“Trucks don’t roll. We are not moving.” Gentilly Sanitation Workers Announce Strike

“Sanitation truck makes pick ups” by North Charleston is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

“Trucks don’t roll. We are not moving,” Gregory Woods, a sanitation worker, told WDSU today, as local sanitation workers announced a strike. 

In the early morning of May 5, these sanitation workers, known as “hoppers,” lined up in front of the Metro Service Group (“Metro Disposal”) disposal facility on Old Gentilly Road, picketing their workplace. 

According to Mr. Woods, Metro Disposal refused to discuss the issue when they announced the strike. The company closed the gates and told them to not enter the property. 

When WDSU’s Heath Allen asked why the hoppers were protesting, Mr. Woods, a sanitation employee, said, “because of hazard pay. And because we are not getting the proper equipment to work in.”

“We are out here dealing with toxic waste every day,” Mr. Woods said. “They always rush us on the clock.” Woods said they work from around 4 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day and only receive $10.25 an hour. 

The employees who are striking have been hired through a temporary staffing service (“temp service”) called PeopleReady. A Facebook post has revealed that PeopleReady is currently hiring to fill positions, which may be an attempt to replace striking workers.

A Facebook jobs listing on May 5 by PeopleReady. Courtesy of Facebook user Michelle la Nola.

While the dangers of waste disposal during COVID-19 pushed this issue to the forefront, Woods said that dissatisfaction with Metro Disposal has been an issue long before coronavirus. 

“We get paid late. Everything is just bad here,” Woods said. “They need to just fix it.”

Gregory Woods identified Jimmy Woods as the employer to whom their strike was directed. 

“We need to let Jimmy know we need better pay, better, proper equipment.” Gregory Woods said. “The trucks need to be fixed. They have hydraulic fluid leaking on us.”

“We deal with this every day, six days a week,” Woods said. 

Lori Di Giovanni, who lives in Gentilly, confirmed that the sanitation workers have not been seen today. Even though Tuesday and Friday are scheduled days for trash collection in her neighborhood, “the garbage is still in the cans,” Ms. Di Giovanni said.

WWLTV also spoke to Mr. Gregory Woods at the picket line this morning. 

“Our job … is to keep the city clean,” Woods said. “Give us better equipment and pay us better, because the hours are so long and it’s hot out here. And we’re dealing with the corona[virus] now.” 

Mr. Woods described the conditions working for Metro Disposal, which have gotten worse since the coronavirus epidemic. “Out there, it’s more piles we have to pick up. The cans are heavier, and it’s a hazard out there, dealing with that.”

Mr. Woods said that Metro Disposal has left them vulnerable to infection and failed to give employees proper protective equipment. “Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, we might have facemasks, but the rest of the week, we don’t have none. They provide us with work gloves, but not latex gloves.”

  “The work gloves still get wet and chemicals get through there. What if somebody has a cut on their hand? We’re dealing with toxic waste. Every day.”

Mr. Woods and his colleagues were resolute, saying that 14 garbage trucks were not rolling as a result of the strike. 

“We ain’t working until we see something. We need to see progress. Something’s gotta happen, so we’re not moving.” 

May 8, 2020 (4:37 p.m.) – Big Easy Magazine has learned that the striking workers have launched a GoFundMe campaign. The workers have raised over $10,000 in the past 24 hours. You can contribute to the campaign here.

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