Interview with William Lucy

So early on in the strike, can you give me some examples of, of how the negotiations went and why they weren't working?


Well, the, the mayor, you know, early in the strike, took the position that the strike was an illegal strike. Ah, and you know, that Memphis, Tennessee was not New York, and the union would not impose a settlement on the city. That, in fact, so long as it was illegal, he would have no discussion with the, ah, with the men or representative of the men. And this position sort of struck, struck everybody as kind of, kind of strange, because whether there was a strike or wasn't a strike wasn't the issue. The issue was that there was a problem that needed addressing. As we tried to explain to the mayor, you know, one of the key functions of a city and its administration is to provide services. And so, if services are interrupted, whatever is necessary to do to restore those services is what his attention ought to be addressed to. Well, the community, sort of at least saw the view that if there are no discussions, there can be no settlement. There was a wonderful, ah, religious leader, Monsignor Leppert, ah, you know negotiated this strange meeting where, ah, we would in effect meet in the basement of his church, he would provide all the facilities and we would speak to the mayor and hopefully the mayor would speak to us. Ah, only that the first of these attempts, ah, it was a long rectangular table with the city and its administration on one side, the union and the men on the other side, and Monsignor Leppert sitting on the end. Well, we would speak to the city, and they would not move. Monsignor Leppert would have to interpret what we said to the city, and then the city would speak back to Monsignor Leppert and ask him to tell us what he'd said--well, this is the strangest and the silliest situation you ever saw. Ah, at the same time a good deal of this was for public consumption. When the mayor would speak, the television lights would go on, and he'd be recorded for posterity. And then when Monsignor Leppert would speak, the lights would go out. I mean it was, it was the strangest environment, and that was his way, in his own mind, of not violating the law. Ah, he could forever say he has not spoke with the union or the men, and certainly has not negotiated with them.