Private Sanitation Workers Testify to Council on Dangerous Industry
Private sanitation workers from two of the city’s reckless, non-union companies, joined the Teamsters at City Hall this week to testify before a joint hearing of the Sanitation and Transportation Committees. Council Member Reynoso pledged his support to these workers, saying that raising labor standards in private sanitation is his priority for the next term.
“It’s a disgrace that people are getting treated this way.” – Orrett Ewen, private sanitation worker
Orrett Ewen worked at Sanitation Salvage – the city’s 6th largest carter, and the largest in the Bronx. Ewen testified that “there’s a lot of things done at that company that are illegal. They have us working 17, 18 hours. If you complain, they will terminate you.”
Ewen said that he had been working as a helper on a garbage truck, when the driver fell asleep behind the wheel from exhaustion.
“I thank God that I never drifted off and hit someone. I was so scared that would happen.” – Wilson Perez, private sanitation worker
Wilson Perez, who worked at Queens County Carting, testified that he also was forced to work extremely long hours, far in excess of the legal limit for commercial drivers.
“I would come into work at 6 AM each day, and my shift lasted until 6 PM. I was exhausted. But then, I would get a call from the boss telling me I had to work night shift too. I had to drive over to another location to start working at 8 PM, and wouldn’t be done until 1 AM, or even 3 AM. Then I would have to be back at work at 6 AM to work the next shift,” Perez said.
Perez also said he was forced to drive trucks with bad brakes. “I remember once I was driving on the Upper East Side when the breaks went out. I was approaching a red light and there was a woman crossing through the intersection. The truck went right through the intersection. Thank God, I didn’t hit her.”
Teamsters Local 813 Stands with Non-Union Workers
Sean Campbell, President of Teamsters Local 813, testified alongside the two workers.
“These are not isolated stories. The problems are widespread. The truth is there are more companies doing the wrong thing than doing the right thing.”
“Safety is the biggest issue facing private sanitation workers today, and it is the clearest way that the pervasive recklessness in this industry impacts every New Yorker. The Teamsters believe in Vision Zero, and that is why we support reforming this industry.”
City Council Backs Workers
Sanitation Committee Chair Antonio Reynoso told the workers that he believed their stories, and said the City needed to take action. “People are dying, things aren’t safe,” he said.
Reynoso and representatives of the Business Integrity Commission and the Department of Transportation were in agreement that the Mayor’s Commercial Waste Zone policy will reduce truck traffic and truck speeds, while improving both accountability and safety.