COVID Relief Fund Launches for NYC’s Commercial Sanitation Workers
As Congress fails to renew supplemental unemployment benefits and a second wave of COVID-19 spreads across the country, Teamsters Local 813 and ALIGN NY are creating a new $30,000 relief fund to support New York City’s commercial sanitation workers, an often overlooked group of essential workers.
Commercial sanitation workers collect trash and recycling from businesses across the city. At the height of the pandemic, they stayed on the job so that essential businesses could continue operating, exposing themselves to the virus. But as more and more economic sectors shut down, many of these workers either lost their jobs or saw their hours severely curtailed.
“A lot of us, especially non-union workers, were sent out on trucks without the sanitizer or PPE we needed to be safe,” said Doug Washington, a sanitation worker and Teamsters member. “Our union is coming together with our allies at ALIGN to make sure all workers are protected, union and non-union.”
The relief fund grows out of years of advocacy and organizing by the organizations alongside sanitation workers. The job is the fifth most deadly in the country and many workers are forced to work off the books, without benefits and protections, or for substandard wages.
“Commercial sanitation workers have been organizing for better labor, environmental, and safety standards for years, and we will not let this pandemic stop the struggle to build worker power,” said Maritza Silva-Farrell, Executive Director of ALIGN NY. “This fund is about supporting workers and families in this unprecedented economic crisis, but it will also help them continue to make bold, transformative changes in some of the most exploitative workplaces in New York City.”
“Commercial sanitation workers were hurting before the pandemic, and this crisis has pushed many over the edge,” said Sean Campbell, President of Teamsters Local 813. “We are helping these New York heroes provide for their families now, but we will also help them advocate for their coworkers and protect themselves when they return to work.”
City officials have an opportunity to transform these jobs for the better through the recently passed Commercial Waste Zones Law. Zoning waste collection will dramatically decrease the distances that workers must cover in a single shift, and give the city new authority to set safety standards and hold notoriously unscrupulous private carters accountable for other labor and environmental violations. The Department of Sanitation has stated that implementation of the policy will be underway by later this year.
The Commercial Sanitation Worker Relief Fund will provide monetary, food, and other support for impacted workers.
New York City commercial sanitation workers who have been affected by COVID-19’s health or economic impacts and need assistance can apply here.
While the fund is beginning with $30,000 provided by a generous donor, organizers are hoping to grow that amount. Members of the public can donate to the fund by visiting ALIGN’s website.