“The 1968 Memphis Sanitation Strike”
The 1968 Memphis Sanitation Workers' Strike presents an excellent and rare opportunity to analyze, through the medium of film, the importance of state agencies in the resolution of both public sector representation and bargaining impasse disputes. This film highlights the challenges that can result if there is no such agency, as was the situation in Tennessee in 1968, and the abysmal working conditions experienced by over 1,200 sanitation workers, most of whom were African American, which drove their efforts to seek union representation. The film looks at how those conditions prompted the strike and later the demand for union representation in the face of an uncompromising refusal by the City of Memphis to recognize the union and to bargain with it. In the private sector, those issues – recognition and bargaining – would have been dealt with by a NLRB’s election processes. While there have been many films about the events surrounding the strike, the College’s documentary features the unique interviews of those on the frontline of the labor dispute, including Mike Cody, Fred Davis, Frierson Graves and Bill Lucy, and underscores the importance of dispute resolution mechanisms then and today.