When city sanitation workers went on strike

This foul situation has happened over the years, most recently in 2006. But a weeks-long walkout in November 1911 was particularly nasty.

“In one block in 49th Street the reporter counted 84 cans, every one piled high with garbage and other refuse, while near the avenue corners were big piles of garbage, mostly of rotting perishables, which, like those in 47th street, were surrounded by playing children and scavenging cats and dogs,” reported the New York Times four days after the strike began.

[A horseload of trash being deposited on 72nd Street and First Avenue]

Another  garbage strike lasted nine days in February 1968. The Times reported:

“With many once-clean sections of New York looking like a vast slum as mounds of refuse grew higher and strong winds whirled the filth through the streets, Mayor Lindsay made a brief inspection tour and reported grimly that, “the situation is getting very serious.”

[Here’s a grim Mayor Lindsay touring a Harlem street with aides.]

The late 1960s were rough on the city. Not only did sanitation men walk off the job, but so did teachers and transit workers.

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11 Responses to “When city sanitation workers went on strike”

  1. Boris Says:

    I really wish I could learn more about the situation in the late 60’s and compare it to now. Something tells me I’d rather have sanitation workers, teachers, and transit workers face some pay and benefits cuts and strike now. I don’t want to wait until the debt and pension bomb explodes with such force, as it is going to do in a few years, that there won’t be any sanitation services, schools, or transit at all. We are already facing this with the MTA – making millions of daily commutes longer by 5 minutes in perpetuity is worse than a complete shutdown of the system that lasts for a week. We are losing services rather than having unions make concessions. It’s death by a thousand cuts.

  2. Roy Tomeij Says:

    Tip for Boris and anyone else interested in 1960’s politics, strikes (incl. this one I think), etc: visit the “America’s Mayor” about Lindsay exhibit in the Museum of the City of New York ( http://www.mcny.org/exhibitions/current/Mayor-John-Lindsay.html , ends October 3, 2010).

  3. petey Says:

    hey boris, how about closing tax loopholes and preventing the race to the bottom that allows corporations, especially financial ones, to dictate the city’s financial security by threatening to move? that way, the working people who make your life possible will have a chance at a secure life. or, maybe you don’t like that working people have a secure life?

    and btw, there’s nothing preventing you from learning about the situation in the late 60s. more homework, less posturing.

  4. Mary Simonsen Says:

    I lived in NJ in the 1960s and remember this strike. Very interesting blog. Thanks. Mary

  5. Thomas Jefferson Says:

    Oh boris, you’re a fool.

  6. Paul Says:

    Boris is mostly right. We’re facing an even worse disaster in but a year or so. With the Corporate downsizing of this city by our very Corporate mayor and the corporate attitude of the head of the MTA especially when he referred to public hearings as “procedural” this city is due for an explosion of anger and destruction due to the smoldering discontent. Unfortunately right now not enough of the well off people with their earbuds jammed in blasting tinny music from Ipods are suffering yet.
    Yes, this city and state has long been playing the tax loophold game wooing corporate big wigs to stay here because New Jersey has applied the tactic quite well. Blame New Jersey? No. Blame the greed on wall street and in the boardrooms of Corporate America. We’re all being played.

  7. Boris Says:


    Not quite. Blame Generation Greed – politicians and corporate titans alike, most of whom happen to be Baby Boomers and retired or close to retirement, who have sold America to benefit their kind and drive younger generations into debt for decades to come.

    By the way, and this might especially be of interest to petey and Thomas: we are STILL hurting from the Lindsay-era pension giveaways (which makes me wonder once again why those workers were striking, since they had it so good): http://www.r8ny.com/blog/larry_littlefield/what_do_those_pension_enahncements_cost.html

  8. hb Says:

    yeah, it’s the baby boomers, those greedy pigs like bloomberg. born a little early, but don’t let that stop a good bigoted rant.

  9. Government Shuts Down, EPA Included | Alternative Utility Services, Inc. Says:

    […] the landfill, but that is certainly better than having the garbage pile up in the streets. Just ask New York City. You also must worry about the recycling effort if garbage doesn’t get collected for a few […]

  10. Why 1970s New York was nicknamed “Fun City” | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] with the new mayor’s upbeat take on a metropolis that over the next four years would endure a sanitation strike, a teacher walkout, a crippling blackout, and increasing financial […]

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