Wreath laying ceremony honors sacrifice of sanitation workers 50 years later

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Across the country, sanitation workers pulled over their trucks Thursday to remember two workers killed in Memphis 50 years ago.

In Memphis, former and current sanitation workers marched alongside other union members to honor the lives of Robert Walker and Echol Cole.

Walker and Echol were sanitation workers in Memphis in the 1960s. During a rainstorm in 1968, they took shelter inside their truck's garbage barrel because they did not have raincoats. In a freak accident, the compacting motor in the truck shorted and the two men were crushed to death.

This accident was the last straw for the majority of the 1,300 Memphis sanitation workers. They met 10 days later and agreed to strike.

The strike would last two months and four days. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated at the Loraine Motel while in town supporting the workers and their right to strike.

Thursday's ceremony included speeches, a wreath laying, and a march. All of the events were designed to honor the sanitation strike of 1968 and continue to advocate for the sanitation workers in Memphis.

Union representatives said they will continue to fight for workers' rights so what happened to Cole and Echol never happens again.

Memphis Public Works Director Robert Knecht said his department has made huge strides since the 60s and it continues to make strides every day.

"The reality is there's a lot of things that have changed. There's a lot of things that we continue to do, and we are committed to the safety of our employees," Knecht said.

Copyright 2018 WMC Action News 5. All rights reserved.