Council chairman confident sanitation will not be privatized - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Council chairman confident sanitation department will not be privatized

Myron Lowery Myron Lowery

(WMC-TV) - The future of hundreds of Memphis sanitation workers could be on the line Tuesday evening as the Memphis City Council weighs the pros and cons of privatization.

Members of AFSCME, the union that represents the sanitation workers, began the morning at a city council budget meeting, listening for anything that would help make a case against privatizing the sanitation department.

"It's better for the city of Memphis to again keep these serviced in house where we have more control more flexibility," the union's Chad Johnson said.

Johnson maintained there is no evidence privatizing the sanitation department will benefit the city in any way, but Shea Flinn, the chairman of the council's budget committee, disagreed.

"I would be in favor of privatization, but that's cause right now I'm looking to save money," Flinn said.

And in some ways the debate over privatization has become a debate over AFSCME's history with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Union members feel that it would be an affront to Dr. King to privatize the sanitation department that he gave his life trying to help.

Council Chairman Myron Lowery was certain the measure would not pass.

"Not only because of this historical significance of this union, but because of what the city should provide," Lowery said.

Lowery said the city has a basic obligation to provide sanitation services in the same way it provides fire and police services, and his knowledge of how the council votes tells him that the measure will not pass.

"There will not be privatization of our sanitation work force," Lowery said. "It simply will not happen.  While some members of the council are proposing that, there are not enough votes for this to pass, and it will not pass."

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