Thursday, November 20, 2014

New York sanitation workers mourn the loss of another of their own

Memorial to NYC sanitation worker Steven Frosch on Nov. 19
New York City sanitation workers are mourning the death of Robert Meehan, a private sanitation worker killed on Nov. 13 when a 10-foot dumpster fell on him at a Staten Island country club.

Brother Meehan died just days before a memorial was unveiled for Steven Frosch, a New York City sanitation worker killed in June by a street sweeper that struck him at a garage in Queens.
Sanitation work is among the most dangerous in the United States. Sanitation workers die at twice the rate of police officers (who earn nearly twice as much) and nearly seven times the rate of firefighters, according to a study, Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New York City, Aol Jobs reported.

Sanitation workers are killed by traffic, by dangerous machinery, by heavy lifting and by the garbage itself. Compactor blades can burst open bagged trash, exposing workers to flying metal objects and clouds of poison.

But don't take our word for it. Read a letter to the editor of the Staten Island Advance from Brother Plinio Cruz, member of Teamsters Local 813:
As a fellow private sanitation worker, I was horrified to read of the death of Robert Meehan on Staten Island. The tragic truth is that this is not uncommon in our industry, every night when we step out there we know that it could be our last. 
During the day, you see the men and white trucks of the Department of Sanitation working the streets. Their work is dangerous too, but they are also unionized and have strict safety protections. 
We work at night, and it feels like another world entirely. 
Private sanitation workers pick up from restaurants, offices, and any private company not serviced by DSNY. 
The city government has turned its back on us, with virtually no oversight of the companies to protect workers, or the communities we work in. The owners of companies pressure their workers to break all kinds of laws in order to complete the impossible amount of work they assign them. Furthermore, the trucks and equipment in most of the companies are unsafe. 
I've seen guys lose hands. I've seen workers splashed with acid, and bleach and paint thinner. And I've seen guys go out to work at night and not come back. 
We need Mayor De Blasio and the City Council to take responsibility for our safety. Every time a sanitation worker dies, it is a tragedy. Please don't forget us. Please don't wait until another one of us goes before doing something.
Stay safe out there, brothers and sisters.