When the average person thinks of “essential workers” waste management rarely comes to mind. It’s why a group of garbage collectors have banded together to demand better support during the coronavirus outbreak.
The men, hailing from Pittsburgh, gathered in front of the city’s Bureau of Environmental Services building Tuesday (March 24) in an effort to get the attention of the higher-ups with demands for better pay and protection from COVID-19.
“We risk our [lives] every time we grab a garbage bag,” one worker said told Liz Kilmer of WPXI. The workers have refused to do trash pickup until they are supplied with better equipment and hazard pay. They have only reportedly received hand sanitizer to protect themselves from the virus.
“We want better equipment and protective gear,” the worker said. “We need hazard pay. Hazard pay is very important. Why? Because we have high copayments on any type of bill we get. We risk our lives every time we grab a garbage bag. There can be a needle in there or something.”
— Liz Kilmer (@LizKilmerWPXI) March 25, 2020
Some companies have stepped up their hazard pay for employees. J.M Smucker Co. promised Monday (March 23) to give $1,500 to each of its 5,700 employees who are “serving on the ground” during the pandemic. They will also receive 14 days of paid sick leave.
In New York, Senator Charles Schumer, (D-New York), and U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins, (D-Niagara Falls and Buffalo), requested the acting secretary for the Department of Homeland Security to label U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officers as employees working under hazard, so they can also receive hazard pay.
“CBP officers risk their own health, and the health of their families, to continue serving their country during a global pandemic, and they deserve better,” Schumer said per the Niagra-Gazette.
“These officers are essential to the security of the U.S. and have shown up to serve, even in the midst of a crisis. They deserve better pay in these circumstances, especially because they come into such close contact with cross-border traffic on a daily basis.”