Recognizing the Sanitation Worker - a Vital Cog in the Public Health System
On the 12th February 1968, as Dr. Martin Luther King traveled around the US calling on people to support the Poor Peopleâ€™s Campaign, over 1000 sanitation workers in Memphis downed tools and went on strike. Just over a month later, on the 18th March, striking sanitation workers flocked to the local Church of God in Christ, eager to hear Dr. Kingâ€™s address. Martin Luther King addressed the crowded church, connecting the plight of local sanitation workers to that of the workforce generally, particularly workers that work in the service industry. [caption id="attachment_927" align="aligncenter" width="892"] Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike [Credit: Tell me what, via Flickr][/caption]The following is an excerpt from the speech that Dr. Martin Luther King delivered to the striking Memphis sanitation workers. He was assassinated two weeks later in the same city â€” a tragic end for someone who stood up for the plight of the poor.
â€œYou are doing many things here in this struggle. You are demanding that this city will respect the dignity of labor. So often we overlook the work and the significance of those who are not in professional jobs, of those who are not in the so-called big jobs. But let me say to you tonight, that whenever you are engaged in work that serves humanity and is for the building of humanity, it has dignity, and it has worth. One day our society must come to see this.â€These are profound words. The points he addresses in this short excerpt from the speech are true and valid, yet typically overlooked. He goes on to mention the important role that sanitation workers play in society:
â€œOne day our society will come to respect the sanitation worker if it is to survive, for the person who picks up our garbage, in the final analysis, is as significant as the physician, for if he doesn't do his job, diseases are rampant. All labor has dignity.â€Sanitation workers serve a vital role in society, yet generally do not get the recognition they deserve. A sanitation worker may have a dirty job, but its an important job, and somebodyâ€™s got to do it. For without the garbage being collected and properly disposed of, diseases would indeed be rife, posing a grave public health risk to society. A clean environment is a healthy environment, for both wildlife and humankind. So let's take some time to express our gratitude to sanitation workers for the dirty work they do every day they show up for work, as these unsung heroâ€™s may not earn fat salaries, but the work a sanitation worker does is no less important than those who are held in higher esteem. They keep our environment and us healthy, and for that, we should be very grateful.
Featured Image by Hugger Industries via Flickr