City of Memphis in talks with sanitation leaders over worker complaints

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The City of Memphis says it is in talks with the union representing the city’s sanitation workers to reach a solution to the workers’ complaints.

The City of Memphis issued a statement on the city’s relationship to the sanitation workers on Friday evening, saying in part, “This administration is extremely proud of what we’ve done in partnership with the City Council for our Solid Waste employees.”

The statement comes after rumors of a sanitation workers’ strike began to surface earlier in the week. According to a flyer that circulated, some workers were upset about having to work this weekend to keep the trash pickup schedule on time after the MLK holiday Monday. Some workers were also upset about having to work on the upcoming anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination.

The city said that Albert Lamar, Director of the Solid Waste Division, is communicating with AFSCME to find “an agreeable solution to the April 4th holiday.”

On Thursday, AFSCME denied that there would be a strike. 

“We’re not really concerned that there’s going to be a strike,” said Gail Tyree, executive director of AFSCME. “You have to remember some people make a lot of noise, but we know that to have a strike that’s unsanctioned is against the city ordinance, and it’s definitely against our agreement with the city of Memphis.”

Maurice Spivey, a sanitation worker who spoke at the most recent city council meeting, also said that workers were not planning to stop work during a press conference on Friday.

“If you think the citizens are going to allow you to have us working on  Dr. King’s assassination commemoration, a strike from us is the last thing you have to worry about,” Spivey said. “The citizens— the people themselves—will shut this city down.”

Read the full statement from the City of Memphis:

This administration is extremely proud of what we’ve done in partnership with the City Council for our Solid Waste employees. In 2018 during our MLK 50 commemoration, we awarded $70,000 grants to all surviving members of the 1968 sanitation workers. We’ve increased their pay and benefits, such as, for the first time in 50 years, they have a retirement plan equal to all other city employees. Additionally, we’re the only city in the country with a park that’s dedicated solely to honor the work of sanitation employees. Director Lamar is in talks with AFSCME to find an agreeable solution to the April 4th holiday. For Mr. Spivey to act outside of his union representation and misrepresent the facts in this way, is a clear example of why he is no longer in an official leadership role with them.

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