Wednesday, October 17, 2012

On the job with Waste Management workers. It's hard and it's dangerous.

Writer Madeline Thomas learned just how hard and dangerous sanitation work is after spending a day with Local 70 Teamsters who work for Waste Management of Alameda County (WMAC). She wrote a terrific story about it in Oakland North, which Brother Doug Bloch shared with us.

Read the whole story and you will understand why refuse and recyclable collection workers have the fourth highest rate of death on the job in the U.S.

It was at WMAC where one of our Teamster brothers, Jose Camarena, died in 2008 when a car pinned him against his truck.

Writes Thomas:
“There are a lot of things that could happen in the blink of an eye,” said Felix Martinez, a business agent for Teamsters Local 70... 
A driver may dump well over eight tons of garbage in a single day. Drivers also risk being assigned to routes that run through neighborhoods where prostitution, drug deals and gang activity are rampant. There’s also the possibility of sustaining traffic injuries en route, or of being exposed to contaminants in the trash itself.
Thomas drove with Brian Ghilarducci, whose dad was a 29-year Teamster and whose godfather was a collector. (Props to her for showing up in the yard at 3:30 a.m.)
Ghilarducci grabs the cans, latches them to a bin that dumps them into two receptacles attached to an arm on the front of the truck, hops back into the cab, and directs the arms up and over the vehicle to dump the refuse into a much larger container in the back.  He’ll do this hundreds, if not thousands, of times over before the day is done. 
On hotter days, a trail of ants might make their way from the container in back of the truck into his cab. Or the cockroaches might scatter as they’re disturbed from their bins. Today, as sunlight starts to bathe the street in warmth, there’s this stench—overripe, acrid, almost slightly sweet. “You’re going to get used to that smell pretty quick,” said Ghilarducci. “That’s the maggots.”
There's more unpleasantness:
Ghilarducci’s current stop on 64th Avenue, for example, is just blocks away the scene of a fatal double shooting that took place last week at roughly 6 a.m. on the 1600 block of 72nd Avenue. Many drivers are wary that they have to return to the same block each morning—sometimes for years if their routes remain the same—regardless of what might have happened there the day or week before. There’s always a chance that residents could become hostile, or identify them as witnesses if their truck happened to be passing through shortly after a crime.
But the story ends on a high note, because Brother Ghilarducci has a great attitude:
 “I love the job,” he said, wiping his brow on his shoulder after taking a swig of Gatorade.  “It’s physical, it’s outside, it’s the driving. It’s everything I want.”
Read the whole thing here.