Despite Black leadership, city trash collectors still treated as slaves

Imagine that you worked for an employer with over 1,000 employees, but in spite of your hard work and loyalty the employer paid you less than the other one thousand and provided you no benefits; how would you feel?

What if the same employer required you to work in the rain, snow and cold on regular basis for years, but routinely gives raises to others and never offers you a raise, health care, or even sick leave; how would feel?

Would you feel loved, appreciated and part of an appreciated team? Or would feel like a slave?

As you answer these questions then you get a feeling what it’s like to be one of the 21 public works employees of the City of Monroe who are routinely ignored by the City of Monroe.

Tuesday night the City of Monroe approved a city budget that provides payroll and benefits for all city employees, except the men who collect the city’s garbage. These are the young men the public sees in the cold of winter and heat of summer riding on the backs of garbage trucks, running into yards, emptying refuse, soiling themselves with wastes of others with very little respect from the city.

Even though many of them have worked for the city for years, they are not considered employees of the city and not included in any of the city’s contracts with labor unions. No one speaks up for them, no union will defend them if they are wronged or insist that they receive benefits.

The overwhelming majority of these men are African-American, but they are completely ignored by a city government that is controlled by African-Americans. The mayor of the city Jamie Mayo is black. Three of the five city council members are black: Juanita Woods, Eddie Clark and Kenneth Wilson. All of them have the power to change the condition of these 21 men, but no one will speak for them?

It’s as if these men are slaves, condemned field hands who do not deserve any consideration.

How is this possible?

City employees are covered by several union contracts that spell out their pay, grievance procedures and benefits. All city employees are covered by at least one of the city union contracts including: secretaries, janitors, bus drivers, maintenance workers, police officers and fire fighters. Even political appointees have benefits. However, the trash collectors and ditch diggers are not covered by any union and have no benefits.

Why? Because the city calls them “seasonal” workers. A seasonal employee works on a temporary basis to accomplish a specific purpose or during a specific season of the year. Generally, seasonal workers are contracted through an outside company that selects, manages and pays the workers.

By classifying the trash collectors as seasonal, the city saves money because it does not provide any health insurance, social security match, sick leave, vacation or any other benefits for them. Even though they work standard work days like other employees, they don’t enjoy the $10 minimum wage of the city’s lowest paid regular employees; the Federal minimum wage is their base.

They don’t even get a paycheck or a W-2 form from the city. If they are discriminated against, they can’t sue the city because they don’t work for the city. The city pays the labor company that hires them, but the city bosses the men around and places requirements on them, as if they worked for the city.

It’s modern day slave labor, reserved for convicts on work release.

The city employee union which covers most city employees, will not fight for them. The police and fire unions won’t fight for them. City council members won’t fight for them and neither will the mayor.

Ironically, when Mayor Mayo first ran for office he campaign as the garbage workers friend. He rode on the back of garbage trucks in television ads promised help under the slogan “I feel your pain.”

When Mayo was elected these men were considered city employees with benefits. After he was elected he gave them more pain by removing them from the city’s payroll, thus stripping them of the few benefits they had.

Some employees in the city received eye-popping raises this year. Police and fire routinely get two percent raises. One of the mayor’s secretaries received a $13,000 raise another received a $5,000 raise.

It seems that the city’s black leaders can see the value of every employees work except the trash collectors.

After all…they are just slaves.