March 9, 1968
As the sanitation strike reached its fourth full week on March 4th, there has been no movement toward a resolution as both parties remain entrenched in their positions. The recent developments – the sit-in, the macing of marchers, and the injunction – may actually suggest more barriers to a resolution. While an end appears no closer, support for the workers and their families has seen ongoing developments.
Community support continues to grow for the strikers and their families. One demonstration of this support was a recent event sponsored by the Concerned Citizens Committee for Sanitation Workers and Families. The organization held an 8-hour festival of song on March 3rd at the Mason Temple of God in Christ to help raise money for the workers. The event included 21 groups of religious and spiritual singers. While this organization had its food stores depleted near the beginning of the strike, according to O. W. Pickett, the chairman of the committee, the organization has raised between $50,000 and $60,000 over the past four weeks to aid the workers. The funds are being used to provide for the necessities of the workers and their families, which a union spokesman places at roughly $15,000 per week for the 1,300 strikers and their dependents.
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Union has also made a strike fund available to workers in emergencies. The fund currently has between $7,000 and $12,000 and requires a worker to apply for a disbursement. These funds are available to supplement the Concerned Citizens Committee as well as the government-provided food stamps.
Seven hundred workers, with an estimated 3,500 dependents, have filed for food stamps with the Food Stamp Division of the state Welfare Department so far. The city initially authorized $10,000 for the stamps, and when that was expended, the city authorized an additional $5,000. Although the city has provided some funding for the stamps, Mayor Loeb has explicitly stated that the city will not reauthorize additional funds.
How the city’s refusal to authorize additional funding for food stamps will affect the strikers is unknown, but it will place additional importance on the other organizations providing support. Once the city’s funding is spent, community organizations, and the union in emergencies, will be tasked with offering assistance for essentials: food, clothing, and shelter.
Beith, Dorothy. “21 Groups Join in a Songfest to Aid Strikers.” The Commercial Appeal, March 4, 1968.
Lentz, Richard. “Strikers Find Haven in Food Stamps.” The Commercial Appeal, March 9, 1968.
Letter from Jerrold A. Moore to George Latham, March 7, 1968. Series 3, Box 238, “Food Stamps” Folder (9). Papers of Henry Loeb, III, History Department, Memphis Public Libraries, Memphis, TN.
Letter from Jerrold A. Moore to George Latham, March 8, 1968. Series 3, Box 238, “Food Stamps” Folder (9). Papers of Henry Loeb, III, History Department, Memphis Public Libraries, Memphis, TN.