1969 black hospital workers’ strike remembered 45 years later

1969 black hospital workers’ strike remembered 45 years later

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The bravery of black hospital workers in Charleston remembered 45 years after the hospital workers' strike of 1969.

Thursday afternoon local organizations and state leaders came together to honor the workers who marched the streets.

Pictures of armed men in the streets during the strike gives an idea of the tension during the hospital workers' strike in Charleston 45 years ago.

"Many good things came out of that strike," said Pastor Thomas Dixon.

Dixon and nearly a hundred others gathered at the Medical University of South Carolina to remember the hard work of those who came before them.

Dixon said, "The lowest paid workers received raises to their wages and steps were taken to improve the working conditions of minority employees and eliminate discrimination that was one of the catalysts for that strike."

Community activist Bill Saunders says he helped organize the strike a year before they took to the streets.

Saunders said, "The first night that we got started with the strike I got arrested with a bunch of other fellas and women right out in front of the hospital."

Representative Wendell Gilliard says he was moved as 15-year-old watching the march through his downtown neighborhood.

Gilliard said, "In that march, I not only saw black people, I saw white people, Jewish people, people of all creeds."

Gilliard says the message went far beyond Charleston.

"Even though the march took place here because what was going on, it had a profound impact, not only in the state of South Carolina but around the whole world," said Gilliard.

Christine Nelson, a RN nurse spoke at the event saying they must still stand up for themselves.

 "The same way we advocate for our patients to play an active role in their care, I urge you to play and active role in your career,” said Nelson.

MUSC released a statement:

MUSC recognizes the historical importance of the 1969 hospital strike and is pleased to support a commemorative event on our campus. Much progress has been made since 1969, and we embrace the need for continued diligence to ensure that fairness governs the campus environment. To that end, diversity is a strategic priority of MUSC.

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