I Am a Man: A Conversation With William Lucy

Source: Steve Flamisch, Rutgers Today News, February 26, 2021

Francis Ryan, a labor historian in the School of Management and Labor Relations, interviews the union leader who coined the iconic phrase, “I Am a Man,” during the 1968 Memphis sanitation strike.

When two sanitation workers were killed by a malfunctioning garbage truck in Memphis, Tennessee, in February 1968, the city’s fed-up public works employees went on strike to demand safer working conditions and higher wages.

The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) dispatched a young, up-and-coming union official named William Lucy to help the 1,300 striking workers—all Black men—in their struggle.

“Here you had men who had worked the better part of their adult life for the city—some were working 15 to 20 years,” Lucy recalled. “Their wage levels were $1.25, $1.35 an hour. They were confronted with equipment that came from the Stone Age.”….