Sanitation workers with Teamsters Local 249 in Pittsburgh were sent home with pay on March 25 after they carried out a wildcat strike—refused to work without strike authorization—due to unsafe working conditions and a lack of hazard pay. The action comes at a time frontline ‘essential’ workers are increasingly speaking out over the unsafe conditions they face by working as the coronavirus pandemic spreads. Workers are seeing strong support—even pop star Britney Spears shared an Instagram post calling for strikes and redistributions of wealth in response to COVID-19.
“We risk our life every time we grab a garbage bag”@wpxi pic.twitter.com/Tb3whJxc4H
— Liz Kilmer (@LizKilmerWPXI) March 25, 2020
“We want better equipment, protective gear, we have no masks,” A worker told reporters at a press conference. “We want hazard pay … We have high co-payments—we risk our lives every time we grab a garbage bag, it could be a needle or something in it.”
Sanitation worker Fitzroy Moss, who posted the demonstration on Facebook, noted that two workers tested positive for the coronavirus and workers were not told by the city.
“They don’t care about us, they just want to get the trash picked up,” Moss said.
“We need hazard pay. If we take the virus home, who is going to pay the bills?” another worker said on the livestream.
Local media reported workers were sent home with pay, and told to return to work after their union negotiates with their employer.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf announced a stay-at-home order for Pittsburgh beginning March 23 at 8 p.m.
As The Real News has reported, nurses have protested the shortage of personal protective equipment at hospitals across the country. Some say they are being forced to reuse N95 masks which are intended for single use only, according to manufacturer’s instructions.