5. The Department of Sanitation Workers Strike of 1968

Garbage on sidewalk in NYC

One of the most notable events in New York history was the Great Garbage Strike of 1968. Before the strike, the Uniformed Sanitationmen’s Association (USA) had been working without a contract for six months. Mayor John Lindsay proposed terms that would give sanitation workers a $400 salary increase, improve pensions and double pay for working Saturdays. The workers, led by John DeLury rejected the deal and went on a nine-day strike in February of 1968. The strike was illegal under the Taylor Law and DeLury was sent to jail.

During the strike, trash on the streets accumulated at a rapid rate, going from 30,000 tons to 100,000 tons of trash. Lindsay threatened to call the National Guard to clean up the trash, but Governor Nelson Rockefeller and local unions opposed this plan. In the end, Rockefeller offered the sanitation workers $425 and future arbitration, to which they agreed.