Letter to the Editor: Waste Industry Should Pay a Living Wage

Letter to the Editor: Waste Industry Should Pay a Living Wage

Waste & Recycling News, February 4, 2013

John Campanelli does well to focus attention on garbage collection workers in our industry that are working difficult jobs for poverty wages (“Texas recycling death highlights wage, safety issue in the industry”). Workers along picking lines at recycling processing plants are in woeful straights as well.  In Atlanta and Los Angeles, for example, Latino and Latina workers, earn minimum wages with no benefits, have temporary status and are subject to unhealthy conditions. Remarkably, these people do not even count in federal statistics. Industrial injuries and deaths of temporary workers are not recorded, despite the fact that temporary workers are exposed to more danger than most workers in the economy.

The situation in Los Angeles, in particular, is hard to understand because the city has a living wage ordinance. Yet workers employed by private MRFs contracted with the city are exempted. Greg Good from LAANE (Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy), reports that this may soon change as six private MRF companies have their contracts renewed.

It does not have to be this way. Workers doing the same job in San Francisco are unionized and make decent wages plus insurance and retirement models. Can this model work elsewhere?

Kevin Drew from the San Francisco Department of the Environment reports that the city is currently reviewing a new rate proposal from its contractor, Recology Inc., includes a new Teamsters contract. This detailed analysis will shed light on the issue of decent wages for recycling workers that could help other cities improve the conditions of recycling jobs.

Failing living wage and unionization efforts, these poverty wage jobs should not be considered green or sustainable.

Neil Seldman, President, Institute for Local Self-Reliance