MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Fifty years ago, sanitation workers marched Downtown for better wages and conditions.
On Monday, fast food workers in Memphis took the same steps to highlight economic disparity.
Their voices echoed and their signs were held high as they marched hand in hand.
“We feel like we should stand up today on the 50th anniversary and have our own demonstration,” said Ashley Cathey, one of the organizers.
Fast food workers say they’re making the same demands as Memphis sanitation workers did exactly 50 years ago. They want better pay, the right to a union and respect on the job.
Johnnie Mosley marched in honor of his dad John White, who was a sanitation worker for 50 years. “My dad was one of the 1300 garage men who marched for dignity in 1968.”
“We’re still fighting for the dream. The dream for equality, the dream for justice and equal rights for women, especially minority women,” said Sepia Coleman. “As a home car worker, I can’t make it off $7.25 an hour. Nobody can.”
Coleman says she lives paycheck to paycheck even though she works three jobs. She says sanitation workers fought until they won and she’s confident change will come 50 years later too. “That`s what we have to do today, we have to keep on fighting. I’m a fighter for life. If I don’t stand for something, I’ll fall for anything.”
“We are the union. We are the union. The mighty, mighty workers. The mighty, mighty workers,” chanted hundreds of protestors as they marched down Florence onto Union Avenue.
They briefly shut down the busy street.
That’s when Robin Curtis says she walked out of Burger King where she works.
“I’m trying to make a change. If I have to quit, I will,” she told WREG.
The mother of two says she makes $8 an hour with no benefits, forcing her to work multiple jobs.
“Even with the cost of living in Memphis being low, it’s not enough. It’s not,” Curtis said.
The group continued to grow throughout the lunch hour.
Their passion and message only got louder.
“Everybody marches for different reasons. This isn’t a march for just anything,” Curtis said.
As the march moved downtown to Martin Luther King Boulevard and the historic Clayborn Temple, the City of Memphis released a statement supporting the rights of the protesters to demonstrate peacefully.
About 5 percent of city employees make below $15 an hour, and none make below $12.
“City government recognizes there is an economic divide— not just in Memphis, but globally,” the city’s statement read. “We will continue to work to compensate our employees fairly, and to shrink the economic divide by extending contract opportunities to minority-owned businesses.”