DeKalb County interim CEO Lee May spent the morning riding along on the back of a garbage truck Nov. 22 to get a feel for what an average day is like for a DeKalb County sanitation worker.
May rode on the back of the garbage truck as he and another worker stopped at each house to collect trash in the Danbury Parc neighborhood in Brookhaven.
“Our sanitation workers are front line people in keeping our county clean and I wanted to have the opportunity to walk in their shoes and experience what they go through each and every day,” May said.
After several hours of picking up trash, May stopped by the sanitation department headquarters to speak with approximately 25 employees for an hour.
“We really opened it up and it was a safe place to talk and ask me any questions, no matter how tough,” May said.
May said he heard concerns from sanitation workers about safety issues, staffing issues and “of course” pay.
“It’s a dangerous job and they want many of their safety concerns to be addressed…. It’s one of the most dangerous jobs in the country,” May said.
Recently, Forbes listed “refuse and recyclable material collectors” as the sixth deadliest job in the United States, using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The DeKalb County Board of Commissioners recently approved an ordinance allowing sanitation workers to unionize. May said he believes that sanitation workers felt they didn’t have anyone to speak with in the county to address their concerns, which is why they want to organize.
“In terms of the union, they really got their foothold in DeKalb because the employees really felt like they didn’t have anyone to talk to, so I think going in really meant a lot,” May said of his ride along and visit with workers.
May said although he wasn’t exhausted, his time on the truck picking up trash made him sore the next day.
“Here’s the deal, their work is not about how strong you are because you’re literally using muscles that you never ever use,” May said.
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