Close to a hundred people came out on January 15, 2024 for the 34th annual Martin Luther King Day Celebration at the Bloomer Hill Community Center and heard keynote speaker City Councilman Andre Knight address the topic, “Workers Want Justice.” The Carolina Auto, Aerospace and Machine Workers Union (CAAMWU) chapter of UE Local 150 has co-sponsored the annual MLK Day event since 1991.
Councilman Knight called for Rocky Mount city manager Keith Rogers to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by reinstating unfairly fired sanitation worker Arnie Jones and extending a fair pay raise to the sanitation workers as was awarded to the city police and firefighters last April. The city fired Jones after he spent months speaking out at city council meetings on behalf of his fellow city workers for a fair pay raise.
Knight recalled that Dr. King gave his life standing by striking Memphis sanitation workers and answering Jesus’ call to go down the Jericho Road in lending a helping hand to those in need. Knight also recalled that Bloomer Hill was the home of Alexander Evans, a city sanitation worker who, like Arnie Jones, was unfairly fired in 1978. Evans’ arrest and suspension became the catalyst for a workers strike and community support movement that exonerated Evans and turned Rocky Mount on the path toward voting rights and a Black-majority city council.
Arnie Jones along with Local 150-CAAMWU members led the MLK Day march and motorcade through Whitakers following the MLK Empowerment Breakfast at Franklinton Center at Bricks. Rocky Mount NAACP President Cooper Blackwell spoke at the breakfast and highlighted the community support movement for Arnie Jones and the Rocky Mount sanitation workers. Blackwell linked the workers’ struggle in the Black Belt South to the international struggle of the Palestinian people against Israel’s apartheid regime in Gaza and the West Bank.
Meanwhile, Bloomer Hill Celebration sponsors UE Local 150-CAAMWU and Bloomer Hill Community Association gave special recognition to Arnie Jones as a Justice Warrior with faithful service to the cause of workers’ rights and African American empowerment. Two weeks later, on January 28, Jones received more recognition at St. Mark AME Church on Tarboro Street in Rocky Mount, which named him as “Community Man of the Year” at the church’s Men’s Day Service.
From the UE Local 150-CAAMWU UNITY NEWS.