Conditions That Put Sanitation Workers’ Lives at Risk
To the Editor:
The death last year of Robert Meehan Jr., a sanitation worker for a private company, was a tragedy. The sad truth is that he was not the first to die in this dangerous work, nor was he the last — we lost another New York sanitation worker this month in Nassau County.
As the president of a private sanitation union and a sanitation worker myself, I have seen conditions in this industry degrade over the last two decades. Good sanitation employers today are the exception, not the rule.
What was once a good job, just like working for New York City’s Department of Sanitation, is now a place where minimum-wage pay is common and workers regularly hit the streets without safety training, proper equipment or working brakes.
There is hope. Mayor Bill de Blasio made reforming this industry a priority in his OneNYC plan, and the chairman of the City Council’s Sanitation Committee, Antonio Reynoso, has pledged to bring change as well.
Sanitation workers have sacrificed so much for a clean and healthy New York. It is time to make every sanitation job a good job again.
Long Island City, Queens
The writer is president of Teamsters Local 813, a union representing private sanitation workers.