Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Charleston Sanitation Workers Organize for Union

Since April of this year sanitation workers in Charleston have been circulating a petition in favor of union recognition. An excellent article by Kerry Taylor of the Institute for Southern Studies has just been posted here. While the resistance of SC governments to unionization can't be underestimated, the Charleston sanitation workers have the justification and the motivation to exercise their legal rights. Kerry says in part:

Workers have complained of abusive supervisors, an ambiguous system of promotions that pits workers against one another, and treacherous working conditions.

One driver was blamed for an incident in which a falling tree branch pinned her in the cab and seriously injured her neck and shoulders. She was rushed back to work, as was a collector whose eyes were burned by chemicals that shot from a paint can as it was being compacted.

Until recently the sanitation workers had hoped to resolve these grievances through discussions with their supervisors. The discussions have provided a few token concessions such as new rain jackets, but little actual relief.

The workers have now concluded that establishing an employees' organization with democratic rights to negotiate with the city is the only way to win some measure of equality and fairness.

"If you're a public servant you deserve dignity, respect, and acknowledgment that you're doing a service for the community," said Richard Polite, a 12-year sanitation department veteran, who adds that the workers' demands are not primarily economic but center on basic human rights.

- "Charleston Sanitation Workers Fight for Union Recognition",
By Kerry Taylor, Labor Notes

The sanitation workers are organizing with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Local 1199B. Charleston Peace is another local organization involved in getting the union off the ground and increasing public awareness of the struggle.

Charleston residents are urged to sign an online petition here: http://www.petitiononline.com/loc1199b/petition.html.

Charleston Peace hosts more information on the sanitation workers here:

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