MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - Call it the calm before the storm. Memphis City Council members were told that a plan to buy out some sanitation workers has been put off for a month and a half.
The buyout plan is being used as a way the city can let a private company run sanitation, but there's at least one city council member who says she's ready to go to war to keep that from happening.
Janis Fullilove says the sanitation workers are different. They were the men that brought Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to town in 1968. The city needs to keep their hands off these people, Fullilove says, and she's determined to keep any changes from happening.
You'll find a lot of old timers working the sanitation trucks in Memphis. They don't have a pension plan, so workers hang on slinging the cans and the trash for as long as they're able.
Memphis Mayor A C Wharton and his administration are looking at giving many of them early retirement, and then hiring a private company to run the whole thing.
Chief Administrative Officer George Little spilled the beans about the plan to ABC 24 News last month.
"Clearly there's disagreement over privatization. We're going to see if we can work though that," Little said on Jan. 20. "At the end of the day we want to take care of our employees, but we most of all want to take care of our citizens with good, efficient trash collection services."
City Councilwoman Janis Fulliove doesn't hold back, not on this issue. The sanitation workers are important people in this city, and her message is pretty simple: anybody who messes with the sanitation workers is just trash.
"It will not happen. It will not happen," Fullilove said. "Dr. King came here, lost his life for this very department. And you're talking about you're going in there to privatize it, for some other company? Let's get real, Mr. Mayor."
What we don't have here is failure to communicate. Both sides are as clear as a May Day on this issue.
Sure, George Little might have told us last month all about this plan, but Fullilove stated, "Yeah, but we have on public record where Mayor Wharton stood in the council chambers and said 'I will not privatize sanitation.' I mean, is the man a liar or what?"
The Wharton administration has put it off for 45 days in order that they can meet with officials with the American Federation of State, City and Municipal Employees Union to talk about the buyouts.