“‘Torture is a crime, never a career’” @ Chicago Sun-Times

Posted on March 29, 2012

Stephen Eisenman — March 25, 2012: “In the early spring of 1968, 1,300 sanitation workers went on strike in Memphis. They were motivated by dangerous working conditions, poor wages, racism and the wish to unionize. Members of AFSCME local 1733, and the union’s national president Jerry Wurf, quickly joined the struggle.

Wurf had a long history of progressive organizing. In the late 1940s, he helped establish the New York chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality, the civil rights organization founded by James Farmer upon principles of nonviolence advocated by Gandhi. With the help of volunteers from AFSCME Local 37, CORE organized the Journey of Reconciliation, the basis for the future Freedom Rides.

When he was elected president in 1964, Wurf was determined to cement the relationship between AFSCME and the civil rights movement. His chance came when the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. came to Memphis to support the striking workers. King and Wurf discussed strategy, marched and carried the sign that became emblematic of the civil rights movement: “I AM A MAN.” For them, human rights and dignified labor went hand in hand. But the collaboration was tragically ended on April 4, 1968, when King was killed by an assassin’s bullet………………………………………”

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