Mayor Meets With Picketing Sanitation Workers
Posted September 25, 2006 3:40 a.m. EDT
RALEIGH, N.C. — Raleigh sanitation workers took their protest over schedules and pay to City Hall Monday afternoon.
About 50 workers and supporters sporting orange wristbands picketed outside City Hall for about an hour, calling for better treatment of workers.
The workers staged two work stoppages earlier this month, maintaining they are required to work longer than their scheduled 10-hour shifts, aren't paid overtime and usually aren't allowed to take compensatory time off in lieu of overtime pay.
The sanitation workers also want temporary workers hired as permanent city employees. Temporary workers make up 20 percent of the Solid Waste Services Department's full-time work force.
City Manager Russell Allen announced changes to the city's personnel policies Monday that could make long-term temps permanent city employees.
Mayor Charles Meeker and City Councilman James West met with the protesters Monday to assure them the city was working to respond to their concerns. Meeker said he would meet Tuesday afternoon with workers and representatives of a public-service union that some workers have called in to help resolve their complaints.
"We have not been listening, we have not been respectful," West said. "It's unfortunate that it's come to this particular level. I think if the council had known about it earlier that we would have had it resolved much earlier."
Meeker also asked Allen to investigate overtime issues citywide to see if similar problems are occurring in other departments. The report is expected by the end of next week.
William Barber, the state president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, also appeared at the picket line, saying he just wanted to ensure "a fair and just working environment" in the Solid Waste Services Department.
City workers said they are fighting for just such an environment.
"I have 10 more years to work there. We want to make it better for the next guy, and me myself, too," said Larry Baker, a 20-year veteran of the department.
Some Raleigh residents said the workers deserve the pay and benefits for doing a job many take for granted.
"Why should anybody work 50 to 56 hours a week and only get paid for 40 hours? It's human injustice," resident Jane Dittmer said.
Last week, the City Council approved new positions to help with the workload. The sanitation department is also now being audited and looked at for a complete overhaul.