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Mayor Wharton Responds To Sanitation Criticism

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(Memphis) The president of AFSCME tells News Channel 3, he feels the fight to keep Dr. King’s dream alive is being drowned out by those at city hall on the eve of the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King's death.

Many of the sanitation workers say 45 years later they still wonder if King's dream will ever be fulfilled.

They say the bargaining process that King fought and died for is being ignored by city hall.

It’s something Mayor A C Wharton says is tough for him to hear,  “These are tough times for us all and they bring out expressions like that but it won't deter me from trying to reach an agreement. I'm trying to give the money back to them.”

In 1968 the fight was over low wages.

They were so low some sanitation workers still needed public assistance to take care of their families.

Work conditions were also bad, some even died on the job.

King came here to be their messenger and was killed in the process.

Forty-five years later the issue is still pay.

City sanitation employees lost almost 7 percent of their pay in the last few years.

There was 4.6%  cut when salaries of all city employees were slashed.

Then last year, like most Americans, they lost another 2% when the Social Security payroll tax holiday ended.

They were the only city employees to suffer this loss since they are the only group of employees who are not in the city pension system, instead paying into social security.

“We're going to have national exposure and people are going to see that folks are raising their voices,” said Lee Saunders, AFSCME.

Wharton says the criticism comes with being in public office, “I don't think I'll ever be able to get them to say that we're doing enough, when you stop to think of the sacrifices they've made in the past. I will never claim that."

Wharton says there is one thing he wants to assure them on the eve of the anniversary of King’s death, “We're thankful for all the sanitation workers, regardless of what they might feel. “

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