February 25, 1968
The Chancery Court of Shelby County, Tennessee delivered an injunction yesterday against key members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) labor union associated as of late with the striking sanitation workers. Key AFSCME figures charged include T.O. Jones, president Jerry Wurf, P.J. Ciampa, William Lucy, Jesse Epps, and Joe Paisley.
The injunction follows an earlier ruling from August 22, 1966 making it illegal for city workers to strike against their employer; specifically, the municipality. The 1966 injunction followed an abortive strike attempt by sanitation workers at that time. Now, it is being used by the City to pin a definite legal justification against AFSCME Local 1733, and in effect, the striking workers. Mayor Henry Loeb has maintained that he will not negotiate with lawbreakers since the genesis of the current strike after February 12. This revised injunction, which has up until now remained a rhetorical baton by the Mayor, constructs a legal framework against both the union and strikers.
Mayor Loeb published a press release expressing his reasons why the City Attorney’s office asked for the injunction stating the following:
Our sanitation employees have been given every opportunity to return to their jobs rather than continue the illegal strike in which they are presently engage. This they have so far failed to do…In making this decision, we believe that we are acting in accordance with reason, and with law, as well as in the best interests of the public. I repeat, as I have said many times before, that when the men return to work and comply with the orders of the court, I will discuss their grievances with their representatives, but until then, the public interest must come first.
The practical effectiveness of the injunction is unknown. As of right now, the strike is still in progress, and the AFSCME officials named in the injunction remain free. Meanwhile, garbage continues to pile up.
City of Memphis vs. Local 1733, AFSCME, 1968. Civil Rights Collection, DIG Memphis.
Press Release, February 24, 1968. Series III, Box 238, Folder 9. Papers of Henry Loeb III. History Department,Memphis Public Libraries, Memphis, TN.
Sweat, Joseph. “Strike Supporters Map Strategy In Face Of Legal Action By City.” Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN), Feb 25, 1968.
Beifuss, Joan Turner. At The River I Stand. 2nd ed. Memphis: St. Luke’s Press, 1990.