Charlotte sanitation workers say they’re being put at unnecessary risk

Charlotte sanitation workers say they're being put at unnecessary risk

CHARLOTTE — Charlotte sanitation workers are taking a stand against their employer, saying they’re being put at unnecessary risks of exposure to COVID-19.

Not only do they allege the city isn’t doing enough, but they also said the city cut back on measures to keep them safe.

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Union members spoke Tuesday morning about the issues they're facing.

“We should not have to risk our lives because people, rich people, want their trash collected,” said Dominic Harris, president of the UE 150 Charlotte chapter. “We have to get a paycheck to work, we have to get a paycheck to live.”

When the coronavirus outbreak started, the Solid Waste Services Department rotated schedules every other week to limit social contact.

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But on Monday, the union said the city demanded all 200 employees report to the same building, violating social distancing recommendations.

The union also said employees don’t have masks or hand sanitizer.

Workers are demanding double-time hazard pay and enough personal protection equipment, including N95 masks, gloves, hand sanitizer and multiple sanitation wipes for trucks. They also want to keep the rotating schedules and staggered shift start times.

Those workers said their lives and safety shouldn’t be taken for granted.

"If you gonna put your life on the line, or take something back with you, you're killing your whole family," said Craig Brown, chief steward for Charlotte Water.

On Monday night, City Manager Marcus Jones told the City Council that part of the problem is there aren’t enough drivers who have a commercial driver’s license to only put one person in each truck.

The president of the worker’s union said they can’t strike, but they are hoping to come to a resolution with the city -- something Mayor Vi Lyles said they’re working toward.

Lyles declined to take a position on whether essential employees should receive hazard pay during the coronavirus pandemic, but she’s open to some of the other proposals.

“Right now, our focus is to get employees to safely deliver services,” she said. “The manager will take into account every request we are getting from our worker groups.”