Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Memphis City Council rejects privatization plan for sanitation workers

The Memphis City Council has rejected a plan to privatize the city's sanitation services and thus avoid what might have become a national protest against an obvious anti-union ploy that had historic and racial dimensions.

Proposed by councilman Kemp Conrad, the plan claimed to be able to save the hard-strapped city as much as $25 million a year. However, leaders of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), which represents the sanitation workers, questioned how the city could recently pledge $6 million to subsidize a privately built parking garage at the same time it cut vital services.

The city's sanitation workers are part of the nation's labor lore. It was their strike in 1968 that Martin Luther King Jr. came to support and ultimately lost his life as a result.

Although the services remain under city government, the council did approve a budget that includes plans to fund a buyout of sanitation workers and the elimination of positions.

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