Fired Sanitation Workers Who Testified at City Council Win Their Jobs Back
Councilmembers and Community-Labor Coalition Cheer the News, But Pledge that Fight to Reform Private Waste Industry Will Only Grow Larger
NEW YORK, NY – The two private sanitation workers who were fired last week for speaking out about problems in the industry at a City Council hearing were rehired this morning, in response to mounting community and labor pressure on the company.
“These workers never deserved to be fired for speaking out – it was both illegal and unacceptable – so I am glad they are back to work,” said Councilmember Antonio Reynoso, who had planned a press conference outside the Five Star facility, prior to news of the rehiring. “It really speaks to the fact that the commercial waste industry desperately needs to be reformed. I am proud to join with the brave sanitation workers and to stand up for good jobs, worker protections, and the right to free speech.”
“New Yorkers have learned two things this week: Five Star Carting does not respect its workers or their free speech rights, but also that when workers, community members, and elected officials stand together, we win,” said Sean Campbell, President of Teamsters Local 813. “The campaign for justice for sanitation workers is not over. From Maspeth to City Hall, we will keep fighting for good wages, worker safety, and a clean environment.”
City Council Members, who had stood by the fired workers until they had their jobs back, cheered the news and said they would keep working for reform in the private sanitation industry.
“Last week I was moved by the courage of Michael Bush and Carlton Darden as they told their stories of low pay and dangerous working conditions. Today, I’m proud to stand by them again as they fight for their rights and stand up against their unfair termination by Five Star Carting,” said Councilmember Brad Lander. “Council Member Reynoso and I, along with our colleagues, stand up for workers who organize to defend their rights — and we will especially do so when they are being fired for exercising the right of testifying at a City Council hearing. Five Star Carting should learn from the Cablevision workers (who organized with CWA) and the Vegas Car Wash carwasheros (who organized with RWDSU, with help from Make the Road NY and NY Communities for Change). They too were courageous. They too were illegally fired or locked out. We stood in solidarity. And they not only have their jobs back, but union contracts”
“Maspeth is America and the sad conditions workers are facing at Five Star are un-American!” said Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley, of Maspeth. “Every working person has the right to a living wage, to be safe at work, and to speak freely about concerns at their job without fear of retribution. I am proud to stand with Michael and Carlton, two workers who spoke out and won their jobs back. Five Star needs to rethink how it treats its workers if it wants to do business in this City in the future.”
“Sanitation companies like Five Star that mistreat their employees are on notice,” said Councilmember Rory Lancman. “The fact that this company would fire two workers for testifying before the City Council shows why reform is needed. I am proud to stand with Michael, Carlton, and all sanitation workers in their struggle for justice at work.”
“I am overjoyed to hear that Five-Star Carting has rehired the two employees who were terminated following their testimony on worker conditions at a recent hearing on the commercial waste industry, convened by the Council’s Committee on Sanitation,” said Councilmember Vanessa L. Gibson (D-16th District, Bronx). “Retaliation against employees is illegal and I commend Five-Star Carting for righting this wrong. As we address the challenges facing the commercial waste industry, we, as a City, aim to work with companies who will help us identify ways to improve the disposal of commercial waste and improve worker conditions. As a member of the Committee on Sanitation, I want to applaud Chair Antonio Reynoso for his leadership on this issue and my colleagues for joining with him to draw attention to the injustice that was done to these two men.”
While worker rights have become the focus in recent days, the movement to reform private sanitation, led by the Transform Don’t Trash NYC coalition, intends to reshape an industry also known for environmental injustice and mistreatment of New York small businesses.
“The outrageous treatment of these brave workers is a metaphor for the massive dysfunction of New York City’s commercial waste system,” said Eddie Bautista, Executive Director of New York City Environmental Justice Alliance. “Our commercial waste system dehumanizes workers, wreaks environmental damage on low-income communities of color and exploits small businesses owned by immigrants largely unaware of protections like waste rate caps. Mayor de Blasio and the City Council are justified in seeking to analyze and overhaul this antiquated, exploitative system – and we urge them to do so, post-haste.”
“To seize the meaning of today, we must look at what’s happening across our country,” said Brigid Flaherty, Organizing Director of ALIGN. “Hundreds of thousands of people are taking to the streets around worker rights and racial and environmental justice. And as you know, that spirit, that drive for justice, is alive and well for the workers who have their jobs back at Five Star. Michael and Carlton, and countless other workers in the commercial waste industry, work day in and day out under inhumane conditions. We won’t stop fighting until we have a commercial waste industry that respects all workers and the environment.”
Contact: Alex Moore, Teamsters Joint Council 16