to or greater than retirement plan than other city workers," Strickland said.

Saturday's event lifted current as well as those who marched on strike.

"They wake up every single day and serve others and you talk to any of them whether they are 75 or 25 they love serving their fellow Memphian," Strickland said.

Cheryl Fanion Cotton remembers the seeing the signs that waved during the strike as she too stood as a young girl seeking justice for the workers.

"This is me right here at 17 years of age I was graduating for BTW in 1968," Fanion Cotton said.

Fanion Cotton keeps the memories close and photos like this ensure that she'll never forget her part in the movement and neither will her children.

"I went to the mass meeting even led the freedom songs before meetings started, " Fanion Cotton said.

Bright lights and fancy attire "I am MAN" echoes still as it seems no one can forget the men who demanded respect for such a dirty but dignified job.

"That's why it’s important to honor them because you can go a few days without them but you cannot do without sanitation workers for 8 days as the wind blows," Reverend Jesse Jackson said.