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A few years ago as I was driving around on Martin Luther King, Jr. day, I noticed that the trashman was driving through the neighborhood picking up the garbage from the curb. How odd, I thought. It's a national holiday. But the odd was not as strange as the ironic. You see, when Dr. King was killed in Memphis on April 4, 1968, he was there in support of a sanitation workers strike. They were trying to organize a union and were having very difficult times with the city of Memphis and in particular, the hard line mayor.

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And that irony stuck with me such that every year I've noticed that while many of us have the day off to celebrate Dr. King, the guys for whom he was fighting when he died are having to work. This year was no different, except this time I wrote an email to our County Executive pointing out this irony and asking him if there was something he could do about it.

Mr. Dooley,

I've noticed over the last few years that on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, sanitation workers are working on the holiday, picking up our garbage.

I'm sure you know that on April 4, 1968 Dr. King was in Memphis in support of the sanitation workers there who were on strike for the right to organize a union. Dr. King gave his life in support of the garbage men. And so I'm sure it seems as odd to you as it does to me that in St. Louis County on Dr. King's holiday, that our sanitation workers do not get that holiday. It just doesn't seem right.

I don't know if there's anything you as County Executive can do about this travesty, but I hope you can. It's the least we should do.

Thank you for your time.

Well, somewhat to my surprise, I got a response:

Dear Mr. Seale,

County Executive Dooley asked me to respond on his behalf because my group manages the Waste District Program.

The current contracts have approximately a year and a half before they will be rebid.  As the contracts and associated pricing are already established, we will not change the contract at this time.  However, we will consider your suggestion as we develop the next contract.

We appreciate that you took the time to make the suggestion in honor of Dr. King and the hard working sanitation workers.  Thank you.

Director of Highways & Traffic and Public Works

I mentioned this to some other friends and it appears that sanitation workers not having the Martin Luther King holiday is not local to St. Louis County. This is just not right. This seems like a perfect way for this community to make a difference. I'd like to get a list of volunteers from communities where the sanitation workers do not have this holiday to write letters, generate public support for making this a true holiday for these men and women.

So, in the comments, leave your town if you know whether this is a holiday for sanitation workers. We'll collate the information and develop a collective plan for changing this for as many workers as we can. Perhaps we can track the data in a Google document or such resource and I'll commit to posting updates here.

Originally posted to docstymie on Mon Sep 06, 2010 at 01:54 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  The trash guys came by this morning here (6+ / 0-)

    so I doubt that they have MLK's birthday off.
    (N. Texas area)

    Great idea and i like getting a reply from the officials, good for them.

    I'll look at my navel after the midterms.

    by citizenx on Mon Sep 06, 2010 at 04:45:40 PM PDT

  •  try lifting 8 - 16 tons a day.... (6+ / 0-)

    .... in 50 - 100 lb. increments.  

    Every day of every week, whether broiling hot or freezing cold, in the rain or in the snow.  

    That, plus the maintenance of the sewer system, is the front line of public health.  

    Minus weekly refuse collection, it takes about two weeks for conditions to reach the point where a population explosion of flies occurs, spreading diseases such as dysentery, typhoid, cholera, salmonella, and tuberculosis.  

    Minus regular street cleaning, not only does garbage accumulate on the streets to promote rodent infestations, but stagnant puddles along the curb breed clouds of mosquitos, bringing dengue, encephalitis, and yellow fever.  

    Minus a working sewerage system, it takes only a few days before the overflow backs up into the streets and the same results occur.  

    So yeah, those workers deserve MLK Day off in honor of the struggle for which King died.  

    They also deserve strong unions and middle-class wages, and secure pensions.

    One more thing you can do:  when driving, slow down to pass refuse collection vehicles.  Sanitation workers have a higher death rate on the job than police officers or firefighters, most of it due to being hit by cars driven by impatient people who hit the gas to pass.  Slow down to get around, don't put lives at risk.  

    •  agree (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      it's an important job that we take for granted. This is the very least we can do. Do they work on MLK day in your town?

      I'm a Bobby Kennedy Democrat

      by docstymie on Mon Sep 06, 2010 at 07:45:51 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  i don't know... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        This diary is the first place I've run across this idea, and it never occurred to me before, even though I'm pretty aware of all the essential workers we normally take for granted.  But I'll keep my eyes open and find out.  The way I've thought of it before is, essential services are on duty all the time regardless of holidays, but the diarist's point is a very good one.  

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