Hunting Down the Garbage Some Sanitation Workers Contend With

In this self-portrait, even Angela Hunt's hard hat is red. Or she's joined Devo.

As we pointed out earlier, a city council committee is looking at spending about $700,000 over 36 months to track sanitation workers with GPS devices. As far as we’re concerned, save the GPS for truants (see this Thursday's cover story in the paper version of Unfair Park) and focus on the real problems when it comes to sanitation: primarily, the shitty pay these guys get for picking up your trash and brush.

This is an issue that council member Angela Hunt knows all too well, especially after spending part of her day Friday in Pleasant Grove to see what garbage collectors really have to go through. She has been an advocate for giving garbage collectors -- and other poorly paid city workers -- a living wage. Hence, the series of photos we're running as a slide show -- and her comments after the jump.

One of the most disturbing aspects of the sanitation department is the pay disparity between the drivers and the guys working the back of the truck, says Hunt. This is because drivers are city employees, making between $11 and $18 per hour, and the garbage collectors are considered temporary workers, who are making minimum wage (which is about to jump to only $6.55 per hour next month). This is something I wrote about at length last year, when the city’s lowest part-time rate was $8.16 per hour. Raising their pay to this rate would have increased sanitation bills by a measly 17 cents per month, or $2.04 per year.

Hunt says she was told that nearly 90 percent of the trucks don’t have air conditioning, and opening the windows isn’t an option because the low-hanging branches smack the drivers on the head. The branches also make it difficult to ride on the truck, forcing them to walk behind it through rough spots. After a couple hours on the job, she was exhausted, while garbage collectors can work up to 14 hours a day.

“This is something every council member should do, along with the city manager and assistant city managers,” Hunt tells Unfair Park.

She says many of the garbage men are ex-convicts, and these are the only jobs they can get. “Let’s pay these guys a decent wage so that they aren’t forced back into crime to make ends meet.”

But instead of giving these workers a fighting chance, the city wants to track them with GPS to make sure they aren’t slackin’ off or wasting gas. Maybe a day working on the back of a garbage truck would change their minds. --Sam Merten