I AM 2018

Press Releases

For Immediate Release
June 28, 2017
Contact: IAM2018@sunshinesachs.com

Major “I AM 2018” Initiative Announced to Mark 50th Anniversary of Memphis Sanitation Strike, MLK Assassination

AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders, COGIC Presiding Bishop Charles E. Blake, along with Rep. John Lewis and leaders from the labor, religious & civil rights movements unite to announce long-term campaign to address economic justice.

WASHINGTON – AFSCME President Lee Saunders and Charles E. Blake, Sr., Presiding Bishop of the Church of God in Christ (COGIC), along with U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) and other leaders from the labor, religious and civil rights movements, announced the launch of I AM 2018, a new campaign commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Memphis sanitation workers’ strike and the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The long-term initiative will connect the legacy of the strikers and Dr. King to current issues facing our nation.

To view the full press conference, go here.

“For the 50th anniversary, a single day of activities felt insufficient,” said AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders. “To truly celebrate his life, to carry his values forward, to keep faith with everything he preached and practiced, we need to do more. We need an extended campaign of grassroots education and mobilization. We need more than a commemoration; we need a call to action.”

I AM 2018 comes as civil rights and economic justice are under attack. This moment provides an opportunity to connect and highlight current issues that directly affect our nation’s working families. The campaign is focused on training and activating organizers to work in communities nationwide -- addressing issues of economic justice, including health care, a living wage and paid sick leave.

“COGIC’s Urban Initiatives is a powerful vehicle to accomplish this,” said Charles E. Blake, Sr., Presiding Bishop of the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) and a major partner in the campaign. “The vision of COGIC Urban Initiatives is to build healthy individuals, families and communities for a successful future. …By attacking problems, in communities across the nation, from these interrelated perspectives simultaneously we maximize the likelihood of success.”

During the 1960s, one of the most transformative chapters in the civil rights movement was the close collaboration between religious, civil rights and labor organizers – the same spirit I AM 2018 seeks to create.

U.S. Rep. John Lewis reflected on his time with Dr. King but forewarned that, while the dreams of the great civil rights leader have yet to be fulfilled, the march for progress must continue. “The day that Dr. King dreamed of, that day has not come. Make no mistake about it, we’ve come a long way. There’s been a lot of progress but there’s still millions of people who are left out and left behind. AFSCME, the church, organized labor, and all of us are saying that when you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have a moral obligation to say something and to do something. And that’s why we must go to Memphis!”

In addition to events being planned on April 3 and 4, the campaign plans to train thousands of community activists over the coming year and work with the groups committed to promote economic justice in cities and states across the country.

“While much progress has been made since the Memphis sanitation workers’ strike, and the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., civil rights and economic justice are not yet a reality for too many in this great nation,” said Vanita Gupta, President of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “These are challenging times for civil rights. But we will not stand idly by while the White House or Congress seeks to turn back the clock on our hard-fought progress. We will continue to protect our most vulnerable and to demand that everyone has a seat at the table.”

On April 3, 1968, Dr. King stood in the pulpit of Mason Temple in Memphis – the global headquarters of the COGIC – and delivered the prophetic “Mountaintop Speech” to a sanctuary overflowing with community supporters, parishioners, and the city’s sanitation workers, members of AFSCME Local 1733, who were on strike protesting low pay and poor working conditions. Less than 24 hours later, he was assassinated

DeMaurice Smith, Executive Director of the NFL Players Association, made a powerful declaration on behalf of the NFLPA to show their support in the struggle for the rights of union workers. “We are a union that cannot forget that every benefit that we have is inextricably tied to the rights already paid for by the courage of others to whom we owe our love and support. The Super Bowl will be played days before the 50th anniversary of the Memphis sanitation workers’ strike that resonates as much as an example of true selflessness as it does for the tragic aftermath of Dr. King’s assassination. As in years past, the February date means that the game will be played during our annual celebration of Black History Month and as a tribute to AFSCME and other labor unions.”

Learn more about upcoming events and take action at www.iam2018.org and see more about the I AM 2018 initiatives here.

For interview requests and additional information about the campaign, please contact IAM2018@sunshinesachs.com.



AFSCME's 1.6 million members provide the vital services that make America happen. With members in hundreds of different occupations — from nurses to corrections officers, child care providers to sanitation workers — AFSCME advocates for fairness in the workplace, excellence in public services and prosperity and opportunity for all working families.

About COGIC:

The Church of God In Christ is the largest African American Pentecostal denomination with 8.3 million members worldwide and 12,000 churches in the United States. Bishop Charles Blake’s home church, West Angeles Church of God In Christ in Los Angeles, has 24,000 members and is one of the largest congregations in America.