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Sanitation Workers Before & After MLK's Last Speech

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FORT WORTH (CBS 11 NEWS) - Most people are familiar with Dr. Martin Luther King's "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech, but many don't know the speech he delivered the night before his assassination was delivered to striking sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee.

James Campbell drives an automated waste disposal truck in north Fort Worth. He makes his routes when most people have a day off.

"We work the Fourth of July, Labor Day, Memorial Day," Campbell said.

But Campbell and his employer, Waste Management, are aware working MLK Day has a little more meaning for the sanitation industry.

MLK was in Memphis to support a sanitation worker's strike spurred by dangerous working conditions and a vastly underpaid minority workforce.

"I grew up in a town not for from Memphis Tennessee and I clearly remember what was taking place during the garbage strikes," said Steve Kellar, Waste Management marketing director. "It was a real mess over there. There were people actually losing their lives.

"And on the day he died he actually led a protest against the horrible conditions they were living under. But, that has completely changed over the years," Kellar said.

Campbell's job conditions are dramatically different than the Memphis workers.

"It's great," Campbell said. "You got an air conditioned truck with a radio. Great pay."

Campbell says he chooses to work MLK Day. It's work that has to be done for sanitary and health reasons and he makes overtime. But Campbell does reflect on the day's meaning.

"In my personal opinion, I don't have a problem working on MLK Day," Campbell said. "That's not what he actually fought for. He fought for our Civil Rights and for our rights to have just as much as everybody else has."

(©2015 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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